A closer look at The New York Times’ reporting on Hunter Biden shows Biden’s team may be laying the groundwork ahead of an even bigger story.
Last Wednesday, The New York Times reported on the continuing criminal investigation into Hunter Biden, and in doing so finally acknowledged the emails recovered from the laptop abandoned at a Delaware repair shop were authentic. Since then, much of the media’s coverage has focused on the corrupt press’ burying of the laptop scandal The New York Post broke shortly before the 2020 election.
There is much more to be gleaned from the Times’s article, though, including these four takeaways.
1. If the Laptop Is Legit, So Are the Scandals the Laptop Exposed
The first key takeaway from The New York Times article concerns what it means for the scandals spawned by the October 2020 release of the emails and text messages contained on Hunter Biden’s MacBook. The supposed standard-bearers of journalism ignored those scandals for the last year-and-a-half by framing the material “Russian disinformation.”
Now that the Times has acknowledged that the Biden-related emails and other documents recovered from the abandoned laptop are authentic, that means the scandals they exposed are also legitimate. As summarized at The Federalist here, there are eight Joe Biden scandals that deserve investigation.
2. The Times’s Record of ‘Getting Ahead of the Story’ Suggests More Developments Are Coming
Beyond what Wednesday’s article on Hunter Biden means more broadly related to the scandals exposed by the abandoned MacBook, the substance of the Times’s coverage suggests a huge story about the president’s son is about to break. Here, it is helpful to remember that the Times is the newspaper of record for stories needed to soften the landing for Democrats embroiled in scandal. In this case, the tells are all there that the Times is offering an assist to the Bidens by getting ahead of the story to come.
Just as Press Secretary Jen Psaki smooths her copper coif before dropping a doozy, the Times alerts observant readers to the real story when it identifies its source for information harmful to a Democrat as a “person familiar with the investigation.” The Times used that technique ten times in its coverage of the Hunter Biden case.
Another sure give-away is the Times’s burying of the lede. That is an understatement of what the Old Grey Lady did when it titled its coverage of the investigation into Hunter Biden as “Hunter Biden Paid Tax Bill, but Broad Federal Investigation Continues.” The article then opened with:
In the year after he disclosed a federal investigation into his ‘tax affairs’ in late 2020, President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, paid off a significant tax liability, even as a grand jury continued to gather evidence in a wide-ranging examination of his international business dealings, according to people familiar with the case.
With a proper title, such as, “Prosecutors Find Evidence Hunter Profited by Selling Access to Vice-President Father,” serious reporting would open by alerting the audience to damning evidence accumulated by federal prosecutors that suggests Hunter Biden criminally profited from his dad’s position as Barack Obama’s vice president.
The Times’s tactic of preemptively providing defenses to hypothetical criminal charges should also alert readers to the inevitability of an indictment against Hunter. For more on the preemptive defense of Hunter see point 4 below.
3. Prosecutors are Investigating Some Serious Stuff
So, what might those inevitable charges be? Of course, it is impossible to know for sure unless and until an indictment drops, but it is inconceivable that the Times would air the Biden family’s dirty laundry unless the reporters believed the entire household hamper was soon to be dumped in the middle of town.
Revisiting the Times’s article from last week, then, with the premise that the reporting seeks to “get ahead of the story,” suggests federal prosecutors may have some serious charges in mind for the president’s son. Tax evasion seems the most likely charge Hunter will face, given that the Times reported that the president’s son paid more than $1 million in tax liability while spinning any such criminal offense as Hunter’s mere “failure to pay all his taxes.”
A second charge floated by the Times concerns violations of “the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, which requires disclosure to the Justice Department of lobbying or public relations assistance on behalf of foreign clients.” Here, the Times’ efforts to frame Hunter’s potential violations of FARA as unintentional — and thus not criminal — suggests the Delaware U.S. attorney has a solid FARA case in the works.
The Times’s coverage, however, indicates federal prosecutors are looking at much more serious charges related to payments Hunter Biden received from the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, as well his financial interests in Kazakhstan and China. Publicly available evidence already suggests Hunter Biden profited from these, and potentially other foreign interests, by selling access to his father when the elder Biden was vice president, which the Times casts as possibly allowing for a “money laundering” charge against Hunter.
In last week’s article, the Times reveals that prosecutors have accumulated significantly more evidence suggesting Hunter profited from these relationships, with prosecutors allegedly investigating “payments and gifts Mr. Biden or his associates had received from foreign interests, including a vehicle paid for using funds from a company associated with a Kazakh oligarch and a diamond from a Chinese energy tycoon.” The Times also reported that prosecutors have “sought documents related to corporate entities through which Mr. Biden and his associates conducted business with interests around the world.”
The Times further revealed that federal prosecutors have “issued scores of subpoenas,” related to “Hunter Biden’s foreign work and for bank accounts linked to him and his associates.” They even traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas, according to The Times, to interview Ms. Lunden Alexis Roberts, who sued Hunter for paternity payments, questioning her about Hunter’s business dealings. As for the emails recovered from the abandoned MacBook, federal investigators have authenticated those as well.
All of these details the Times reported in its article purportedly focused on the tax case against Hunter Biden. Other than the details confirmed by Roberts’s lawyer, the information came principally from “people familiar with the investigation,” which means one of two things: someone with the prosecutor’s office talked, or someone connected with Hunter Biden did.
History provides a pretty good hint of the answer — and its reason: Hunter Biden’s team likely gave the Times the heads-up to the case being crafted against the president’s son to allow the liberal mainstay to massage a narrative before any potential charges became public. Given the details shared with the Times by people familiar with the investigation, then regurgitated by the Times for the public, it seems some pretty serious charges may be in store for Hunter.
4. Downplay the Charges, Build the Narrative, and Beta-Test the Defenses
As noted above, the Times’ preemptive countering of several hypothetical criminal charges indicates the leftist paper’s coverage of the Hunter Biden case seeks not to inform the public but to form a gentle narrative on which the president’s son can land when the expected indictment drops. Here it is not merely the many defenses the Times lays out, but the entirety of the article that also downplays the potential charges and paints the most sympathetic scenario possible for Hunter Biden.
Consider, for instance, the Times’s framing of Hunter Biden and his apparent pay-to-play scheme. “Hunter Biden is a Yale-educated lawyer,” the article notes early on, claiming that the “broader investigation” stems “from work he did around the world” that “intersected with his father’s public service.”
It seems unlikely, though, that prosecutors are investigating “work” Hunter Biden did around the world, although not as unlikely as the claim that President Biden’s lifelong political career parlayed to his family’s financial advantage is “public service.”
The Times also succeeded in presenting the Hunter Biden-Burisma scandal as one really about Trump, writing: “Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy company, became a flashpoint in his father’s race in 2020 against President Donald J. Trump and helped set off the events that led to Mr. Trump’s first impeachment.”
Apparently, the Times will need another year or two before it can also acknowledge Donald Trump’s concern about Biden family corruption in Ukrainian was legitimate and that Trump’s impeachment was pure politics.
Then there was the Times’s reference to Hunter’s “serious drug addiction and other problems during the period” the potentially illegal conduct took place. Add to those facts that Hunter was also “dealing with the illness and death of his brother Beau,” and the Times seems to suggest these sad circumstances mitigate the seriousness of any forthcoming charges.
The remainder of the article presents various counters to the charges, such as that Hunter repaid the back taxes by taking out a loan — oh, the horror. The Times then pretends paying the government back lessens the import of a tax evasion case.
On a potential FARA charge, the Times suggests Hunter attempted to comply with the law and that any violation was unintentional, meaning at best he should be held only civilly responsible. And on the most serious charge floated by the Times, money laundering, the paper presents that case as connected to the FARA charge, suggesting it would be inappropriate to charge the president’s son with money laundering if he is innocent of violating FARA.
Until the Delaware U.S. attorney announces charges, if any, against Hunter Biden, it is impossible to know the criminal jeopardy the president’s son may face. But, given that when the Times reports on stories harmful to Democratic interests it proves prescient, odds are good that some serious charges are in the works.
Margot Cleveland is a senior contributor to The Federalist. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and Townhall.com, and has been published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Cleveland is a lawyer and a graduate of the Notre Dame Law School, where she earned the Hoynes Prize—the law school’s highest honor. She later served for nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk for a federal appellate judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Cleveland is a former full-time university faculty member and now teaches as an adjunct from time to time. As a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of a young son with cystic fibrosis, Cleveland frequently writes on cultural issues related to parenting and special-needs children. Cleveland is on Twitter at @ProfMJCleveland. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.