Rep. James Comer is looking for anti-Biden evidence. Also, his informant

By | May 15, 2023

Philip Bump writes:

Soon after the 2020 election, a senior vice president at the Fox Business Network sent a warning to the network’s president that neatly distilled the recent trajectory of host Maria Bartiromo’s career. Bartiromo, he said, has “GOP conspiracy theorists in her ear and they use her for their message sometimes.”

On Sunday, Bartiromo lived up to that reputation. To introduce her show on Fox News, she promised viewers that she would be covering “the most serious allegations ever leveled at a president” — claims made by House Republicans and, specifically, House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) that members of President Biden’s family had taken millions of dollars from foreign nationals.

Not Biden himself, mind you, though Bartiromo and Comer like to identify the recipients of that money as “the Biden family” to imply that somehow it trickles back to Biden through an unidentified conduit. But, nonetheless: She asserted that this money, sent to people like Biden’s son Hunter mostly in the period when Joe Biden was out of government, marked more serious allegations than, say, Watergate or withholding aid to Ukraine to boost a presidential campaign or millions raised by a sitting president and his family.

Comer was Bartiromo’s first guest. He was arriving fresh off a midweek news conference that he’d pledged to Fox viewers beforehand would be “judgment day for the Biden administration” but that resulted mostly in non-Fox-News headlines about his failure to connect any of the wan allegations his committee presented back to Biden himself.

Bartiromo’s first question dealt not with the underwhelming news conference — one she instead pretended was subjected to a coverup by traditional media outlets — but by presenting a conspiracy theory for Comer to riff on.

“As soon as Joe Biden entered the White House, when he started his term as president,” she asked, “he canceled what was the China Initiative, an initiative that happened under [President Donald] Trump and Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo. Did he, did he get paid for canceling the China Initiative?”

Bear in mind that there’s no evidence Biden got paid for anything. But that’s not the actual problem with this question. The actual problem with the question is that this initiative was ended in February 2022, well over a year into Biden’s presidency. Despite Bartiromo’s — and, subsequently, Comer’s — effort to cast this as “one of the first things [Biden] did” (in the latter’s words), it very much wasn’t. But if you’re alleging a quid pro quo, you gotta have a quo. You should have a quid, too, really, but that ship was already well out of port.

Now we come to Bartiromo’s second question. It dealt with a subpoena issued by Comer and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.

“You have spoken with whistleblowers. You have spoken — you also spoke with an informant who gave you all of this information,” Bartiromo said. “Where is that informant today?” she asked. “Where are these whistleblowers?”

This is an odd question! Why would a reporter care where an informant was instead of the status of the investigation into what they said? Well, what if someone was whispering in the reporter’s ear about a conspiracy theory?

“Unfortunately, we can’t track down the informant,” Comer replied. [Continue reading…]