Where to start? Dan Friedman and David Corn have a piece up this morning at Mother Jones detailing a whistleblower complaint from an FBI agent, Johnathan Buma, who says he was stopped from investigating whether Giuliani was “compromised” by Russian intelligence when he was on his various “dirt” safaris marching through Ukraine and other post-Soviet states trying to drum up dirt on the Bidens to sabotage the 2020 presidential election. Friedman and Corn say other stymied agents may soon be coming forward as well.
I didn’t know the specifics of this complaint, though after reading the details I realized I had read about it without realizing there wasn’t yet a formal complaint. It’s important to remember, just as it was with those IRS agents and Hunter Biden, that it’s in the nature of line agents to get a kind of tunnel vision about what they’re investigating and what they think is out there. Sometimes this is precisely why you have supervisors to keep the bigger picture in focus. This isn’t directed at all to this particular case. Indeed, quite the opposite. But it’s an important caveat or reminder we should bring to any story like this. It’s not always the case that the line agent has the scent and the supervisor or the brass wants a coverup.
The other part of the story is that Giuliani being fed garbage by Russian intelligence agents wouldn’t be a surprise. It’s basically the standing assumption. Anyone who followed that story at all closely could see that Giuliani was being fed all sorts of trash by operatives either close to the Russian government or formal agents of Russian intelligence. In that world it’s not clear there’s much bright line separating the two. Whether Giuliani was ‘compromised’ raises a different set of questions and that word can mean a number of different things. The most generous read of Giuliani’s actions is that he was in Ukraine looking for anyone who claimed to have dirt on the Bidens and simply did not care who they were, whether it was true, where they got it or who they were working for. It’s a bit like Trump saying he was only acting on the advice of his lawyers. Giuliani would have been negligent not to know he was being fed garbage by bad actors, whoever it was they were working for. He didn’t care. Whether you could get a conviction on that basis is another story.
In other words, Giuliani acting as the conduit for Russian intelligence to sabotage the 2020 presidential election is hardly a controversial proposition. It’s basically a given. Indeed, it’s the predicate of the actions that got Donald Trump impeached back in 2019.
But this whole question brings me back to another related topic: Hunter Biden’s laptop. Yes, the grand old man of shiny objects for our degraded age.
Most reporters these days take it as a given that the laptop saga is one in which the disinfo-hunting crowd jumped the gun, labeling the laptop trove suspect, only to have it shown later that the laptop and the data on it was real. Indeed, this whole storyline is at the heart of current right-wing triumphalism about social media censorship and attacks on free speech. But this version of events is at best confused and flawed. There are actually significant questions about the chain of custody of the files purportedly on the laptop and whether some were altered or added. But let’s assume everything on the purported laptop is real; clearly most of it or much of it is. Quite possibly all of it.
This hardly ends the story, though.
The story is that Hunter Biden brought the laptop in for a repair in some sort of coked up or drunken stupor back in April 2019. He forgot about it and never came back to pick it up. He had the great misfortune to bring it to a repair man who, after 90 days of Hunter being a no-show, promptly cracked it open and started reading the various documents and the viewing the photos it contained. And when that computer repairman found the various emails and nude photos and photos of drug-taking he decided to call up Steve Bannon and Rudy Giuliani. That was fortuitous since this was toward the end of 2019 and it just so happened that Biden’s father, Joe Biden, was the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination.
This story has simply never been plausible. When William of Ockham created his eponymous razor it seemed designed seven hundred years in advance for just this story. Indeed, the reason so many press outlets were so hesitant to jump on board the laptop bandwagon is that the whole story, in the dying days of the 2020 campaign just seemed too obviously a replay of the Wikileaks hacked emails disclosures of 2016. Press organizations has spent the previous three and a half years insisting they wouldn’t again make themselves the pawns of malign actors. Another document dump had been predicted again and again. And here it was. Right on time.
Obviously, this doesn’t change the fact that the hard drive image (we don’t know if it was really a laptop) did become public; it led to an investigation which found at least some evidence of criminal activity; and that is now the subject of on-going litigation and likely criminal charges.
But it should still figure into our understanding of what Giuliani was up to in 2019 and 2020, who he was up to it with and whether we’re ever going to try to get to the bottom of just what happened. My best guess is that the likely theft of the data if not the laptop itself was part of the Ukrainian/Russian shenanigans Giuliani was part of in 2019. The Russians are the best bet for it. But as I noted back on Monday, we live in an oligarch age in which military grade hacking technologies are purchasable for a price and there’s a vibrant netherworld of oligarchs, foreign intelligence agencies and domestic bad actors, happy to cooperate or go solo with such an effort. This wasn’t extraordinarily bad luck for Hunter Biden. To think otherwise simply beggars belief. Someone (take your pick from the usual suspects) knew about Hunter’s life on the skids and got these into the hands of people who could advance Republican interests with them. It’s worth finding out who that was. And it’s almost certainly part of the Giuliani story.