When President Donald Trump yesterday urged China to investigate the business dealings of the political opponent Trump apparently fears most—former Vice President Joe Biden—his purpose was likely as much to inject some disinformation into the presidential campaign as it was a request for back-up material for his claim. Which is not to suggest that China might not have some incentive to come up with some disinformation to please Trump; he is, after all, conducting a trade war against the superpower to the East. And besides, it makes for a great diversion from all of that impeachment nonsense.
Trump’s attempts to prove that his opponent (who does not own hotels frequented by foreign leaders looking to do business with the United States) to be corrupt follows a script familiar to those who remember the Uranium One non-scandal with which pro-Trump players sought to tar Trump’s 2016 presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton. In fact, the allegations against Biden and his son, Hunter, are being advanced by the same crew that crafted and pushed the Uranium One narrative: Steve Bannon and Peter Schweizer.
This part of the formula has been tried and tested: Schweizer, employed by the Bannon-founded Government Accountability Institute, writes a book full of cherry-picked facts that, without context, paint a damning portrait of Trump’s opponent.
With such explosive claims made, mainstream outlets feel compelled to report, if not on the claims themselves, then on the fact that the allegations were stated by some person of note.
Bannon has been publicly shunned by his former patrons, Robert and Rebekah Mercer, ever since he turned up in Michael Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” saying unflattering things about the first family. So Bannon found a new source in Miles Kwok (Guo Wengui), a fugitive Chinese billionaire, who is said to have created a $100 million fund for Bannon’s latest enterprise, Committee for the Present Danger: China, which Bannon leads with professional Islam-hater Frank Gaffney.
Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Institute chugs along without Bannon, still receiving millions from the Mercer Family Foundation. (In 2017 alone, the foundation granted GAI $1.7 million.) The non-profit appears to exist solely to support the work of Peter Schweizer, author of the book “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” from which the Uranium One narrative sprang. Last year, Schweizer re-emerged with a new tome, “Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends,” which presents the right’s case against Biden, seeking to implicate the candidate in the business schemes of his son, who doubtlessly enjoyed opportunities granted him by virtue of his famous last name. (The Daily Beast reports that Schweizer apparently lifted some passages for that book from a Wikipedia entry on Patrick Daley, son of the former Chicago mayor, Richard M. Daley.)
But just as Schweizer was never able to prove that Hillary Clinton had any involvement with the investment of a Russian energy firm in U.S. uranium stores, he has not proven any involvement by Biden in the business dealings of his son, Hunter, in either Ukraine or China.
In April, Bannon launched his new “committee” with an event at the St. Regis Hotel in New York. That same day, Biden was kicking off his presidential bid with an event in western Pennsylvania. Speaking at a podium in a ballroom dripping crystal chandeliers, Bannon said to his audience of right-wing hedge-fund operators and business people, “Joe Biden has to answer the question: What did you know, when did you know it, and how much money has your family, and you personally, taken from the most murderous regime of the 21st century?”
Which is a lot like that age-old example of an unfair question: When did you stop beating your wife?