It looks like President Donald Trump is hoping for a redux of 2016's announcement that the FBI was investigating Hillary Clinton. With less than two weeks until the 2020 election, Trump is filling rallies and airtime with suggestions that Democratic nominee Joe Biden may be guilty of unspecified federal crimes.
But Trump is also frustrated that Attorney General Bill Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray haven't played along and announced that the Biden family is under investigation, according to The Washington Post and "people familiar with discussions" at the White House.
Anonymous White House sources should be taken with many grains of salt, of course. But Trump himself has been publicly spouting similar rhetoric. He told Fox News on Tuesday that Barr should "act fast" because "this is major corruption" and it "has to be known about before the election."
"We've got to get the attorney general to act," Trump said while discussing the recent New York Post story based on emails allegedly obtained from Hunter Biden's laptop and hard drive. The emails purportedly show Hunter saying he would introduce his dad, then vice president, to Chinese and Ukrainian business contacts.
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said this week that there's no evidence the emails are an attempt by Russia to meddle in the 2020 U.S. election. (There's also no evidence they actually came from Hunter Biden, aside from the word of Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani, who passed them to the Post.)
The FBI has "nothing to add" to Ratcliffe's statement, said an October 20 letter to Republican Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.), who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. On October 17, Johnson had asked the FBI about the alleged Hunter Biden laptop.
"Regarding the subject of your letter, we have nothing to add at this time to the October 19th public statement by the Director of National Intelligence about the available actionable intelligence," wrote Jill C. Tyson, assistant director of the FBI's Office of Congressional Affairs. "If actionable intelligence is developed, the FBI in consultation with the Intelligence Community will evaluate the need to provide defensive briefings to you and the Committee pursuant to the established notification framework."
Tyson added that "the FBI can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any ongoing investigation or persons or entities under investigation, including to Members of Congress."
The White House is spinning this as a win: if the emails/laptop are not Russian disinformation, they must be authentic. Any day now, we'll hear about it from the DOJ.
Trump Special Assistant Ben Williamson told Fox Across America radio that it
was a big, big step… when the FBI and DOJ concurred with Director Radcliffe's opinion. Obviously, you had Democrats over the weekend, including our favorite Chairman Schiff, making the sort of preliminary allegation that this was Russian disinformation, as they so often like to do with anything that is inconvenient to the Democrat Party. But we're slowly starting to see more and more evidence, as we usually do, come out that's not the case, that this is a real legit concern. The DOJ is looking at it and hopefully we'll see more relevant information come out in the coming days.
Once again, Trump camp efforts to link Joe Biden to some sort of shady family business dealings can't be deterred by facts. But as USA Today reminds us, "after months of investigation, two Republican-led Senate committees unveiled a report in September that found no evidence of wrongdoing or corrupt actions by the former vice president in connection with his son Hunter's business dealings in Ukraine."
- The Washington Post tweeted that a man in a coronavirus vaccine trial had died without specifying that the dead man was in a control group not receiving the vaccine.
*who was in a control group and didn't receive the vaccine
Pretty staggering how irresponsible this is. https://t.co/rzIKTws30F
— Ben Thompson (@benthompson) October 22, 2020
• "Florida took thousands of kids from families, then failed to keep them safe": USA Today looks at Florida's wretched state care system for kids.
• Activists are turning facial recognition programs back around on bad cops.
• Pope Francis endorses civil unions for same-sex couples. "Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They're children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it," the pope told filmmakers in the new documentary Franceso. "What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered."
• On Toobingate: "It should not be an unreasonably high standard to ask people not to engage in sex acts while talking to their work colleagues."
• From In These Times: "The Supreme Court Said Their Sentencing Was Unconstitutional. But They're Still Behind Bars."
• New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that "in 2017–2019, 65.3% of women aged 15–49 in the United States were currently using contraception. The most common contraceptive methods currently used were female sterilization (18.1%), oral contraceptive pills (14.0%), long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) (10.4%), and the male condom (8.4%)."
• COVID-19 is making people appreciate their spouses more:
"58 percent of married men and women 18 to 55 said the pandemic has made them appreciate their spouse more…the share of married people reporting their marriage is in trouble fell from 40 percent in 2019 to 29 percent in 2020." https://t.co/vogcOo9dBE @WilcoxNMP
— Rob Henderson (@robkhenderson) October 21, 2020
• History repeating…
Today's edition of "you could reuse this article from 100 years ago in 2020"
(The Seattle Star, Nov. 2, 1918) pic.twitter.com/zkE2ZxSGid
— Amelia Frappolli (@AmeliaFrappolli) October 22, 2020