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Steve Bannon

Photo by Gage Skidmore/ CC BY-SA 2.0

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The story of the big Republican October surprise goes like this: Sometime in April last year, someone walked into a Delaware computer repair store and dropped off not one, but three waterlogged laptops. The store owner is legally blind, so he couldn't identify the person. And his security camera was on the fritz, so no pictures. The store owner also failed to collect a name, phone number, address, or a payment for any of these laptops. However, he's pretty sure that the computers belong to Hunter Biden, who lives in California, because one of them has a sticker for a local charity that has trained at least 2,000 people in the Wilmington area alone.


The store owner then looked at the contents of one of these laptops—a step that was not only unnecessary to fixing it, but is likely a violation of Delaware's privacy laws. Then he copied everything on the hard drive. Then he called the FBI and Rudy Giuliani … though he won't say in what order. Giuliani then began publishing documents through the New York Post after everyone else, including Fox News, turned down this fabulous offer of documents from someone who took a definitely unethical, and possibly illegal, deep dive into private information.

So how could this story get better? Well … how about if another version of it emerged a month earlier than the one that appeared in the Post, making many of the same claims about connections between Hunter Biden and China and offering up many of the same salacious stories? Only this version didn't come from a mystery laptop dropped off by a mystery man. It comes from a Swiss security analyst who put together a folio of data that appears to be genuinely damning. Except … drop the "genuinely." Because the Swiss analyst doesn't exist. Which didn't stop him from becoming a right-wing media star.

As NBC News reports, the 64-page "intelligence file" on Hunter Biden from a supposed Swiss security analyst named Marten Aspen has circulated widely around the right for weeks. Only Aspen doesn't exist. Not only has no one at the company where Aspen was supposed to have worked ever heard of him, no one by that name lives in all of Switzerland.

Then there's the problem of Aspen's photo. Because it's not a photo. It's an image created using an AI program that generates fake faces based on algorithms. And speaking of fake, no one seems to have noticed that this Swiss superspy's name is actually just a version of the name of the British automaker Aston Martin.

The fake folio from the fake analyst has not only been the basis of a far-right AM radio and social media blast, it's been distributed by people associated with the Trump campaign. The document, known as the "Typhoon Investigations" report, first appeared on a website from economic adviser Albert Marko. The real author appears to be a blogger and economics professor named Christopher Balding. And it turns out there is an actual Chinese connection in all this … because Balding actually lives in Beijing.

Economics blogger Christopher Balding vs fake Swiss analyst Marten Aspen

On the left, actual Christopher Balding. On the right, fake Marten Aspen.

But wait: Though Balding has admitted that he created Aspen and he gave the report to Marko, he still says that he's not the actual author. Because there's another secret author behind all this, one who has to remain anonymous because it would be too risky to reveal his identity. And certainly, Balding should be taken at his word. After all, it's not like he's been lying to everyone about everything for months.

The absolute fakeness of this information hasn't stopped it from going wide in right-wing media circles. That includes being included on a podcast from Steve Bannon, where Balding appeared to promote this startling paper by the renowned expert, Guy I Made Up.

But honestly, is a fake folio from a fake analyst any less believable than what Giuliani has been pushing through the New York Post, or anything Donald Trump tried to insert into a presidential debate? Every word of the whole Hunter Biden smear seems to be as silly, and unlikely, as anything created by the second-most-interesting-man-in-the-world that Balding created.

It's interesting that as the nature of the fake folio was becoming obvious, Tucker Carlson was busy declaring that his secret trove of devastating Hunter Biden documents had gone missing. A day later, when UPS made it clear the documents were not missing, Tucker Carlson suddenly did a 180-degree turn and decided it was time to stop picking on Hunter Biden.

Odds that Carlson had already booked Marten Aspen as a guest? 287 percent.

Want to create your own Swiss analyst/White House insider/person who is actually Q? If you'd like to see how uncanny these fake photos can be, visit This Person Does Not Exist for your very own fake person.

Ivanka Trump

Photo by World Bank Photo Collection/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Ivanka Trump, along with the Trump Organization, has been under investigation for years for suspicions around the conduct of the president's 2017 inaugural committee and its funding. This week, she found herself being deposed for reportedly more than five hours by the D.C. attorney general as the investigation continues, leading her to lash out and accuse the investigators of being politically motivated.

But Karl Racine, the attorney general in question, hit back, saying it is clear the Trump family and the inaugural committee broke the law.

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