Below is my column in the New York Post on the very public plan to target potential witnesses — and even media — in the Biden influence peddling scandal. It is rare to see such a scorched Earth campaign intentionally made public. When Hillary Clinton’s campaign funded the Steele dossier, it hid its role and even denied the funding when asked by reporters. This was clearly an effort to not only reveal the plan but to specifically declare the potential targets, including key witnesses, against the Bidens.
Here is the column:
Just when you thought our politics could not get more poisonous, a recent meeting in California suggests the past is mere prelude. The Washington Post, which revealed the powwow, described it as Biden family “allies” planning an offensive to blunt any investigation into the Bidens’ alleged multimillion-dollar influence-peddling schemes.
Republicans will see it more like the gathering of the Legion of (Democratic) Doom. Some of the most controversial political operatives are involved in the all-hands-on-deck effort to protect the Bidens.
The California meeting’s host was none other than Hunter Biden’s friend, agent and lawyer Kevin Morris. After Hunter was placed under investigation for, among other possible charges, tax evasion, Morris reportedly paid off as much as $2.8 million in back taxes for Hunter.
Morris, per The Washington Post, called for a “more aggressive” response to those seeking to investigate the alleged influence peddling. That plan includes hitting critics, such as Fox News, with possible defamation lawsuits. (For full disclosure, I appear as a legal analyst on Fox News.)
The paper also reported Morris “outlined extensive research on two potential witnesses against Hunter Biden — a spurned business partner named Tony Bobulinski and a computer repairman named John Paul Mac Isaac.” “Spurned” is hardly the sole or most relevant description of Bobulinski: The businessman was recruited by the Biden family to manage foreign deals and later directly contradicted President Joe Biden’s claims he knew nothing of those dealings. His testimony could present a serious threat in the coming House investigation in establishing not only the president’s knowledge but his possible receipt of proceeds from the deals.
Morris’ plan could easily be taken as a declaration of all-out war on potential witnesses against Hunter Biden.
What’s most interesting about the piece is why The Washington Post was given such access and such a detailed account. Generally, political operatives lay out scorched-earth campaigns in secret. But someone wanted this campaign to be public before the House can call any witnesses.
For key witnesses like Bobulinski, the message is about as subtle as a two-by-four to the head. The Washington Post is viewed as one of the most pro-Biden newspapers in the country and only recently admitted the Hunter Biden laptop was authentic after pushing the false Russian-disinformation claim. Now the paper is detailing a plan that could create an open season on those who might try to substantiate the Biden family’s influence peddling.
Notably, the article stresses this effort is “operating separately from the White House. [David] Brock said his organization also remains independent of Hunter Biden and his team and is following its own strategy.”
The separation is important to deflect any allegations of witness intimidation. Media and political figures leveled such claims against the Trump White House when impeachment witnesses were attacked in the press. Congressional Democrats denounced criticism of the witnesses as an effort to silence or deter witnesses from coming forward. (For the record, I also criticized the targeting of witnesses against Trump even if it did not constitute chargeable witness intimidation).
Those who view this as a not-so-veiled threat will likely cite the inclusion of David Brock, one of the most controversial and reviled Democratic operatives in Washington.
Long a radical figure closely associated with Hillary Clinton’s campaigns, Brock has repeatedly been at the center of controversial attack campaigns and was most recently tied to news sites criticized as fakes or ploys.
Many see him as the lowest common denominator of Democratic operatives, someone willing to take extreme measures to support Democratic figures and causes. Even Biden senior adviser Neera Tanden allegedly once remarked, “I hope Hillary truly understands now how batshit crazy David Brock is.”
Brock, however, has always given figures like Clinton deniability for direct responsibility for his actions. He described his new group, Facts First USA, as a “SWAT team” designed to “ensure that the media and public do not accept the false narrative that flows from congressional investigations.”
The Post described the meeting as a “glimpse into a sprawling infrastructure that is rapidly, almost frantically, assembling to combat Republicans’ plans to turn Hunter Biden into a major news story when the GOP takes over the House next year.” It also discussed an array of well-known lawyers the Biden family has assembled as well as plans by the White House and Democratic National Committee.
Various Democratic groups plan to attack efforts to disclose the Bidens’ multimillion-dollar efforts by attacking Donald Trump’s family. These include the Congressional Integrity Project, which recently hired Jeff Peck, the chief of staff to Biden when he was a senator. These talking points are already appearing in the media, which are heavily invested in denying any scandal connected to the family.
That’s why the Post article looks like a shot across the bow of any potential witnesses. This is not to say these reporters are knowing agents of this campaign, but Democratic operatives clearly wanted people to know about this alliance.
The article touches all the bases to insulate the Bidens and the Democratic National Committee from responsibility for what Brock and Morris may unleash. However, with the inclusion of former Biden staff and allies, it’s a line that can be quickly lost as investigations heat up. Targeting witnesses like Bobulinski could invite congressional investigators to look more closely at these groups and their funding.
Morris could also be taking a real risk. There are already questions about whether he was acting as counsel, agent or friend in reportedly paying off tax debts for Hunter Biden. Rules of professional ethics demand clarity in legal representation.
Moreover, Morris himself could be called as a witness and face questions over his own role in the scandal and its suppression in the media. That makes orchestrating an aggressive public campaign more problematic if it targets or intimidates other witnesses.
This is, of course, well known to these sophisticated political operatives, which makes the effort to publicize this campaign all the more concerning. House Democrats have blocked efforts to investigate any Biden influence peddling. They will have to take ownership of that refusal if the investigation now establishes a massive and corrupt operation.
But the new campaign is designed to give plausible deniability and comfortable distance from planned attacks on witnesses and commentators. Hunter Biden may have collected millions in selling access and influence, but anyone investigating or accusing the Bidens is now fully warned: Proceed at your own peril.
Jonathan Turley is an attorney and professor at George Washington University Law School.