On Tuesday, America’s paper of record, The New York Times, ran a piece about the wayward son of our nation’s 46th president: “Competing Accounts of Justice Dept.’s Handling of Hunter Biden Case.”
The piece wasn’t handled by amateurs. Glenn Thrush and Pulitzer Prize winner Michael S. Schmidt, who share the byline, are two of the paper’s top Washington correspondents.
The article was, by all appearances, packaged as an overview of exactly what the title suggested: how the Department of Justice went about looking into Hunter Biden’s finances and truthfulness on federal firearm application forms, and those who don’t quite trust that all was handled fairly.
The investigation, as we know, ended with a slap on the wrist for Hunter’s failure to pay taxes in 2017 and 2018 and for lying about whether he was an active drug user at the time he bought a gun in 2018.
The second and third paragraphs in the story laid out the question at hand quite neatly:
“Did David C. Weiss, the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Delaware kept on under [Attorney General Merrick] Garland to continue overseeing the inquiry, have full authority to bring charges against President Biden’s son in California and Washington if he wanted to? Had Mr. Weiss ever asked to be made a special counsel? Was the investigation truly insulated from political considerations?
“That encounter has taken on new significance after House Republicans released testimony last week from a senior Internal Revenue Service investigator on the case that appeared to contradict Mr. Garland’s assurances to Mr. Grassley and others that Mr. Weiss had all the freedom and authority he needed to pursue the case as he saw fit.”
That whistleblower is Gary Shapley
In this attempt to adumbrate the “competing accounts” of how the Hunter Biden investigation went down in a concise, fair manner, Thrush and Schmidt declined to note until the 21st paragraph that, actually, a considerable body of evidence exists that Weiss was interfered with.
But, you know, I’m sure that’s by accident.
After no less than 20 paragraphs of situating Merrick Garland, David Weiss and the Department of Justice on one side and a single whistleblower and conspiracy-minded Republicans on the other, the Times’ reporters admitted that, yes, independent confirmation that Weiss had been stymied had been obtained by… their own paper. Indeed, they may have been the ones who obtained it.
Let’s back up to Paragraph 18 for a second, where the writers claim that “if Mr. Garland was content with how the politically explosive case was being handled, Mr. Shapley, a 14-year I.R.S. employee, was stewing in the shadows.”
“Stewing in the shadows” may be the perfect “Republicans pounce” of establishment media linguistic tools to smear whistleblowers, but I digress.
In Paragraph 19, the authors note that Shapley “recounted in his testimony that he had been arguing in meetings with Mr. Weiss and other prosecutors to aggressively pursue charges against Mr. Biden stemming from his failure to pay taxes in 2014 and 2015, two years not covered under Mr. Biden’s agreement to plead guilty on the misdemeanor tax charges.
“During those years, Mr. Biden was earning income from work for a Ukraine-based energy company and Chinese clients that Mr. Shapley suggested was being channeled through entities that had a presence in Washington and the Los Angeles area.”
And then, Paragraph 20: “It is not clear if Mr. Weiss was convinced those strands of the investigation should be prosecuted or was simply making sure all potential charges were pursued thoroughly. But in mid-2022, Mr. Weiss reached out to the top federal prosecutor in Washington, Matthew Graves, to ask his office to pursue charges and was rebuffed, according to Mr. Shapley’s testimony.”
Finally, we reach glorious Paragraph 21: “A similar request to prosecutors in the Central District of California, which includes Los Angeles, was also rejected, Mr. Shapley testified. A second former I.R.S. official, who has not been identified, told House Republicans the same story. That episode was confirmed independently to The New York Times by a person with knowledge of the situation.”
To paraphrase the inimitable Ron Burgundy, I’m not sure how to put this, but that’s kind of a big deal.
If one is writing about “competing accounts” of the Hunter Biden plea deal and for 20 paragraphs sets it up as Garland, Weiss and the DOJ vs. a single whistleblower, then, in the second half of the 21st paragraph, drops the fact that a second IRS official has told Congress an identical story to Shapley’s under oath and the testimony has been confirmed to The New York Times — one is not writing about “competing accounts.”
One is, instead, writing a piece that vindicates the DOJ and Garland by arranging the facts in an order that benefits them, while at the same time deprecating the “competing account” that’s at significant variance with what our nation’s top law enforcement entity is telling America about the Hunter Biden deal.
The piece may indeed be factual, but how it presents those facts is both prejudiced and tendentious.
It’s worth noting, too, that Thrush and Schmidt promptly lose this rather important “strand” after Paragraph 21, instead moving on to question whether “Weiss had the authority to pursue leads that led to jurisdictions other than his own in Delaware” and getting lost in those weeds.
Paragraph 21 is the meat of the competing account, however: It’s not just Shapley and those House Republicans who believe him. According to the Washington Times, a second agent — referred to as Mr. X — testified under oath that Hunter Biden wrote off prostitutes and wild stays at Hollywood’s swanky Chateau Marmont hotel on his taxes.
“He deducted a lot for the Chateau Marmont, and he actually was blacklisted and thrown out of the Chateau Marmont. We actually have videos — or we have photos of the rooms and the destruction that was done to the rooms,” Mr. X said in testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee on June 1.
He also mentioned $10,000 that Hunter deducted as a “golf membership” on his 2018 taxes. That, he said, was for a prostitute. Another $25,000 to a hooker was written off as business expenses.
“We’ve talked to the person that owned that sex club, and they confirmed that he was there,” Mr. X said. “And the guy has to pay $10,000, and the girl — whoever is referring him there doesn’t have to pay anything. So that was deducted on the tax return.”
“Some ended up being his girlfriends. So they all kind of morphed and changed,” he added. “So I want to be accurate in how I represent them. But there were a lot of females that I believe he was having sexual relationships with that I ended up interviewing.”
The Washington Times reported that Hunter’s situation was “so bad that his accountants, as if to distance themselves from the factual claims on the forms, made him sign a representation letter, in which he tells his tax preparers that all the income and deductions he is reporting are accurate.”
“I’ve never seen that in my career,” Mr. X said in his testimony.
“Dean Zerbe, a leading IRS whistleblower lawyer who is serving as Mr. X’s attorney and who used to serve as tax counsel for the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said it was striking to have two career agents with years of experience testify to essentially the same pattern of facts,” the Washington Times noted.
“We never had anyone of this stature coming forward from the IRS to speak to us about problems,” said Zerbe, a Capitol Hill veteran. “That alone sets these guys apart.”
But this is all worth just a few words in Paragraph 21 of the New York Times report on the matter. Sure.
One does get the idea that there are indeed “competing accounts” of the Hunter Biden plea deal: the media’s, and reality’s.
The media may obfuscate, cover up, muddle, cheerlead, scold, jumble, cajole and confound for its chosen side. I don’t even need to tell you which side that is.
Reality, however, remains undefeated. And what’s more, reality has a nasty way of sticking around — the same way reporters don’t when the truth they derided becomes too obvious to hide.
That’s not to say it can’t be successfully interred, mind you. But it’s a difficult thing to bury alive, much as reporters like Thrush and Schmidt may try, and they may very well end up with quite the nasty zombie on their hands.