Bombshells, Landmines, and Nemesis

For much of 2017 through 2021, Americans suffered the “bombshell” and “walls are closing” mythologies first of Russian collusion, then of supposedly vast Russian social media investments to sabotage the election. From there we moved on to the Alfa Bank ping-pong fable, the supposed Putin bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan that Trump was said to have ignored and, of course, the idea that Hunter’s laptop was just “Russian disinformation.” 

These were journalistic sins of commission, warping the news cycle to advance ideological agendas and win elections. There emerged, however, other real landmines of omission—things the media deliberately ignores, but have the potential to go off and blow up a presidency. 

Taxes Paid by Mr. 10 Percent? 

Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) mocks the Hunter Biden laptop scandal of a “half-fake” laptop. Yet such puerile flippancy only confirmed her own trademark arrogance and ignorance. Is she claiming the laptop was, was not, or is just sorta not genuine? Hunter’s lawyers are suing to stop the dissemination of his “half-property”? 

Hunter, who never in the past has denied ownership of the laptop, has now confirmed it really was his. A revisionist Hunter should have first conferred with his dad, since, on the presidential debate stage in 2020, Joe Biden swore to the American people the laptop was a product of Russian disinformation. He cited as support “50 former intelligence officials” who signed a statement claiming as much—all organized to deceive the pre-election electorate by former CIA Directors James Clapper and John Brennan. Both previously were best known for admitting to lying under oath to Congress. 

Any fair examination of the laptop’s contents would conclude that Joe Biden received percentage payments from the various quid pro quo enterprises for the merchandising of his name and status as a senator and then vice president. So it should be a simple task for the IRS to compare his reported income over those years with his net worth and yearly likely expenditures, to determine whether he paid taxes on his alleged 10 percent cut, or whether any of the Biden family paid gift taxes on their various cash interchanges with one another. 

It is one thing to fight the IRS over deductions, but quite another over income. The former can become sticky matters of legal interpretation, the latter is mostly black or white: Money either came in and was reported—or not. If Biden did not pay income tax on percentage payouts to him by his family and business associates, then he committed tax fraud, and likely would be impeached. 

The laptop and classified documents revelations are landmines well beyond their incriminatory evidence that Joe Biden received payments from Hunter Biden’s influence-selling team or improperly took away top secret papers. If Hunter’s trove of business assessments are found to have drawn on his father’s classified files—and there are already allegations that they did—then such use of his father’s illegally transferred federal documents for familial profit would end the Biden presidency. 

No president could sustain his office if it were proven true that previously he transferred classified documents out of the White House or Senate and allowed such top secret analyses to be monetized by his son to enrich his family—and himself. 

A Real Bombshell? 

Octogenarian journalist Seymour Hersh’s recent allegations that the United States blew up sections of the Russo-German Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines were scarcely covered by the media that otherwise runs with the usual Hersh-fed embarrassments to the U.S. government. Oddly, in this case, it stayed mum. The story was adamantly denied by the Biden Administration and most of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment. 

The news media’s neglect cannot be due to any journalistic standards, because a sloppy and corrupt media long ago swore falsely that Trump let Putin put kill-bounties on our soldiers in Afghanistan, and insisted the Biden laptop was authentic evidence of Russian disinformation designed to help Trump. 

So we have no idea whether the media suppression of the story was due to its usual warped ideology or a rare, disinterested standard of ignoring a conspiracy theory. 

Hersh’s reporting was largely based on one anonymous source, but oddly marked by an unusual level of detail about the planning, carrying out, and purpose of the operation. 

The Left had long deified Hersh for the consistently anti-American government themes in his sensationalized dispatches. His accuracy, however, is not always contested, given he was largely accurate in the disclosures about the My Lai massacre and the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses. But in this instance, he has been met with ridicule rather than the usual adulation from the liberal media. 

Still, there were a variety of circumstances that kept the smothered story breathing—and for a multitude of reasons. The only concerned countries with the operative ability to carry out such an intricate attack were likely Russia, the United States, and European Union countries. The Washington Post in December concluded that, despite initial circumstantial evidence, there was no reason to believe Russia blew up its own multibillion-dollar investment that was deemed critical for future Russian foreign exchange revenues. 

While Hersh mentioned Denmark and Norway as cooperating with the United States, it is equally difficult to believe that any European Union or NATO nation would on its own attack the assets of another member, especially the shared investments of Germany that for some time has dominated the governance of EU and the policies of European members of NATO. 

More disturbingly, on the eve of the Ukraine war in January 2022, Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland quite indiscreetly boasted, “If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.” She did not say what she meant by “another” way. 

That was not an isolated threat. Joe Biden reiterated the same warning a month later. “If Russia invades,” he said, “then there will no longer be a Nord Stream 2 . . . We will bring an end to it . . . I promise you; we will be able to do it.” His choice of “end” implied more than voluntary German disconnection from an otherwise intact Russian pipeline. 

More recently, Nuland post facto expressed glee in an exchange with Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that her earlier threat had been reified, “Senator Cruz, like you, I am—and I think the administration is very pleased that Nord Stream 2 is now, as you say, a pile of metal at the bottom of the ocean.” 

Apparently, the position of the Biden Administration was not just belated official disapproval of the pipeline—as President Trump had made abundantly clear during his own tenure with sanctions. Rather, this government was pledged (“I promise you”) to “bring an end to it,” and had the ability to do just what it promised (“We will be able to do that”). 

When the pipeline was actually bombed, the U.S. government expressed satisfaction with that violent act: “Very pleased that . . . Nord Stream 2 is now . . . a pile of metal at the bottom of the ocean.” It would be hard to think Nuland was praising Putin for purportedly destroying his own multibillion-dollar investment, given that Germany did stop much of its deliveries of natural gas without the ruin of the pipeline. 

Even if we put aside the question of who destroyed the pipelines (and they could be rendered useless if seawater continues to erode the interior linings), it was highly unusual for the president of the United States and an under secretary of State publicly to hint at a preemptive attack against a key asset of its ally Germany and a formidable power with over 6,500 nuclear weapons. 

Nor do NATO nations destroy, preemptively and stealthily, the property of other NATO nations—especially given that Germany was facing the onset of autumn and winter, and did not have the wherewithal to keep its 80 million citizens warm without the full gas deliveries through the pipeline. There are no suggestions that the German government might have winked and nodded at the explosion—given Berlin might have been otherwise afraid voluntarily to close down the pipeline given public support for the deliveries. 

If the United States took extra measures—alleged in detail by Hersh—to evade legal responsibilities to apprise a select group of senators and representatives of a planned major covert operation, then that too might well be an impeachable offense. 

As of now the story remains unproven, if not wild. But unfortunately it dovetails with the prior statements of the highest American officials, and the apparent strategic agenda of the United States, better than do current competing narratives—as the Washington Post reminded us in the case of Russia. 

But even a slight chance that the story rings true is terrifying in its implications—preemptively attacking a nuclear power, destroying the multibillion-dollar investment of an ally and its ability to bring fuel to its strapped citizenry, and deliberately breaking federal laws to avoid congressional compliance. 

Silencing Americans 

Another landmine was a recent, also underreported, almost nonchalant accusation that the CIA used the FBI as a sort of entre to Twitter so the kindred federal agencies could suppress the expression of particular Americans. 

Journalist Matt Taibbi published a recent disturbing trove of internal communications, apparently revealing that the CIA, with help from the FBI, consistently sought to modulate and censure content on Twitter.

Taibbi noted that the CIA was sensitive that it was prohibited by statute from the domestic surveillance of American citizens. And so it preferred the nebulous phraseology, “Other Government Agency” (OGA). At the same time, he pointed out how top Twitter executives such as top censor Yoel Roth simply could not keep up with the avalanche of requests from the FBI, and by extension the CIA, Department of Defense, and State Department. In other words, a left-wing Twitter hierarchy, infamous for selectively banning the communications and expressions of more conservative users, was outdone by the thought police of the U.S. government.

If the FBI had sought to subvert the Bill of Rights through its hire of a third-party, private contractor, the CIA knowingly broke the law, apparently convinced that the overwhelmingly left-wing control of Twitter provided the government with a golden moment to pursue agendas antithetical to the Constitution, if not patently illegal.

Finally, we are witnessing the strangest provocations to U.S. sovereign airspace in history. China apparently has been sending with impunity surveillance balloons throughout American skies. Our woke military either did not know of all of them, or could not or would not stop them, or did not disclose these apparent serial violations to their own civilian overseers.

Biden mysteriously allowed an enormous Chinese spy balloon to traverse nearly the entirety of the continental United States. When pressed, his administration issued a series of untrue statements or at least mutually contradictory excuses for its own paralysis: the device may have been just a weather balloon; it was a harmless, anemic primitive spy device; it may have been more sophisticated than we thought but we took measures to ensure our sensitive locales were protected; we could not shoot it down because it had caused no harm; we could not shoot it down because the debris might have hurt people on the ground; we could not shoot it down over Alaskan waters because they are too deep and too cold; Trump was to blame for not stopping them earlier; and on and on.

When pressed about his reaction to this Chinese sustained and successful aggression, designed either to surveille and probe U.S. strategic sites or to humiliate and embarrass America to the world as clueless or timid, or both, Biden simply said the intrusions had not damaged U.S.-Chinese relations.

The first duty of a president is to keep his country safe and secure. Joe Biden has failed that oath when he did to our airspace what he had done previously to the southern border—allowed anyone or anything to violate our sovereignty at will.

Whether any of these landmines goes off, depends on the release of information from the government. But nemesis is already playing a role.

Consider: a Democratic House majority once criminalized noncompliance with a congressional subpoena. A Democratic Ways and Means Committee institutionalized demanding and successfully obtaining the tax records of a president. A Democratic president declared the unlawful storage of classified information to be worthy of a special counsel’s criminal investigation.

A left-wing media destroyed the high-bar rules of journalistic evidence and investigation protocols through its concoction of Russian collusion and disinformation hoaxes. A discredited media claimed that any perceived presidential laxity with an aggressive foreign adversary—like China’s serial intrusions into U.S. airspace—was supposedly prima facie evidence of a compromised president “colluding” as an “asset” of an enemy.

Ironically Biden, the media, and the old Democratic House majority have provided Republicans the same tools to discover the truth which the Left had once used to destroy it.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004, and is the 2023 Giles O'Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson is also a farmer (growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author of the just released New York Times best seller, The End of Everything: How Wars Descend into Annihilation, published by Basic Books on May 7, 2024, as well as the recent  The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump, and The Dying Citizen.

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