The Hunter Biden laptop trail

The purported Hunter Biden laptop, and at least some of the salacious material on it, apparently are authentic, Mother Jones says (in a story here). But the Chinese connection alleged by Trump backers is fake.

“The effort to publicize compromising emails, images, and videos from the device involved prominent Trump confidants including Rudy Giuliani and Steven Bannon. But it also featured an unexpected player: Guo Wengui, a fugitive Chinese tycoon who was working with Bannon,” Mother Jones says.

Their story details how Guo played a large role in “publicizing sex tapes and other material involving Hunter Biden … and in spreading lies about them.” Mother Jones says Guo “instructed supporters to couple it with false claims that it came from Chinese sources, and that the Chinese government had used it to obtain leverage over Hunter Biden and his father, Joe Biden.”

“People who helped Guo publish the material online said that it quickly became clear to them that he was lying about China’s role. ‘They tried to link the Biden family to the [Chinese Communist Party],’ said a person involved in the effort …. ‘They wanted to help Trump win.’”

The article says “Giuliani and Bannon selectively doled out information from the laptop to mostly right-leaning publications,” linking it with unsubstantiated allegations that Joe Biden was involved in his son’s foreign ventures, while refusing to let reporters see the files.

That Hunter Biden used crack cocaine and engaged in sexual encounters with multiple women was “well-known by the fall of 2020.” For whatever reason, he saved this on his laptop. But Mother Jones notes “he was single when he created the material.” And “Trump allies, Giuliani in particular, played up these purely salacious images, and made false claims about what they depicted” to “hurt Joe Biden’s campaign.”

“This was where Guo came in.” Fighting Chinese efforts to extradite him for crimes committed in China, including fraud, he hired Bannon, who helped him set up organizations and companies that became spreaders of Covid-19 disinformation. A Guo ally “announced, falsely, that Chinese sources had sent US officials ‘three hard disks’ of material related to Hunter Biden. … The Biden files, of course, came not from China but from Giuliani,” who had obtained them from the computer shop owner, a Trump supporter himself.

Guo did more than disseminate and promote material from the laptop. He instructed those helping him “to say the laptop included videos that showed Hunter Biden having sex with underage Chinese girls,” which wasn’t true, and “asserted, baselessly, that the Chinese government had created or obtained the compromising videos and images and used them to blackmail the Bidens.” Mother Jones notes, “No evidence whatsoever supports these allegations. It was a lie.”

Bannon’s and Guiliani’s motive in all this, of course, was to help Trump win re-election by smearing his opponent, Joe Biden.

But there’s even more to this. “These lies dovetailed with the QAnon conspiracy theory, which holds that many prominent Democrats are pedophiles and that Trump was working to stop them. And they were echoed by Giuliani, who falsely asserted on Newsmax on October 20, 2020, that Biden’s laptop contained ‘numerous pictures of underage girls.’ These bogus claims took off online, with far-right sites amplifying them. QAnon devotees in the fall of 2020 also pushed the claim that Joe Biden himself was a pedophile, a smear that Giuliani also appeared to bolster on Twitter in the final days of the 2020 campaign.”

The Mother Jones article details how, “On October 22, 2020, Guo created a WhatsApp group with 82 trusted allies from around the world … organized online to support Guo and disseminate his pronouncements,” which Guo used “to raise money for his private ventures and to spread disinformation.” This included promoting the Hunter Biden material and translating it into other languages to draw attention to it. “You guys need to translate to all languages,” he said in an October 23 message to the group. “Guo, referencing the time remaining until Election Day, told them they would be engaged in ’15 days of decisive battle.’”

The story details additional actions Guo took in the 15 days between October 22 and the election to wage “decisive battle” against Joe Biden, which included disseminating claims that the Democratic candidate was “controlled by the Chinese Communist Party,” an assertion that in retrospect is blatantly ridiculous, given Biden’s policies toward China. But to this day, Guiliani continues to push that claim in paid speeches.

There are more details in the Mother Jones article. Maybe what I’ve written here is more than you want to wade through. But there’s really not a good way to simplify this long, winding, murky trail.

My point in writing about it is that, first, it’s a window into Trumpian dirty politics. But more significantly, in an open democratic society, where in theory elections are supposedly won by competing with better candidates, platforms, and governance, a party and candidate that has to resort to this sort of stuff — and still loses — really doesn’t have anything to offer voters.

Republicans have lost the popular vote in 6 of the last 7 presidential elections. Their 50 U.S. senators were elected with far fewer votes than the Democrats’ 50 senators. They control legislatures through gerrymandering. (In 2018, Democrats won 54% of the votes in Wisconsin’s Assembly elections, but Republicans ended up with 63 of the 99 seats.) They shun debates and run attack ads instead of discussing issues factually and intelligently. They have a huge and well-organized voter suppression campaign that never sleeps. They spend billions on propaganda, much of it false.

These are not the actions of a party that wants to, or can, compete in democratic elections on a level playing field. Their efforts to subvert that system, and even seize power, test whether democracy can even work. It can if citizens and voters reject this approach to governing our nation. The Republican Party is broken, and you can’t vote for it until it’s fixed, if you want democracy to work in America.

Photo below: Fugitive Chinese billionaire Guo Wengfei, shown here at his $67.5 million New York City penthouse overlooking Central Park, wanted U.S. asylum — and was deeply involved in efforts to smear Joe Biden during the 2020 campaign.

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