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Today in Unsubstantiated Nonsense: The Biden Tapes

And now, let's talk about another de facto line of attack in the ongoing right-wing defense of Donald Trump. The latest "news" on the Joe Biden corruption front is that there are recordings of the President, near the end of his time as VP, demanding (and allegedly getting) a $10 million bribe from Burisma.

This is being presented as fact by right-wing commentators. For example, Margot Cleveland is the Senior Propagandist... er, Senior Legal Correspondent for The Federalist. In a piece headlined "The Bidens 'Coerced' Burisma To Pay $10 Million In Bribes, Says Credible FBI Source," Cleveland writes:

The Bidens allegedly "coerced" a foreign national to pay them $10 million in bribes, according to individuals familiar with the investigation into the FBI's handling of the FD-1023 confidential human source report. What, if anything, agents did to investigate these explosive claims remains unknown, however, with sources telling The Federalist the FBI continues to stonewall.

On Monday, Sen. Chuck Grassley revealed a foreign national—identified by individuals with knowledge of the matter as Burisma founder Mykola Zlochevsky—allegedly possessed 17 recordings implicating the Bidens in a pay-to-play scandal. While 15 of the audio recordings consisted of phone calls between Zlochevsky and Hunter Biden, two were of calls the Ukrainian had with then-Vice President Joe Biden, according to the FD-1023.

The remaining 12 paragraphs continue in the same vein.

At this point, the B.S. detector of anyone who is not in the bag for Trump, as Cleveland is, should be blaring at top volume. There are two aspects of this story that stand out as particularly phony to us. The first is how very convenient it is that the supposed damning evidence against Joe Biden is almost exactly the same as the actual damning evidence against Donald Trump. There are recordings of the 45th president saying incriminating things? Well, guess what, there just so happen to be recordings of the 46th president saying incriminating things, too! Whataboutism, anyone?

The second large, red flag (among many smaller red flags) is this: Why is this coming to light now? If there is real, legit dirt on Biden, how did it not come to light during the 2020 presidential campaign, when it ultimately would have done him more harm? Why are we only hearing about it at a time when Donald Trump and his supporters are desperate and grasping at straws?

The upshot is that this does not pass the smell test at all. The right-wingers who are trying to take Biden down have operated in bad faith many times, such that they no longer get any benefit of the doubt. Further, we live in a world where it is entirely possible to fake audio (and video) recordings. That means that, even if the alleged recordings somehow surface later this afternoon, we're simply not buying it until there is heavy-duty evidence of their being real. Serious forensic analysis by experts in recorded evidence—something like that.

Of course, the tapes are not going to surface later this afternoon. Because—and you'll want to make sure you're close to your fainting couch before you read this next part—Grassley, Rep. James Comer (R-KY) and other Republicans in Congress are now backing off their claims and conceding that they're not entirely certain that the tapes even exist. Surprise! Certainly didn't see that coming.

We are reluctant to pay any notice to this sort of nonsense. However, we also know there are readers interested in whether the scandalous claim du jour has any merit to it. So, we write this item to make clear that this one does not. (Z)

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