Ron Johnson douses GOP claims of tapes proving Biden bribery
U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), who has spent years promoting countless conspiracy theories on topics ranging from COVID-19 to climate change, apparently isn’t sold on House Republicans’ claim that when President Joe Biden was a vice president, he took a $5 million bribe and there are taxes to prove it.
The claims, little more than a conspiracy theory based on a single FBI document used to record unverified statements made by third-parties, have been gobbled up and spewed across far-right media and social media by some of the most extreme Republicans in the House of Representatives, and even a few GOP Senators.
How far out there is Sen. Johnson?
“All told, when it comes to spewing dangerous drivel, Mr. Johnson has displayed a commitment and creativity rarely seen outside of QAnon gatherings or Trump family dinners,” The New York Times’ Michelle Cottle wrote in an opinion piece last year.
So it’s stunning that Sen. Johnson is now apparently walking back the unsubstantiated claims exploding on the right that President Biden took a $5 million bribe when he was President Barack Obama’s Vice President.
The latest twist of “evidence,” according to Republicans, is that there are now “tapes” allegedly proving the Biden bribe conspiracy theory.
But, in a Tuesday interview with a local Wisconsin right-wing talk radio show host, Johnson – whose outrageously wild claims in the past have crowned him the “Senate’s leading conspiracy theorist” a “bagman for Qanon,” and “Putin’s favorite Senator” – said the allegations he and other Republicans have been spreading now must be taken with a grain of salt.
“We don’t even know” if the tapes “exist,” Johnson said. “It’s a claim, it’s an allegation. We don’t know whether they really exist or not.”
Another GOP Senator who has been spreading the bribery conspiracy theory is Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the president pro tempore emeritus of the United States Senate who began serving in public elected office in 1959.
Grassley has been a consistent partner with House Republican Oversight Committee Chairman Jim Comer on the Biden bribery conspiracy theory, despite having no official Senate function or role that would allow him to pursue an investigation.
Chairman Comer, who has admitted his purpose as that powerful committee’s chief is to attack Biden and help Trump get elected, has repeatedly suggested or implied the FBI document, officially called an FD-1023, is proof (it is not).
“The FBI’s 6/30/20 FD-1023 record stands on its own and contains information from a trusted confidential human source who had conversations with the foreign national who claimed to have bribed Biden,” Comer’s Oversight Committee tweeted over the weekend.
Last month Comer’s Oversight Committee posted a nearly ten-minute video of a press conference with him making various wild allegations about Biden and the Biden family.
Newsweek on Tuesday notes that “The Washington Post reported last week that the allegations contained in the FD-1023 document being sought by Republican lawmakers was reviewed by the FBI under former Attorney General William Barr, only for the agency to conclude the allegations were found not to be supported by facts. The investigation was later dropped, a fact confirmed by several outlets.”
Stunningly, it’s not only Senator Johnson, but Chairman Comer himself on Tuesday, under pressure by a Newsmax host pressing him to either say the tapes are legitimate or say when he will be able to confirm their legitimacy, confessed on live TV: “We don’t know if they’re legit or not.”
Also on Tuesday, even Senator Grassley himself stood on the floor of the U.S. Senate and poured cold water on his previous claims.
“The foreign national who allegedly bribed Joe and Hunter Biden, allegedly has audio recordings, of his conversation with them,” Grassley declared, relying on the word “allegedly” frequently.
“Seventeen such recordings,” he claimed. “These recordings were allegedly kept as a sort of insurance policy in case that he got into a tight spot.”
All this comes after Chairman Comer breathlessly claimed he had a star whistleblower witness who could prove his allegations, only to be forced to admit he had “lost” that witness, somehow.
Later it turned out that witnesses who did show up for Comer’s hearing had been paid by a former Trump administration official and current Trump advisor.
Since Comer has been very careful to not reveal who his sources are, some believe them to be among the four Russia-linked individuals the Trump administration’s own Treasury Dept. sanctioned in 2020 “for attempting to influence the U.S. electoral process,” as it announced in a press release.
NCRM has no knowledge of who Comer’s alleged sources are.
The Trump Treasury Dept. in 2020 reported, “From at least late 2019 through mid-2020, [Andrii] Derkach waged a covert influence campaign centered on cultivating false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning U.S. officials in the upcoming 2020 Presidential Election, spurring corruption investigations in both Ukraine and the United States designed to culminate prior to election day. Derkach’s unsubstantiated narratives were pushed in Western media through coverage of press conferences and other news events, including interviews and statements.”
Treasury’s statement adds:
“Between May and July 2020, Derkach released edited audio tapes and other unsupported information with the intent to discredit U.S. officials, and he levied unsubstantiated allegations against U.S. and international political figures. Derkach almost certainly targeted the U.S. voting populace, prominent U.S. persons, and members of the U.S. government, based on his reliance on U.S. platforms, English-language documents and videos, and pro-Russian lobbyists in the United States used to propagate his claims.”
And yet despite all this mountainous lack of substantive evidence or proof, some Republicans are speaking as if it were a proven, indisputable matter of tangible fact that Joe Biden should be impeached, or indicted.
Perhaps one of the loudest voices among the traitor claimers is U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, Republican of South Carolina, who just recently won a few pats on the back from liberal politics watchers after she mocked some in her own party.
On Tuesday, Mace went on Fox News and in a lengthy interview with Maria Bartiromo, discussed the alleged bribery claims and concluded that the 37-criminal felony count indictment against Donald Trump is just a “distraction” from Biden’s actions and an attempt to jail his top political enemy.
“Make no mistake,” Mace falsely declared on Twitter the same day, “at today’s arraignment you are watching a sitting President use his DOJ to put his top political rival in jail.”
Another of the loudest voices insisting that the Biden conspiracy theory is true: U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee.
Even Wednesday, a day after the conspiracy theory leaders walked back and poured cold water on their allegations, Sen. Blackburn had no problem appearing on Fox News to promote the highly-questionable claims — this time couching it in terms of “feelings” and “ifs.”
The Intercept’s D.C. Bureau Chief Ryan Grim, in a lengthy explainer he published on Substack, concludes, “even if everything in the document is true, there is still an interpretation that would stop short of implicating Joe Biden: Hunter Biden could have been lying in order to extract more money from Burisma.”
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