I previously wrote a column marveling at the success of the Bidens in pulling off one of the neatest tricks in political history. I analogized it to how Houdini used to make his 10,000-pound elephant Jennie disappear on a stage in front of a live audience. The media and political establishment is now striving to top that performance by declaring $20 million in payments to Biden family members as an “illusion” of influence. At the heart of this scandal is the BFF, the Biden Family Fund.
Here is the column:
This week, President Joe Biden responded to calls for greater access to the media with a blockbuster interview with . . . the Weather Channel.
The interview immediately prompted critics to speculate that the president wanted to continue to talk about the weather — the same claim made after the disclosure of his participation in various dinners with his son’s foreign associates.
As the number of these dinners, meetings and outings increase, Joe Biden appears to have covered more meteorological subjects than Al Roker.
The problem is that conditions are worsening in Washington.
This week, House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer released a third report on the ongoing investigations into the Biden corruption scandal.
The latest bank records indicate the Biden family has received more than $20 million, including from corrupt Kazakh figures.
Some of this money provided Hunter Biden with extravagant toys. On April 22, 2014, Kazakh oligarch Kenes Rakishev wired $142,300 to the Rosemont Seneca Bohai bank account.
That account then shows the exact same amount being wired to a New Jersey car dealership for a Fisker sports car for Hunter. Finding the Fisker unsuitable, Hunter traded it in for a Porsche.
Notably, these payments often coincided with dinners and meetings with Joe Biden.
Russian oligarch Yelena Baturina, the widow of Moscow ex-Mayor Yury Luzhkov, wired $3.5 million to Rosemont Seneca Thornton Feb. 14, 2014.
She later attended a dinner with Joe and Hunter Biden at Washington, DC, hotspot Café Milano.
For weeks, Joe Biden’s prior claims have been collapsing as his allies in the media and Congress struggle for an alternative spin on these new disclosures.
The president’s denials of any knowledge of his son’s foreign dealings finally have been exposed as a lie.
Even the Washington Post has acknowledged Biden lied when he insisted that Hunter never made any money in China.
It was always a boldfaced falsehood (and a confusing claim from a man who insisted that he had no knowledge of his son’s foreign dealings).
But the testimony of associate Devon Archer and new bank records forced the paper and others to recognize the falsehood.
There is also the confirmation that Biden’s long denials that he attended key dinners with Hunter’s business associates were false.
Most notably, the media are grudgingly admitting that Hunter was openly selling influence peddling and access to his father as part of what Archer called “selling the brand.”
The final line of defense is now that Hunter Biden was selling access to Joe Biden but it was an “illusion.” The reason, they claim, is there is no evidence of direct payments to Joe and Jill Biden.
There is, of course, nothing “illusionary” about tens of millions moving to Hunter and other family members.
But political spins are often built on illusions. The latest is that Joe Biden only benefits from these payments if they were directly deposited in his accounts.
For a family that Hunter explained was “the best” at this type of dealing, it is absurd to expect a deposit slip from a corrupt Ukrainian official to the account of Joe and Jill Biden, one of the most vulnerable accounts in the world to review and monitoring.
These claims, moreover, ignore emails discussing Hunter’s and his father’s use of joint accounts to pay for expenses, including how one account was used to pay Joe’s taxes. There is also Hunter’s complaint that he was using half of his earnings to support his father. Indeed, one trusted FBI informant said that, in planning a bribe, one foreign figure was told to avoid direct payments to Joe Biden. Today, that is as amateurish as an envelope of cash and the Bidens have been in the business of influence peddling for decades.
Responding to the new evidence, Washington Post columnist Phillip Bump led the charge in asking: Where’s the bribe?
In other words, as long as Hunter got the luxury car, Joe didn’t benefit or receive a bribe.
(Notably, Bump did not have the same high standards when he pushed the false claim over a photo op in Lafayette Park and later refused to concede with the rest of the media on the lack of Russian collusion with Donald Trump.)
Not even millions to Biden children and grandchildren would seem to satisfy Bump as an inducement for the then-vice president.
Yet the greatest illusion is the claim Joe Biden would only be motivated by a direct payment to one of his accounts.
Biden clearly benefited from millions going to the Biden Family Fund (BFF). Even grandchildren received some of the transfers funneled through a labyrinth of accounts.
Joe Biden is 80 years old. Despite holding only government jobs in his career, he is worth an estimated $8 million.
Forbes reported he earned $17.3 million over the four years he was out of office. He will never spend his fortune. Any additional money would have to pass to his descendants.
For most wealthy people in their final years, the challenge is not raising more money but getting that money to your children without heavy taxes or delays.
This money was going to his BFF. That is a benefit and probably of greater value to a man of Joe Biden’s age and wealth.
None of this has stopped politicians, press and pundits from insisting that absent a direct payment to the president’s account, there is no corruption or crime.
After all, $20 million going to a president’s family is like complaining about the weather in Washington.
Jonathan Turley is an attorney and professor at George Washington University Law School.