The Department of Justice renewed charges Monday against the man Republicans had repeatedly touted as their star witness against Hunter Biden and his father, President Joe Biden. As it turns out, the mystery of why Gal Luft is missing isn’t very mysterious after all. The Republican “informant” has been scarce because he’s on the run after jumping bail and is facing charges of illegal arms dealing, lying to federal agents, and being an unregistered agent of the Chinese government.
On the same day, a letter from U.S. Attorney David Weiss disputed the claims of so-called “IRS whistleblower” Gary Shapley concerning his investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes. In a letter addressed to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, Weiss disputed nearly every claim made by Republicans.
With Republicans in both the House and Senate fuming and the right-wing media slinging unsupported charges of a cover-up, here is a review of what remains of the Republicans’ much-touted case against “the Biden crime family.” A better question might be why they ever thought there was a case to begin with—and why an attorney general ever gave a U.S. attorney the task of personally supervising a fishing expedition into the life of the son of a potential presidential candidate.
Before getting down to the new information this week, it’s worth a trip across the galaxy of items that Republicans have put forward and continue to cite as “evidence” against either Hunter Biden, Joe Biden, or both.
The FD 10-23 ‘informant’ is dead
For months, the central theme of the Republican “investigation” headed by Kentucky Rep. James Comer was an FBI FD 10-23 form. That’s the form that the FBI uses to “record unverified reporting from a confidential human source.”
The fact that this information is unverified and that it comes from a confidential human source might explain to any casual observer why the FBI does not release these forms. Not only can they contain unfounded accusations against anyone from anyone, but if a form is accurate, it might also reveal information that would represent a serious threat to the source behind the form or to others. Releasing these forms would endanger witnesses, endanger the subjects of investigation, and invite anyone to file such accusations as a means of revenge. It would also make future witnesses to criminal activity much less likely to come forward.
The FBI doesn’t want those things to happen. The Republicans do.
Republicans, including Comer in the House and Sen. Chuck Grassley in the Senate, went through a long, chest-thumping pretense that by not releasing these confidential forms, the FBI was somehow conducting a cover-up to protect the Bidens. Comer and Grassley also scoffed at offers to show them the form because, as they made clear, they already knew what it said.
That’s because no matter how often Republicans denied it, the FD 10-23 form in question was clearly and absolutely part of the extended scheme by Rudy Giuliani to create “evidence” that Donald Trump could use to attack then-candidate Joe Biden. For months, Giuliani and his criminal pals bounced around Ukraine on Trump’s orders, trying to solicit false testimony against Biden from scam artists, Russian agents, and sycophants who have admitted making things up to please Trump.
But Republicans insisted that this form was not part of that scheme. This form was the real deal. This form came from a “highly credible informant.” This form was definitely not part of Giuliani’s scheme to … okay, all right. Sure. Maybe it was. And maybe Republicans were just going through the whole show because, as The Washington Post wrote:
Given that hostility to the bureau that has been so useful for Trump to stoke, Comer and other Republicans have instead made the focus of their ire the FBI’s failure to hand over the document without redactions.
Republicans were never interested in discovering the contents of the form. They already knew what it said. What Republicans wanted was the fight over releasing the form, because that gave them the chance to continue a tirade against the FBI and pad out their inexplicable claims that the FBI works for Joe Biden even when the agency was overtly working for Donald Trump.
The furor around the form appears to have faded for now, but what about the actual document? What about the informant behind that document? As it turns out, Giuliani says that the informant was a woman who once worked as an accountant at the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma, where Hunter Biden was once a board member. Giuliani also says that this star witness is conveniently dead.
The woman who Giuliani is inaccurately describing to Newsmax is reportedly the wife of Burisma co-founder Mykola Lisin. Lisin died in 2011. That’s three years before Hunter Biden had any association with the company.
Oh, and those “mysterious circumstances” behind Lisin’s death are meant to imply that the Bidens also had a hand in his demise. Here’s how Lisin died, according to BNE News in Kyiv at the time:
46-year-old Mykola Lisin, a lawmaker from Ukraine’s ruling Party of Regions, died in a car crash while driving at over 100 miles an hour in his Lamborghini Diablo.
Other reports have put the speed at closer to 150 mph. Lisin wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and his blood alcohol levels were high. All of those things tend to make people dead.
As for Lisin’s wife, it’s not actually clear that she’s dead. It’s not even clear she ever existed. For one thing, every story about her refers to her simply as “Mykola Lisin’s wife.” Even those reporting her death seem notably scant on details, like how she died. Or how old she was. Or her name. She is, or was, or possibly never was, just “Mykola Lisin’s wife.” There also seems to be absolutely no evidence she was ever an accountant at Burisma beyond a single statement from Giuliani, which has been endlessly repeated.
The only thing certain is that “Mykola Lisin’s wife” hasn’t popped up to confirm a story about a meeting that took place years after her husband died from a specific form of rich person idiocy, or to explain why she would go to the FBI to fill out an FD 10-23 form on events that reportedly took place years earlier. However, since right-wing media keeps reporting that she’s dead, it’s unlikely anything she has to say would be helpful to the Republican cause.
Oh, and the Party of Regions was the pro-Russian party that Biden, among others, frequently spoke out against.
The 17 videos don’t exist
Here’s how Fox News put it on the day that Donald Trump was indicted on 37 federal charges related to concealing classified documents related to national security.
Fox News: “Whataboutism? Yeah, damn right it’s about whataboutism. The world breathlessly covers the 37 counts on Donald Trump, while ignoring the 17 tapes on Joe Biden.”
It’s nice to have Fox leading off a massive “what about” story by admitting that’s exactly what it’s doing. However, there are several “whats” missing from this story, as well as how, why, and, particularly, where. As in: Where are those tapes?
Why would the media not spend Trump’s indictment day detailing the contents of the tapes? Surely we all recall when that one tape said … uh. Or that other tape that said … hey, just what was on those tapes again?
The tapes reportedly confirmed some bribe that Joe Biden reportedly took from the guy who was inconveniently dead well before either Biden ever came to Ukraine. Except the truth is that no one has heard what might be on those tapes—not even the Republicans. And it turns out there’s a pretty good reason for that.
Republicans haven’t heard the tapes because they don’t have the tapes. Neither does the FBI. In fact, Republicans have been forced to admit that the tapes might be entirely fictional.
Maybe they should check with Mykola Lisin’s wife.
The Whatsapp message is also a fake
A version of what’s supposedly a 2017 Whatsapp message in which Hunter Biden extorted money from a Chinese official, circulated widely around the internet after being posted by Missouri Republican Rep. Jason Smith, has a small problem because that 2017 message included an image of the president’s son that wasn’t taken until 2020.
However, Republicans were quick to claim that the picture was added on by Smith and should be ignored. And keen-eyed observers should also ignore the fact that the font and spacing don’t match Whatsapp because this image isn’t an image. It’s something that was typed up later. It’s not the real message.
They then circulated another version of the message—except that one is also a fake.
“both include a photo of Mr. Biden not from 2017 but from the White House Easter Egg roll in April 2022 (long after the purported message was sent); both images portray the message in a blue bubble, when WhatsApp messages are in green; one image superimposed the Chinese flag for the contact ID, when surely that was not how a text or contact was kept; and one purports to be a screenshot with the ‘. . .’ of someone composing a text (as in Apple’s iMessage) when that does not happen on WhatsApp.”
If the image of the message is a fake, what about the contents?
This message is one of the key pieces of evidence brought to the Republicans’ attention by IRS whistleblower Gary Shapley. The agent told the House Ways and Means Committee that he “obtained” the message (how is not clear), and that it records a transaction in which Hunter Biden demands payment from Chinese businessman Henry Zhao. In the message, Hunter declares that his dad is there with him and threatens Zhao with the power of his father. Except that at the time the meeting supposedly took place, Joe Biden did not hold any public office and was years away from declaring his candidacy for another.
The whole conversation supposedly recorded in the message never really has made any sense and, as might be expected, Hunter Biden’s attorney says that’s also a fake.
This certainly makes it seem as if not just Republicans but their surviving whistleblower are grasping at obviously fabricated straws.
The IRS whistleblower is contradicted by the actual U.S. attorney
For five years, U.S. Attorney David Weiss investigated Hunter Biden after being assigned to the case by William Barr.
It seems worth pausing for a moment to contemplate that sentence. Has there ever been a comparable investigation? Merrick Garland does not seem to have given any U.S. attorneys the task of digging into Donald Trump Jr.’s taxes or retracing the funding of Jared Kushner’s foreign trips. But Barr specifically instructed Weiss to dedicate his office to the investigation of Hunter Biden, and that’s what Weiss did for the past five years.
During all that time, Weiss, like special counsel John Durham, was a figure of Republican worship as they just waited on him to bring the hammer down on Hunter. However, when Weiss came back after all that time and produced only two small tax charges and a charge of carrying a pistol while using drugs, he immediately followed Durham into the long line of people who had betrayed Trump by failing to take down his perceived enemies. Republicans accused Weiss of going soft on Hunter Biden and giving him a “sweetheart deal.”
The search for some way to repudiate Weiss was thrown a huge lifeline when Shapley came forward with claims that Weiss:
wanted to lodge stronger charges against Hunter Biden but was refused.
wanted to be a special counsel but was turned down.
refused to follow up on the most damning information, like that Whatsapp message.
Other than the dead Lamborghini driver and the on-the-run Chinese agent, Shapley appears to be the only “informant” remaining in the Republican investigation. It’s not surprising that he has become the keystone of their claims against the Bidens since Shapley is 1) alive and 2) not currently being sought for a long list of felonies.
Trump certainly agrees because, whatever it was that Hunter Biden did, Trump is sure it deserves the death penalty.
Since Weiss failed to order up a firing squad, Republicans have been in overdrive trying to find some evidence that the U.S. attorney (who was not only appointed by Trump but one of his declared favorites) went easy on Hunter Biden.
The fact that Weiss was ordered by the attorney general to chase down a private citizen who was the the son of a potential candidate, and that Weiss had not only two years of unrestrained freedom to operate under a DOJ completely controlled by Trump operatives as well as a promise of complete hands off from Merrick Garland in the years that followed, has been replaced by the idea that Weiss was somehow constrained from going after Hunter Biden even before Joe Biden announced his candidacy.
Because Joe Biden is simultaneously a sleepy old man who forgets to wear socks and the most fearsome mob boss America has ever known.
It’s not clear when or how Shapley came across the supposed Whatsapp message or whether he ever showed it to Weiss. However, Shapley has been explicit in his claims against Weiss, including emails he reportedly sent following a meeting on Oct. 7, 2022, where Shapley says, “Weiss stated that he is not the deciding person on whether charges are filed.”
But the Monday letter from Weiss walks point by point through Shapley’s claims. According to Weiss:
He never “requested Special Counsel designation.”
Months before the Oct. 7 meeting, he had the authority to file charges in other districts.
He has “never been denied the authority to bring charges in any jurisdiction.”
Weiss refers Graham back to another letter written to Rep. Jim Jordan on June 30 in which he denies another of Shapley’s big claims:
The Department of Justice did not retaliate against “an Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) Criminal Supervisory Special Agent and whistleblower, as well as his entire investigative team… for making protected disclosures to Congress.”
The reason Weiss felt it necessary to make such a statement was that Shapley has been making complaints since the investigation began. He began making those complaints well before Joe Biden was elected and Merrick Garland became attorney general. He’s still making those complaints.
Shapley doesn’t seem to give a flying fig about Hunter Biden except as to how his claims can be used to attack Weiss. Why is Shapley so keen on discrediting a U.S. attorney who lead an investigation where Shapley worked for years? As The New York Times reported, it seems to come down to something very simple:
Mr. Shapley blamed Mr. Weiss, without evidence, for helping to kill a promotion he had hoped to get, by criticizing him to his superiors at the I.R.S.
Shapley has a personal vendetta. That’s exactly the kind of motivation the modern Republican Party understands. In fact, it’s just about the only motivation they understand.
Sum it all up and Republicans have:
One dead Ukrainian in a Lamborghini who died years before Hunter Biden became involved with Ukraine.
One wife with no name who is also reportedly dead, if she ever existed.
Seventeen audio recordings that don’t exist.
Two versions of a fake Whatsapp message.
One IRS agent who is angry at the attorney he blames for not getting a promotion.
That’s their case. And really, it is amazing … just not in the way they want everyone to believe.