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For months, Fox hosts and congressional Republicans have relentlessly pushed the incredibly dubious and unproven claim that then-Vice President Joe Biden was bribed by Ukrainians during the Obama administration. The informant who is the sole origin of those claims was just indicted for lying to the FBI. After news broke earlier in the day, none of Fox’s prime-time hosts even mentioned the indictment.
Fox News spent years spreading allegations that Biden was involved in corrupt practices in Ukraine in a baseless smear campaign against the president and his family. The resulting investigations led by House Republicans have all been futile, despite the constant promise of a smoking gun. (Trump's personal attempt to get involved led to his first impeachment. Fox News' research arm, the so-called “brain room,” at the time made clear that this was a right-wing disinformation campaign.)
The latest Republican theory to collapse centers on a partial copy of an “FD-1023,” a summary document of an FBI interview, with a confidential informant, which Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) circulated in 2023. The document says the informant claimed Biden accepted bribes from the Ukrainian energy company Burisma while his son, Hunter Biden, was serving on the board of the company.
On February 15, authorities arrested that same informant, Alexander Smirnov, in Las Vegas and charged him with lying to the bureau about Hunter and Joe Biden. The indictment alleges that Smirnov falsely told the FBI that Burisma officials told him they hired Hunter Biden to “protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems.” Smirnov also allegedly lied to the FBI that Burisma officials had confirmed Joe Biden accepted $5 million in bribes from the company.
The contents of the FD-1023 form were never verified, but that did not stop Fox News from whipping up hysteria around the baseless allegations and decrying the alleged scandal. Host Sean Hannity alone aired 85 segments promoting the claim, including 28 monologues. The Washington Post’s Philip Bump estimates that Fox News mentioned the claim about 2,600 times in the last 12 months.
Fox News’ Jesse Watters cited an “allegation that Joe Biden accepted a “$5 million bribe … from a foreign national” to justify his claim that as vice president, Biden was working as “an intelligence op” for the FBI. Watters then claimed the FBI was “caught in a cover-up.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 6/5/23]
Fox & Friends Weekend host Will Cain claimed the form demonstrated “what we have suspected” and that “Joe Biden's family benefited from a pay-to-play scheme.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/10/23]
Fox News host Rachel Campos-Duffy claimed that after the 1023 form came out, “you could use a crayon and connect the dots.” Campos-Duffy suggested that “we're also on the hook” for Ukrainian aid because Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky “knows exactly what happened there.” Co-host Pete Hegseth said, “So when [Joe Biden] says, ‘Whatever it takes for as long as it takes for as long as it takes, long live Ukraine,’ there might be something more there?” Campos-Duffy concluded, “Yes. So they're paying off Joe Biden, but we, the taxpayers, are paying off Zelensky and all those people to keep these secrets quiet for Joe Biden.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/10/23]
Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt lamented that other media outlets were ignoring the corruption allegations, adding, “Let me tell you why it’s a big deal.” She explained that the informant claimed the “vice president then, Biden, was paid $5 million by an executive at Burisma, and Hunter was sitting at the board at the time.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/16/23]
Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum agreed with guest Clay Travis when he argued Trump had been “held more accountable … for allegations of criminal behavior by Joe Biden” than the current president and his family have. Travis then claimed that “these allegations against Joe Biden make Watergate seem like jaywalking.” [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 7/21/23]
After detailing the allegations in the “long-awaited FBI FD-1023 form,” Fox host Sean Hannity declared, “It is time for a real special counsel, a real criminal investigation to take place to investigate what is rampant corruption.” He went on to claim, “We now have what is a trove of credible evidence that [Joe Biden] used the power of his office as the vice president of this country to secure massive amounts of money for his own family.” He concluded that Biden is “without a doubt … the most corrupt president in U.S. history, at least modern history.” [Fox News, Hannity, 7/21/23]
On Fox & Friends, Fox host Jeanine Pirro stated that “the issue is whether or not the impeachment is appropriate. I think it is. I think it's long past time.” She cited the 1023 form and went on to state, “You don't need any more than what we have now to convict them.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/25/23]
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.
After Judge Arthur Engoron handed down a judgment against former President Donald Trump in excess of $350 million on Friday, the ex-president may end up having to liquidate some of his assets to satisfy the court's obligations.
Trump attorney Alina Habba has said that her client plans to appeal the ruling, though he'll still have to put the money in a court-managed account while the appeals process plays out, in addition to the state-mandated nine percent interest for appeals of civil judgments. Daily Beast reporter Jose Pagliery tweeted his back-of-the-napkin math estimating that in order to appeal Engoron's judgment, Trump would have to set aside roughly $450 million when accounting for interest.
But Engoron's penalty is merely the second judgment Trump has been hit with in 2024. Earlier this month, a jury ordered the former president to pay writer E. Jean Carroll $88.3 million in compensatory and punitive damages for defamation. That's on top of a separate $5 million judgment Trump was ordered to pay Carroll in 2023. With all of these court-ordered penalties lumped together, that means Trump will be on the hook for nearly $450 million. And even if his bid for the presidency is successful this November, he'll still be required to pay those penalties. He's also prevented from running any New York-based business for three years.
In order for Trump to pay those judgments, he may have to end up selling some of his flagship properties in his real estate portfolio. Exactly how much his properties are worth is still a matter of debate, as Judge Engoron found Trump liable for fraudulently inflating the values of his assets, giving New York Attorney General Letitia James nearly all she was asking for in disgorgement penalties. But both the attorney general's office and various reports have found rough estimates for some of his most valuable assets.
The crown jewels of the Trump Organization are his Manhattan skyscrapers: Trump Tower (valued at roughly $117 million according to Forbes), Trump Park Avenue (valued at $135.8 million in 2020) and 40 Wall Street (pegged at $220 million by a professional appraiser in 2012). While it's unlikely he would move to sell these buildings out of his nearly two dozen residential, commercial and resort properties, they could feasibly cover the judgments depending on how appraisers would view them in 2024.
The Independent delved into other appraisals for some of Trump's other pricey properties outside of New York City, including his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, which is valued at roughly $20 million. The New York Attorney General's office cited a figure of $56 million for his Seven Springs property in Westchester County, New York (just north of the city). In 2022, Trump sold the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC for roughly $375 million, which was enough to satisfy a $170 million loan from Deutsche Bank and pocket a hefty profit afterward.
Trump's legal woes in New York are far from over, however, with his first of four criminal trials scheduled for March 25 in Manhattan District Court. He faces 34 felony counts of allegedly falsifying business records related to a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stephanie Clifford in 2016.
Reprinted with permission from Alternet.