Thursday, May 26

American Muckrakers: Peter Schweizer, James O’Keefe, and a Right-Wing Press Across the Court | Books


The official investigation of Hunter Biden’s dealings in China and elsewhere is in the hands of David Weiss, a Trump-appointed federal prosecutor in Delaware, and the US Department of Justice under Joe Biden’s Attorney General Merrick Garland. Politically speaking, we now have Red-handed by Peter Schweizer, who would very much like to help us digest the business past of the troubled son of the 46th president.

Schweizer’s works include Clinton Cash, a compendium of opposition research that helped shape the 2016 presidential election. He is currently president of the Government Accountability Institute, a think tank funded by the Mercer family, part of the ecosystem of right.

Rebekah Mercer chairs the GAI board, a position previously held by Steve Bannon, whom Donald Trump pardoned on fraud charges but who is now charged with contempt of Congress. merchant is also founding investor of Parler, a right-wing alternative to Twitter and a communication vehicle for Trump’s faithful on the eve of the January 6 insurrection.

The Mercers are the mainstays of Breitbart News and once financed James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas, which we’ll talk about later. Through Cambridge Analytica, the Mercers helped hijack Brexit. Not surprisingly, Nigel Farage counts the Mercers as allies.

If Republicans win back the House in November, as expected, most see the investigations of Hunter Biden and his father as an inevitable sequel. Schweizer has released a roadmap, from sources including Secret Service travel logs, materials from former business associates, and that infamous laptop.

Schweizer argues that the rich and powerful have become too cozy with China, at the expense of their own country. His central argument is that the Biden family obtained approximately $31 million from people with direct ties to Chinese intelligence.

Hunter Biden has denied bad walk. In 2020, Politifact saying Schweizer’s claims about Joe Biden “did not add to an image” that he “would be corrupt or pursue policies contrary to the national interest.”

Peter Schweizer speaks at CPAC in 2016.
Peter Schweizer speaks at CPAC in 2016. Photograph: Gage Skidmore/Alamy

Schweizer, however, fires shots across the political spectrum. John Boehner, a Republican House Speaker, and Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State for two Republican presidents, are in their crosshairs. So are the bushes. Praise is given to Chuck Schumer, Mark Warner, Chris Coons and Joe Manchin, all Democratic senators.

Schweizer criticizes Silicon Valley for allowing China’s rise and turning a blind eye to human rights abuses. Elon Musk and Bill Gates, Wall Street (mainly Goldman Sachs, Blackstone and Black Rock), the National Basketball Association and academia are criticized as well. Yale University receives special attention.

Not surprisingly, Schweizer disregards the ties to China enjoyed by Trump and his most ardent supporters. Ignore, for example, tax records showing that Trump International Hotels Management paid more than $188,000 in China while pursuing licensing deals between 2013 and 2015, and maintained a bank account there.

Likewise, Schweizer looks away from Ted Cruz. The wife of the senator from Texas is a banker in Goldman. The Cruzes have direct investments of between $15,000 and $50,000 in Goldman Sachs China Equity Fund Class P, a mutual fund with positions in Alibaba and Tencent – companies firmly in Schweizer’s sights.

On the other hand, the Mercers are Cruz’s donors. In 2016, Cruz’s presidential campaign was a client of Cambridge Analytica.

Schweizer calls for the US to ban lobbying by companies linked to the Chinese military and Chinese intelligence, and their delisting from US stock exchanges. He also calls for the press to seek Big Tech involvement in China.

As models of how to resist the Chinese, he features Peter Thiel and his company Palantir. Thiel, a right-wing mega-donor, gained notoriety when wrote in 2009 that women and minorities had ruined democratic capitalism. An employee of Palantir planted the concept of data collection with Cambridge Analytica.

As for China’s territorial ambitions? In another book, Josh Rogin of the Washington Post quoted Trump. If the Chinese invaded Taiwan, he told a senator, “there’s nothing we can do.”

It seems unlikely that the US will be able to decouple its economy from China and avoid clashes. China’s opacity regarding Covid does not inspire confidence. Schweizer’s book at least offers food for thought.

‘Freedom of expression for me…’

If Red-Handed is an amalgamation of more than 1,100 footnotes, facts, arguments, and innuendo, James O’Keefe’s American Muckraker, the founder of Project Veritas, is a 288-page exercise in self-reverence.

“The American Muckraker understands that the path to truth involves suffering and sacrifice,” writes O’Keefe. it’s fine. Elsewhere, he compares his situation to that of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Alabama in the late 1950s, as it worked for “equality”. Actually. He also repeatedly refers to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the great Russian dissident.

What does O’Keefe do for a living? For the most part, he makes raunchy videos aimed at Democrats and progressives. Targets have included Planned Parenthood and a teachers’ union.

Practically speaking, American Muckraker is O’Keefe’s attempt to bolster her claim to be a journalist while redefining what the media really is in an era of cold civil war. In that note, he recounts a conversation with Brian Karem after Playboy’s White House reporter had a falling out with a Trump loyalist, Sebastian Gorka.

“I’m on the same team as you,” O’Keefe said. “I respect you guys.”

Really? Project Veritas counts the Donald J Trump Foundation among previous donors and Erik Prince, the former head of the private security company Blackwater and brother of Trump education secretary Betsy DeVos, participated in his pitting operations against Trump’s opponents. O’Keefe makes it clear that he is not interested in shedding light on who is funding his work.

James O'Keefe speaks at CPAC in 2021.
James O’Keefe speaks at CPAC in 2021. Photograph: Octavio Jones/Reuters

He has a genuine grievance. In early November 2021, the FBI raided his apartment, handcuffed him in his underwear and seized two phones from him. He was not arrested.

The feds reportedly intervened in connection with the disappearance and unauthorized publication of a diary by Ashley Biden, the president’s daughter. Veritas Project he never wrote anything on the subject and delivered the document. The Justice Department had targeted the First Amendment and O’Keefe’s civil liberties, despite a court order.

But that is only part of the story. In 2020, O’Keefe sued the New York Times for defamation In connection with his video coverage of alleged voter fraud in Minnesota. A New York judge refused to dismiss the lawsuit, and O’Keefe obtained an injunction barring the newspaper from publishing documents written by a Project Veritas attorney.

O’Keefe’s mantra might be: “Free speech for me, but not for you.”

Despite Richard Nixon’s efforts in the Pentagon Papers case, prior restraint remains anathema to a free press, as Donald Trump’s late brother Robert learned when he failed to block the release of a revelation of a niece.

However, Trump allies are urging the supreme court to reconsider the protections given to the media under US libel law. Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch have indicated they are willing. The fact that the decision in question was issued by a unanimous court half a century ago means little. American Muckraker is a book for these difficult times.


www.theguardian.com

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