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Checking In On The Downward Spiral
An update on some themes
It’s time to catch up with some running themes before they get away from me. This is a busy week for me as I will be at a history conference talking about John Fowke of London. Subscribers can expect something long and interesting and original on Sunday or Monday. I have been working on it for a long minute. Expect something John Fowke-related here on Thursday.
Before his speakership clown show took center stage in Congress, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Loserville) was picking a constitutional squabble with the Department of Justice. He wanted to prevent an FBI agent from testifying with a government lawyer at his side, which does seem a bit dubious of Jordan. Of course, ambiguity is always the point for Jordan. Any remote doubt is reason to dig deeper into Democrats. As Jordan has now learned to his dismay, the weakness of this kind of politics is that the whip count consists of actual votes that add up to a real whole integer. Say what you like about Nancy Pelosi, she was objectively better at speakering than any of these Republicans because she never took a vote to the floor without knowing the result in advance.
Congressional inquiries are likewise slow in such a febrile political environment. Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty to his federal gun charge this month. A hearing to decide what will happen to his federal tax evasion charges is set for 3 November. In the meantime, Rep. Jim Comer has added incrementally to our information about the Biden family business.
“President Biden received a $200,000 check in 2018 from his younger brother James on the same day that he received the same amount from a US hospital chain by promising to secure a Mideast investor,” the New York Post reported on Friday. James says he was repaying a loan. Americore Health went bankrupt in 2018 after giving James Biden $600,000 in expectation that he would help them find wealthy foreign investors. Plot twist: the Bidens took their money and did nothing. The pretense that President Biden was not making money off his vice presidency (EDIT: as well as his post-vice presidency) by peddling at least the illusion of influence can no longer be maintained. Even if it is not criminal, this is exactly the sort of petty public corruption that Americans despise. Democrats should beware a too-easy dismissal of this scandal. Comer has not quite found the smoking gun Burisma money in Joe Biden’s pockets, but the family funds were clearly fungible.
House Republicans also said last week they intent to subpoena Rob Malley. The Oversight Committee “is requesting information and a personal interview with Malley to determine the circumstances under which he was placed on unpaid leave” from his job as Biden’s Iran envoy. One of his former advisers, Ariane Tabatabai, may also be called to answer questions about her career and loyalties. This story was developing before the Hamas attack on 7 October and now Darrell Issa (R-CA) is making stupid comparisons to Alger Hiss.
At Tablet Magazine, Lee Smith had concluded just two days before the slaughters in southern Israel that “Malley helped to fund, support, and direct an Iranian intelligence operation designed to influence the United States and allied governments” through the Iran Experts Initiative (IEI), an outreach effort of the foreign ministry in Tehran through the Iranian diaspora. As I had said jsut a few days before, it is far too easy to draw incorrect conclusions from an email chain in which eager international relations academics are building their CVs through contact with a foreign government doing public communications.
A counterintelligence investigation is imperative, but political arenas are terrible places to conduct one. While it is true that Iran has useful idiots in the United States, the regime in Iran does not enjoy anything like the level of ideological influence that Soviet communism had in Washington, DC circles before the McCarthy hearings. The Palestinians, maybe; Iran, no. I do hope we find out one day just what Rob Malley did. At the very least, recent events suggest that we learned so much about the case from regime media in Tehran because they wanted to sow political chaos in conjunction with the attack.
Speaking of broken counterintelligence, last month former FBI special agent Charles McGonigal pleaded guilty to hiding his income as a foreign agent for a former Albanian spy. I had just written about him a few days before. An FBI whistleblower at the center of that piece has just popped up on the radar again.
In a Business Insider exclusive last Thursday, Mattathias Schwartz disclosed that tech billionaire Peter Thiel was an informant to the Bureau’s foreign influence specialist, Johnathan Buma. Thiel, who supported Trump in 2016 and has said he wants to sit out 2024 as a political donor, reportedly gave the FBI information about “foreign contacts and attempts by foreign governments to penetrate Silicon Valley,” which sounds like something Buma, then based in Los Angeles, would want to investigate. Charles Johnson — the infamous far-right one, not the infamous far-left one — told Schwartz about Thiel’s informant role to get even: “he felt betrayed that Thiel did not invest in Johnson's own startups, which he had expected Thiel to do in exchange for introducing him to Buma.”
In a statement prepared for the Senate Judiciary Committee, Buma said that FBI headquarters had closed his most valuable human sources, including one code-named "Genius," who had reported on far-right figures involved with planning the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Johnson told Insider that "Genius" was his CHS code name. Insider was able to confirm Johnson's identity as "Genius" with two additional sources. The statement does not mention Thiel.
While I cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Charles Johnson shit on the floor of his college dormitory, I have watched him shit mutiple beds with detached amusement ever since he disappeared from my Twitter timeline. Anyone who takes him into any confidence should just prepare to get burned. He comes from the same generation of tea-soaked clowns as Ali Alexander, also of 1/6 infamy and likely yet another FBI informant.
More to the point, I agree with Thiel’s position that China is America’s top foreign espionage and influence threat, especially in tech fields. You don’t have to build your own Palantir to see that coming. Beijing has useful idiots too, and they have more money to spend.
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