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Indictment of GOP’s ‘missing’ informant becomes conspiracy fodder

This article has been updated.

The Justice Department on Monday announced that it had unsealed an indictment against Gal Luft, a director at a think tank in the Washington area. According to federal prosecutors, he is also someone who violated Iranian sanctions, trafficked weapons and aided the Chinese government without registering as a foreign agent.

The specific allegations included in the indictment were not known before Monday, but the fact that Luft had been indicted was. He was arrested in Cyprus in February, which Luft immediately suggested was a response to his having information incriminating President Biden and members of his family. Last week, the New York Post published excerpts of a recorded message from Luft, who skipped bail in April, in which Luft discussed specific elements of the indictment.

In fact, you may have heard about Luft before the announcement on Monday. His insistence that he was being targeted by the Biden administration was immediately embraced by conservative media and Republican legislators. When he skipped bail, House Oversight Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) lamented to Fox News host Maria Bartiromo that he had gone “missing,” appearing to conflate Luft with an informant from whom Republicans had spun out a separate allegation against Biden, implying that something nefarious had befallen him.

This has been the pattern on the right for months. Anyone making any allegation against Biden and/or his family is accepted as inherently credible, however shaky the evidence or, as in the case of Luft, however obvious the conflict of interest. Not only are anti-Biden claims taken at face value, any skepticism about those allegations or, again as in the case of Luft, external indicators of unreliability are themselves folded into a voluminous conspiracy theory.

The timeline is important. It appears, both from comments by Luft in the video reported by the New York Post and in looking at court records, the indictment was handed down last fall. (Update: It occurred on Nov. 1, as Luft indicated in the video reported by the New York Post.) As mentioned, his initial arrest was in February. It is not clear why the indictment was unsealed now, but it is not the case that the charges are new. In other words, the understood order of events suggests not that he was charged because he made public allegations but, instead, that he made public allegations after he had been charged.

Yet Comer and at least one colleague on House Oversight insisted the indictment was necessarily political. “I don’t trust the DOJ or the FBI. They are trying to silence our witnesses,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said on Fox News, again to Maria Bartiromo, who has been energetically promoting the Republican allegations. “This is a way to do that.”

Again, he appears to have become a desired witness after his indictment. Speaking to Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Monday night, however, Comer made a similar argument as Mace had. “The timing is always coincidental, according to the Democrats and the Department of Justice,” Comer scoffed.

The implication for viewers, of course, is that it was not a coincidence at all, but it is not clear what the implied noncoincidence is. Nothing has obviously changed about the status of Luft and, if the committee planned to take his testimony previously despite his fugitive status, it still can. All that has changed is that we are hearing the government’s arguments against Luft from the government, instead of from Luft.

Luft claims he spoke with the FBI in 2019 about his interactions with the Bidens, specifically Joe Biden’s son Hunter and the president’s brother James. The discussion centered on the other Bidens’ work with CEFC China Energy, which The Washington Post detailed in March 2022. In the video obtained by the New York Post, he does not appear to make allegations about Joe Biden receiving any money from foreign interests, an unproven claim from Comer and other Republicans that remains unsubstantiated.

Last week, in response to the New York Post article, Comer appeared on Newsmax. Luft is “very credible,” he insisted at the time, “and the people on MSNBC who made fun of me when I said we had an informant that was missing, they should feel like fools right now. This is their worst nightmare, because, again, this is a credible witness that the FBI flew all the way to Brussels to interview and sent several agents to interview.”

Again, Comer asserted the credibility of Luft after it was known that Luft had been arrested and after the New York Post reported on elements of the charges that Luft had described. “We want to know why the FBI has never made public this interview” with Luft in 2019, Comer said. “Our sources in the FBI, the ones that Senator Grassley has worked closely with, say they did nothing. They never investigated any of this. They turned a complete blind eye.”

Hunter Biden agreed to a plea deal with the federal government last month for failing to report millions in dollars of income. In the video obtained by the New York Post, Luft compared his facing charges for failing to register as a foreign agent with what he alleges Hunter and James Biden did on behalf of foreign companies. Comer and Mace made the same argument in their Fox News interviews after his indictment. Incidentally, speaking to Fox News in late 2019, Luft suggested that Hunter Biden’s engagement with Chinese companies was par for the course.

The pattern here is not that government investigators are seeking to throw roadblocks in Comer’s path. Instead, it is that Comer and others on the right keep building paths into quicksand, and then have to pretend they are not sinking. You might recall the allegation raised two months ago that Joe and Hunter Biden had received a bribe from a Ukrainian executive.

That allegation stems from an interview the FBI conducted with an informant who spoke to the executive. The person believed to be that executive, however, previously denied to others that he had any contact with the Bidens. There is no other evidence of any bribe, including in the financial records obtained by House Oversight. Yet the idea that this bribe occurred is treated as a matter of fact by many on the right.

There is also the release of purported 2017 WhatsApp messages from Hunter Biden in which he suggests he is sitting with his father as he pressures Chinese partners. This, too, has been elevated as proven fact despite 1) there being no evidence Joe Biden was in the room but plenty of reason for Hunter Biden, indisputably adept at leveraging his last name, to suggest that he was and 2) the public presentations of the exchange including apparent summaries of the messages instead of documented transcripts. Again, though, this idea that Joe Biden was sitting there nodding along is now accepted as a verified fact.

Even though there is still no evidence that the now-president received a dime. “The president of the United States and his family has taken millions of dollars from a company that’s 100 percent wholly owned by the Chinese Communist Party,” Comer said on Newsmax during his conversation about Luft, though he has no evidence of that first, most damning allegation.

The Newsmax host did not challenge him on it. Instead, he disparaged members of the media skeptical about the allegations as “pitiful” and “desperate shills” who are helping Biden “cover up this very obvious atrocity.” When this is the standard of scrutiny your allies apply, it is little wonder that a fugitive accused of violating sanctions and aiding the Chinese government, but who is also willing to suggest that the Biden administration is out to get him, gets to be hailed as a bold truth teller.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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