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How Sean Hannity helps build demand to impeach Joe Biden

Fox News host Sean Hannity likes to tell his audience about “bombshells.” Since President Biden took office in January 2021, the word “bombshell” has appeared in a database of the closed captions from Hannity’s show more than 200 times. Hannity has informed his viewers about bombshell interviews, bombshell hearings, bombshell disclosures, bombshell developments, bombshell reports, bombshell revelations, bombshell testimony and bombshell allegations. There are just so many wolves threatening his flock!

Most of the time, those bombshells are ones that have purportedly exploded over the Biden administration. Often, they center on the effort to cobble together a reason to impeach the president, deriving from House Republicans’ actions to that end. A new interview with someone who House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) said offered a damning assessment of Biden? Bombshell! Get it on air!

Those bombshells are repeatedly anything but, as Biden’s continued presidency might suggest. This was the case once again on Tuesday night.

“Today, Tony Bobulinski, Hunter Biden’s former business associate, delivered what was bombshell testimony to lawmakers on the Hill as part of the ongoing Biden impeachment inquiry,” Hannity informed his viewers as part of his opening monologue — but, curiously, only after discussing the evening’s special election and the effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. One would think that a bombshell revealing corruption by Biden might warrant the first slot on the show, but who am I to question Fox News’s editorial decisions?

Hannity was clear, though: This testimony was damning for the president. Bobulinski told investigators that the Chinese government “successfully sought to infiltrate and compromise Joe Biden and the Obama-Biden White House,” Hannity told his audience. Bobulinski had “reportedly told lawmakers today that Joe’s immediate family members, they took in tens of millions of dollars from other countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Kazakhstan,” and that “the Biden family business was Joe Biden, period.”

All of this, Hannity declared, was “nothing short of an unmitigated disaster for Team Biden.”

Well, about that.

There has been no question for a long time that Joe Biden’s family — specifically son Hunter and brother Jim — were trying to parlay their last name into a source of income. Last year, House investigators heard testimony from Hunter Biden’s former business partner Devon Archer in which Archer said as much. Archer, too, said that Hunter and Jim Biden were selling the Biden “brand,” meaning the perception of access to Joe Biden’s influence. Archer even discussed emails in which Hunter Biden explicitly referred to the need to reinforce that perception.

But Archer — like others who have testified as part of the House probe — also denied that Joe Biden actually had any role in the business. Over and over, that’s the refrain: Hunter Biden tried to give the impression that he was a conduit to power, but that was all it was: an impression. Despite months of trying and despite the rhetoric from people such as Comer, there is no robust evidence to the contrary.

We don’t yet know everything that Bobulinski told investigators. We can, however, see his opening statement, obtained by the New York Post (which, like Hannity, has an ongoing investment in the idea that Joe Biden has somehow been found out).

In his prepared remarks, Bobulinski noted that he’d been trying to amplify questions about Joe Biden for four years, because, from “my direct personal experience and what I have subsequently come to learn, it is clear to me that Joe Biden was ‘the Brand’ being sold by the Biden family.” The central allegation involves that deal between Hunter Biden and a Chinese energy company, a deal to which Bobulinski was originally a party. This is where the “infiltrate and compromise” the White House stuff comes from.

Bobulinski has more than once complained that the Bidens hustled him on the deal, offering an obvious reason to take his allegations with a grain of salt. That he worked in concert with Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign on more than one occasion only bolsters that need for skepticism, but we can set that aside. His allegations themselves are dubious.

For example, notice his mentioning that his views of Biden are based in part on “what I have subsequently come to learn.” His opening statement includes references to things that have been hyped or uncovered by the Republican investigations, such as text messages Hunter Biden sent and the sources of income received by Hunter Biden from foreign parties. His testimony was, at least in part, a regurgitation back to investigators of the fruits of their investigation.

The idea that the Obama-Biden White House was compromised by China, meanwhile, depends on the timing of the contact between Hunter Biden and CEFC, the Chinese energy company. There was initial outreach at the end of 2015, as Bobulinski noted (and as outlets such as The Washington Post have reported). But the deal between the two followed a meeting in Miami in early 2017 — once Joe Biden had left government service. Even if Joe Biden had been intricately involved in the deal (which independent assessments have already indicated he didn’t), it’s not clear how this purportedly influenced the administration.

Hannity’s program on Tuesday included appearances by the three House committee chairmen tasked with running the impeachment probe: Comer, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason T. Smith (R-Mo.). Hannity asked Jordan, whose committee helped run the Bobulinski deposition, whether investigators would get more bank records suggesting that Joe Biden somehow benefited.

“Well,” Jordan said as he began his response, “what we really want now is we want the information Robert Hur has.”

That’s a tell. Axios reported on Tuesday that House Republicans wanted to amplify the findings of special counsel Robert K. Hur — less so his determination that Biden shouldn’t be charged for having documents marked as classified at his home but, instead, his descriptions of Biden as suffering from memory loss. Hannity asked Jordan if they would prove the case Biden was corrupt and Jordan responded that what they really wanted was this thing about the president’s mental fitness.

Jordan did, however, come back to the issue at hand.

“Here’s probably the best one we got a couple weeks ago from one of Hunter Biden’s business associates, when Joe Biden shows up at the at the Four Seasons restaurant for lunch,” Jordan said. “At the lunch were Hunter Biden, his associates and eight Chinese officials who are executives at CEFC, the Chinese energy company. Joe Biden comes in, gives a short presentation and leaves. Three weeks later, the deal gets close and $3 million gets wired to Biden accounts. That’s what was going on.”

This is flatly untrue. Jordan is referring to testimony from Rob Walker, a Hunter Biden associate who was at that meeting in May 2017 (again, after Joe Biden had left office). Bobulinski was not at the meeting, by his own admission, so we know Jordan is referring to Walker’s testimony.

Walker testified that Joe Biden was at the lunch for “maybe 10 minutes.” He was asked by a legislator if he gave “a little presentation”; Walker replied that he instead “spoke nice, you know, normal pleasantries. I think he probably did most of the talking and then left.” Later, Walker was asked explicitly: Did Biden give a presentation?

“No, not a presentation,” Walker replied. “He did not.” In fact, he said at another point, Joe Biden didn’t know why the group was there and explicitly said, “Good luck in whatever you guys are doing.”

The legislator who asked whether there was a presentation, by the way, was Jordan.

House Republicans have often pointed to Hunter Biden’s leveraging Joe Biden in this way as evidence of Joe Biden’s involvement. Hunter Biden’s business partners keep explicitly rejecting that idea.

It’s not new that Jordan would offer a dishonest summary of events to Hannity. When House Republicans held their only public hearing on impeachment (which did not go well), Hannity hosted the same three chairmen to spin the evidence they had. Jordan offered up his debunked allegation about Joe Biden taking official action to benefit his son’s business partners in Ukraine.

Hannity also on Tuesday asked James Comer what they’d learned from Bobulinski. Comer, who has a habit of getting out over his skis, claimed that Bobulinski had offered evidence that “Joe Biden was working for the Chinese,” which, if it were true, would probably have been mentioned in his summary of the testimony. (A summary that should be taken with a grain of salt.)

Hannity also pressed Comer on Bobulinski’s mention of money from all those foreign business partners, something that may well fall into Bobulinski’s “what I’ve since learned” category.

“Well,” Comer replied, “we’re over well over 20 million that the Bidens have taken. Well over 8 million from China. We found out today it was because of Joe Biden. They had no use in Hunter Biden.”

This claim about $20 million is months old and has been repeatedly debunked. Hannity offered no pushback at all, predictably.

Instead, he asked the legislators what charges they thought might be filed against Joe Biden, given all of this evidence that they’d collected. Jordan mused about “potential obstruction, potential money laundering, potential bribery.” Comer insisted that the amounts going to Hunter and Jim Biden “certainly meet the definition of bribery,” which they certainly do not. Smith merely offered that Biden would “go down as the most corrupt, compromised precedent in our lifetime.”

Then Hannity asked whether they thought the House would impeach Biden. The answers were much more tepid: maybes, across the board.

Perhaps their peers in the House Republican Conference haven’t been tracking all of the bombshells Sean Hannity has been presenting.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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