Last night, President Joe Biden did what is a relatively rare thing. He sat down with an actual reporter ostensibly to answer questions. While earlier promising a “major press conference” for the media as a whole to ask him questions, Biden instead did a low-risk interview with MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle. In the interview, Ruhle briefly touched on the possible criminal charges awaiting Hunter Biden. Despite reports of a whistleblower alleging a bribery scandal involving the President, Ruhle assured the President (and the viewers) that the still unknown charges will involve “no ties to you.” Moreover, the interview is most interesting for what it did not address. It was a vivid example of what I previously called “the art of scandal implosion.”
During the interview, Ruhle asked “Sir, there is something personal that’s affecting you. Your son — while there [are] no ties to you — could be charged by your Department of Justice. How will that impact your presidency?”
Biden answered, “First of all, my son’s done nothing wrong. I trust him. I have faith in him. And it impacts my presidency by making me feel proud of him.”
Note the framing: it is a “personal” not a “criminal” matter for the President that involves only his son. We still do not know what the charges might be, though there have been steady leaks indicating that the Delaware U.S. Attorney is focusing on tax and gun charges.
Yet, there are mounting allegations over the President’s involvement in his son’s influence peddling and recent allegations of potential criminal conduct by the President. It would seem worthy of some inquiry or curiosity.
This framing is only possible because the Justice Department and the media have worked tirelessly to avoid ties between Hunter Biden’s foreign dealings and the President. While influence peddling may not be a crime in itself, it often involves crimes to cover up the schemes from tax violations to false statements to unlawful financial transfers.
Last year, I wrote about a shift in the media after it was forced to belatedly acknowledge the authenticity of the Hunter Biden laptop:
“Due to the continued work of a small number of media outlets like the New York Post, it is no longer possible to bury the story or continue the false claim that it is “Russian disinformation.” The hope now appears to be a “controlled demolition” where Hunter is indicted on limited grounds without causing collateral damage to the political and media establishment. Scandal implosion is as much an art as it is a science and could be the most brilliant achievement in this ongoing scandal.”
This effort has been greatly advanced with the help of Attorney General Merrick Garland who has inexplicably refused to appoint a special counsel despite mounting evidence of influence peddling by the Biden family with Joe Biden as the object of those efforts.
Garland has effectively blocked the risk of a report on the extensive influence peddling, including the repeated references to President Biden as the “Big Guy” in emails who stood to gain from a 10 percent cut on a deal with a Chinese energy firm as well as other benefits. Emails also refer to Hunter Biden paying portions of his father’s expenses and taxes. Witnesses have come forward that directly link the President to these deals.
Yet, none of that remotely interests reporters and MSNBC is not alone. The media continues to struggle to avoid even referencing the allegations against the Bidens. NPR had to correct a story that attempted to dismiss the entire laptop story as disinformation even after media acknowledged the authenticity of the laptop.
This is why the narrow focus of the Justice Department is critical to imploding this scandal.
Indeed, in the various leaks from the Justice Department on the Hunter Biden investigation, there has been a conspicuous omission of one possible charge: a FARA violation for being an unregistered foreign agent. As I noted last week, a criminal charge may be the best option for the Bidens if it can be confined to tax and gun charges and avoid Hunter’s influence peddling efforts.
The MSNBC interview captures the developing spin. If Hunter is charged, it will be treated as a closed and confined matter with nothing to do with Joe Biden. Indeed, with the allegations of at least two whistleblowers, the Biden team likely wants a quick resolution to declare the case closed. Once they secure some “capstone” charge, they and the media can declare the matter as investigated and old news.
That strategy is certainly more difficult after the GOP takeover of the House and the committees investigating these deals and transactions. However, removing the threat of criminal investigations into the influence peddling would control the damage going into the 2024 election.
Many Democrats and reporters have insisted that influence peddling is not a crime as part of this spin. However, it is corrupt and should be a focus of the media. It certainly was during the Trump Administration when every deal by Trump family members was exhaustively and breathlessly covered. I supported such scrutiny of the Trumps, but marvel at the distinct lack of interest now in such deals by the Biden family.
In the end, this is all about a talking point. This week, new evidence showed that former CIA acting Director Mike Morell sold the now debunked letter of 51 former intelligence officials on the Hunter Biden laptop as an effort to give Biden a “talking point” in the campaign. MSNBC just field tested the new such talking point in preparing for possible charges of Hunter Biden.
Of course, MSNBC cannot take credit for this effort. It is an all-hands on deck effort. The President will continue to be protected by a cocoon of media with little interest in millions of dollars that may have gone to the Biden family in raw influence peddling.
While MSNBC and other media immediately jumped on the whistleblower story on the Ukraine telephone call from the outset, the Biden whistleblower has received a fraction of the attention.
That is why it was hardly surprising that Ruhle also did not press Biden on his continued false claims of not knowing anything about his son’s business interests despite pictures and a tape recording that clearly refute those denials.
Ruhle also ignored Biden’s absurd claim that Hunter did “nothing wrong.” Obviously, he has done a great number of “wrong things” from tax violations to gun violations to prostitution violations to a massive corruption scandal. Yet, once again, Biden went unchallenged. There was not even the slightest pushback to ask if Biden seriously did not view these actions as wrong in any way.
That would defeat the implosion strategy to bring down this scandal without collateral damage to the Bidens and the media.