Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Rudolph Giuliani

Photo by Gage Skidmore/ CC BY-SA 2.0

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On Wednesday morning, the New York Post broke the genuinely unbelievable story about a soggy laptop with a hard drive that contains emails suggesting that Joe Biden had a previously unreported meeting with a Ukrainian businessman … and video of Hunter Biden having a crack-laced party with a sex worker. Because, sure, if you're going to have illegal drugs while engaging in illegal sex, you have to be sure to film it, right after the email that's a threat to your father.


This Donald Trump fantasy reel was then delivered to the Post through the unimpeachable (but definitely indictable) hands of Trump attorney, Rudy Giuliani. According to Giuliani, the source of this supposed mystery computer was a mystery customer who, extremely conveniently, left a Beau Biden Foundation sticker attached when dropping it off at a Delaware repair shop. But the mystery customer never returned—or apparently gave his name. So it was totally understandable that the repair shop guy busted out his best hacking tools and began reading those emails and watching those videos. And absolutely understandable that his first action was to make a copy for Giuliani.

Seriously, the believability factor of this whole story is somewhere worse than a love child between Sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster. This is a story so ridiculous, Q would not want to be associated with it, which hasn't stopped White House Press Sec. Kayleigh McEnany from tweeting out parts of it as if it's serious. But now at least one aspect of the mystery is somewhat less mysterious, because the repair shop guy has been located. And he's a peach.

As the Daily Beast reports, the apparent start of the journey from wet laptop to Post story inexplicably promoted by reporters from The New York Times and Politico is a shop owner named John Paul Isaac from Wilmington, Delaware. In a question and answer session lasting over an hour, Isaac gives often jaw-dropping and occasionally hilarious responses to questions about how exactly what Giuliani has been searching for happened to come into his hands, and how he then handed it over for appropriate scandal-level attention.

According to Isaac, he has a "medical condition" that prevented him from seeing who actually dropped off the laptop. But that Biden Foundation sticker clued him in that this had to be the Macbook of Hunter Biden. After all, it's not like the Beau Biden Foundation has a dozen board members, several dozen employees and volunteers, has trained over 9,500 adults to assist in spotting and preventing child abuse, and worked with families in over 20 states. Who but Hunter might have such a sticker?

Isaac then called the FBI, who took the device, but then called him back in for his expertise on accessing hard drives. Or he accessed the hard drive and then contacted the FBI. Or both. All of this is reported at various points in the conversation. "Muddled" doesn't begin to describe the explanation. Isaac also provides the reason that he copied the drive for Giuliani. That reason is: Seth Rich, as in the right-wing conspiracy theory that Seth Rich was murdered by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) because he knew the "truth" about DNC emails stolen by Russian sources and provided to Roger Stone, WikiLeaks, and Donald Trump.

At various points, Isaac seems to believe the FBI killed Rich, and might kill him. Which makes it difficult to understand why he would have called the FBI in the first place. To make it extra confusing, Isaac at various points claims the FBI didn't know he made a copy—except they had to know he would make a copy. "They probably knew I had a copy because I was pretty vocal about not wanting to get murdered," said Isaac. (Complete audio of the interview can be found with the Daily Beast article.)

The biggest problem with the claims in the emails is the same as that in every other Biden did something-something in Ukraine story. That problem is simple: Prosecutor Viktor Shokin was not investigating the company where Hunter Biden was on the board. How do we know that? Not only are there no records of such an investigation in Ukraine, Shokin himself has said as much. In fact, it was Shokin's refusal to open such an investigation that led to U.K. officials requesting that he be removed from office.

How does the Post story weasel-word their way around this problem? In the most weasel-y way imaginable. According to the Post, Shokin had made "specific plans" to investigate Burisma. So not only did Joe Biden apparently step in to stop the investigation, he stopped it when it was just an idea in Shokin's head that had not been acted on. Pretty darn clever, that Biden.

It might also be worth a quick look at the author of this Post article. The byline on the story is Emma-Jo Morris, who is listed on the masthead as deputy politics editor at the New York Post. Since when? Since today, that's when. Morris has exactly three stories on her resume at the Post … all of them written on Wednesday. All of them about Hunter Biden. What did Morris do prior to her instant appointment as editor? She booked guests for Sean Hannity.

If all of this wasn't shakier than watered down Jell-O, there's the little problem with how the contents of the hard drive seem to be perfectly in line with what Giuliani has been claiming all along. Trump's latest personal attorney has been beating the bushes, and paying off criminals, in Ukraine for over two years, looking for anyone willing to provide Biden dirt. It was almost exactly one year ago that Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Furman were arrested while trying to leave the country. Back in December, Parnas turned over documents to the House Intelligence Committee as charges of election law violations, perjury, falsifying records, and conspiracy against the United States were clearly expanding into "a broader probe that is looking at numerous people in Giuliani's orbit."

Just last month, FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA officials made it clear that Giuliani's orbit was a tight circle around Vladimir Putin. That included identifying former Ukrainian legislator Andrii Derkach—Giuliani's primary contact in Ukraine—as a Russian disinformation agent who was in direct contact with the Kremlin. Derkach worked with Giuliani to spread disinformation about Biden "inside the United States through lobbyists, Congress, the media and contacts with figures close to the president."

Not only is Giuliani's October surprise anything but believable, the odds that it's not a direct ploy to slip disinformation sourced by Russia into the American media appear vanishingly small. Because it's not just Derkach who is a disinformation agent.

Twitter has now blocked access to the Post story. Good for them. At least someone is trying to stop the flow of Russian propaganda.

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was on CNN Sunday morning with Jake Tapper on his State of the Union show. In part because Democratic reps, like Republican reps, going on Sunday shows is about this coming election, and in part because newscasters are not particularly deep or creative when it comes to talking about politics, Tapper decided to spend a lot of time trying to get Ocasio-Cortez to attack Joe Biden for their differences of political opinions. Newsflash: Ocasio-Cortez, progressive hero, co-author of the ambitious Green New Deal environmental package, and Vice President Joe Biden aren't exactly on the same page as to how to handle climate change.

More to the point, Tapper asked Ocasio-Cortez whether or not she was bothered by the fact that Biden has not said he would outright ban fracking. The move to ban fracking in states across the country has been a seesaw battle of fossil fuel interests fighting against progressive environmentalism and science. Biden's refusal to provide full-throated support for a ban on fracking is disappointing to many of us on the left, but it isn't surprising. Even more importantly, it is below the most essential first step the progressive movement—and the country for that matter—needs to take: getting rid of Donald Trump and getting rid of the Republican majority in the Senate.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez isn't going to be pulled into a pointless argument about fracking with Jake Tapper. Her position is well-reported. So is Biden's. AOC explains very clearly that this is how politics work in a representative democracy.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: It does not bother me. I believe, and I have a very strong position on fracking. You know, the science is very clear, the methane emissions from fracking are up to 64 times more powerful than CO2 emissions and trapping heat in the air, and just from a perspective of stopping climate change there is a scientific consensus. However, that is my view. Vice President Biden has made very clear that he does not agree with the fracking ban and I consider that, you know—it will be a privilege to lobby him should we win the White House but we need to focus on winning the White House first. I am happy to make my case but I also understand he is in disagreement on that issue.

Tapper wonders whether this will depress the youth vote, a vote that AOC represents more closely than Biden. This, of course, is literally the only reason Trump and his surrogates have been bringing up this difference of positions the last couple of weeks. The hope is that it will depress the more progressive vote, while spooking some more conservative-leaning folks in fossil-fuel heavy states like Pennsylvania and Texas. Ocasio-Cortez points out that the youth vote over the past couple of years has not simply become more sophisticated since 2016, it has brought in more progressive candidates and officials into local elections. The turnout in 2018 showed that, and Ocasio-Cortez believes that this election is very clearly a choice between Donald Trump, someone who is a non-starter of a human being, and Joe Biden.

Tapper then plays a clip of Biden telling reporters that he isn't "getting rid of fossil fuels for a long time," but that he's talking about getting rid of the subsidies the fake free-marketeers enjoy in the fossil fuel industry. While Tapper is hoping that this will illustrate how Biden isn't AOC and the youth vote may be turned off by this statement, she sees it as an important step in the right direction.

REP. OCASIO-CORTEZ: When he says we are eliminating subsidies, I think that is, frankly, an important first step. A lot of folks who like to tout themselves as free market capitalists, while still trying to make sure they get as much government subsidy, and propping up of the fossil fuel industry as possible. ... If you do believe in markets, solar and renewable energies are growing less and less expensive by the day in many areas. They are starting to become less expensive than fossil fuels. When you eliminate government subsidies, it becomes more difficult for fossil fuels to compete in the market. I think while the vice president wants to make sure that he is not doing it by government mandate or regulation. I do believe that we are moving towards that future. I believe that there's a way and that we should push that process along but again, the vice president and my disagreements are, I believe, recorded and that is quite all right.