“I don’t think it moves a single voter,” Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told Axios as election day approached.
“I think Joe Biden should answer the questions that were raised, but in the end I think most Americans are probably more concerned with their families than the Biden family,” said Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said Iowa Republicans the week before the election.
In the end, Biden stuck to every state Hillary Clinton won in 2016, adding at least four more: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona. He’s also a leader in Georgia.
And when he won on Saturday night, he was accompanied on a stage in Delaware by his son Hunter – the villain in one of Trump’s final trench attacks – where both hands folded and waved at Biden’s victory speech.
Trump released two factually challenged narratives about Biden in the last few weeks of the campaign. In one case, Biden was a thought leader in efforts to spy on Trump’s 2016 campaign and worked with senior intelligence officials to derail Trump’s in-depth administration. On the other hand, Biden has been the secret beneficiary of multi-million dollar deals with seedy foreign interests conducted by Hunter Biden.
However, both stories were full of falsehoods, exaggerations, and assumptions, often driven by unreliable narrators who failed to reveal evidence of Biden’s wrongdoing. While Biden’s son may face legitimate legal problems in his overseas activities – and recent reports suggest he is facing an ongoing FBI investigation – there is no evidence linking the older Biden to these allegations, and indeed does Trump admitted top advisors were pushing him to withdraw the hunter claims so close to election day.
“I get a call from all the experts, right? People who ran for president six, seven, eight times. I never got past the first round but they call me, “Sir, you shouldn’t be talking about Hunter. You shouldn’t say bad things about Biden because nobody cares,” Trump said at a recent rally. “I disagree. Maybe that’s why I’m here and it’s not you.”
In 2016, Republicans turned Hillary Clinton’s emails into a stellar and effective stick played by the Daily headlines about the Russian hacked email promoted by Wikileaks and ongoing questions about the FBI’s investigation into their private server. These storylines fed a tale about Clinton that had been in the works for decades. But Biden, who was very popular on both sides of the aisle in Washington in his nearly 50 years in the public service, wasn’t that easy. Moreover, the final revelations came just days before the election after the first attempt to smear Biden – a campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate the affairs of the family-owned Biden – ended with Trump’s impeachment.
“Any effectiveness is undermined by the fact that they fall too late to play a role this way and that no significant foundation has been laid as that angle derailed for the first time through impeachment,” said GOP strategist Liam Donovan . “The Hillary attacks worked in part because they added to the image of her that they had built in the minds of voters over time. In this case, they seem to just toss everything at Biden and hope something sticks. “
But Trump’s fixation on these issues – born out of a desire to resolve personal grievances and stand for a second time against a scandalous candidate – meant his allies were forced to go to Capitol Hill to use a disproportionate share of their limited bandwidth to pursue them before the elections. And it has done incalculable damage to the delicate relationship between Capitol Hill and the intelligence community that Republicans and Democrats alike have warned about.
Trump sat first an October bomb by US attorney John Durham appointed last year by Attorney General William Barr to investigate the origins of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any coordination with the Trump campaign. Barr, who helped defuse Special Adviser Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump, also appointed a handful of other US attorneys to review the presidential-prioritized politically explosive cases – of the outgoing Obama’s use of routine “unmasking procedures” -Government on intelligence bugging to allegations of wrongdoing by the FBI. Trump openly urged his Justice Department officials to prosecute his rivals, including Biden, and grew increasingly angry when he realized the charges would fail.
For over a year, the Senate Judiciary Committee, headed by Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Followed allegations that Trump’s hatred within the FBI led the investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign to begin Contacts with Russia. Although an inspector general found widespread problems with the FBI’s efforts to monitor a Trump campaign employee, he also found the initial investigation to be legitimate and found no evidence that bias led to important decisions.
At the same time, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, chaired by Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Conducted an investigation into alleged shortcomings by Obama administration officials and a parallel investigation into a Biden’s son in the weeks leading up to Trump’s inauguration Hunter’s business relationships.
Both investigations conducted high-profile public hearings with figures like FBI Director James Comey and former Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, often aimed at quenching Trump’s thirst for retaliation. Graham has promoted documents – released by Trump’s political allies at the top of the intelligence community and the Justice Department – that loosely supported Trump’s version of events, but often failed to stand up to closer scrutiny. And on Tuesday, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe will testify to Graham’s panel as part of the investigation.
The Johnson Committee released a report based almost entirely on unverified Treasury Department documents that made brutal allegations of improper international business relationships by Biden’s son Hunter. The panel’s report found no evidence that the former vice president acted inappropriately or twisted U.S. policy to help his son, but Johnson repeatedly insisted that doing so would prove Biden was unsuitable for the presidency.
The narratives have often been implicated, even for intense supporters of the Russia inquiry and Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to pollute the Bidens in Ukraine. The storylines spoke almost entirely to Trump’s die-hard political base and were featured on right-wing websites and prime-time cast of Fox News – a large audience, but only a small segment of the wider electorate.
Not only have the investigative efforts not affected the voters. You have turned the public’s trust in traditionally impartial weapons of the federal bureaucracy into another partisan litmus test, according to the legislature. Trump and his allies have twisted the institutions of the intelligence services and the Justice Department, politicizing those institutions in a way that causes permanent damage, Democrats say.
Trump could exacerbate this burden in the coming weeks: He is considering firing FBI Director Christopher Wray and other intelligence leaders whom he has accused of not being more aggressively pursuing his favorite probes.
Democrats have also alleged that Johnson’s investigation was based in particular on Russian disinformation, a claim Johnson has vigorously denied. Although Hunter Biden has acknowledged that his last name helped his career many times, many of the claims against the younger Biden were examined by a Ukrainian MP, Andrii Derkach, who the Treasury Department sanctioned earlier this year and named a Russian asset.
Even top Republicans privately urged Johnson to avoid the issue altogether. Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.), The former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned Johnson that his efforts could aid Russian disinformation campaigns, POLITICO reported earlier this year. And Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), The acting chairman of the intelligence committee, has consistently distanced himself from Johnson’s investigation.
And Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, a member of the Johnson Committee, consistently criticized Hunter Biden’s investigation, saying it was a transparent political mandate.
One reason Biden’s allies say the allegations – whether they stemmed from the Russia investigation or from Hunter Biden’s business ties – never caught on is that they were orchestrated by untrustworthy actors.
Giuliani, the President’s personal lawyer, worked for years exposing dirt on Biden, and worked with people in Ukraine who were viewed as corrupt or affiliated with the Kremlin. His early efforts resulted in Trump pressuring the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens, which resulted in the president being charged with abusing his power.
More recently, Giuliani, working with recently indicted former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, has developed the release of files allegedly contained on a laptop Hunter Biden left at a Delaware repair shop. The files were trumpeted in the right-wing extremist media chamber, but did not defy examination during the investigation and did not show any definitive corruption.
“I think the American public has realized the fact that Rudy Giuliani has no credibility,” said Daniel Goldman, a prosecutor who led the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment investigation against Trump last year. “The conspiracy theory advocated and supported by Russian intelligence is so confused and confusing – and so far removed from Joe Biden himself – that it appears to be merely a smear campaign against Joe Biden’s family by a candidate whose own financial interests are also present. Since these are his own children, they have benefited significantly from his presidency. “
Since Election Day, Bannon has been suspended from Twitter for beheading FBI Director Christopher Wray and leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested. Giuliani was Trump’s pioneer in filing complaints of election fraud without evidence.
Despite the limited political significance of either line of attack against Biden, Republicans suspect they will try to pursue them, especially if they maintain the Senate majority, which seems likely.
And while Trump and his team may have gone too far to make it a campaign issue, questions remain about the FBI’s pursuit of alleged financial inadequacies by the younger Biden that Trump may have aired during his last two months in office tried – or erected landmines for Biden on the matter after he took office.