Claims that Hunter Biden’s laptop revealed an influence-peddling scheme by the Biden family, and that the federal government coerced Big Tech social media companies to censor disfavored views, are both wild conspiracy theories, Democratic members of Congress told Matt Taibbi, Rupa Subramanya, and me yesterday after we testified before the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of Government. What we should have been talking about, they explained, was the imminent weaponization of the federal government by Donald J. Trump.
And yet all of the major news media organizations, and the FBI, have verified the Hunter Biden laptop as authentic, while proof of the reality of government demands for censorship can be found in the Twitter Files, Facebook Files, CTIL Files, and the Missouri v Biden lawsuit, which is now headed to the Supreme Court.
As for Trump, he is not the president nor was he the subject of the hearing. “For the life of me,” said an exasperated Rep. Kat Cammack, “I cannot find anywhere in the public notices, in our meeting memos, in our congressional hearing documents, any mention of where this is a hearing about President Trump. I know we have a literacy crisis in this country, and I am shocked that it has made its way to the halls of Congress.”
Pointing all of this out is neither a defense of Trump nor a claim of certain victory in the Supreme Court. There is much Trump did that merits criticism, and the Supreme Court may decide in Missouri v. Biden that the government should be allowed to demand that social media platforms remove or otherwise censor content.
But for nearly all of yesterday’s two-and-a-half-hour-long hearing, Democrats managed to avoid ever discussing the large body of evidence that the US government coerced social media platforms to censor content.
Until, that is, it was Rep. Dan Goldman’s turn to speak. He addressed his question to me:
Goldman: You've talked about the Hunter Biden laptop and how the FBI knew it existed. You are aware, of course, that the laptop, so to speak, that was published in the New York Post, was actually a hard drive that the New York Post admitted here was not authenticated as real. It was not the laptop the FBI had. You're aware of that right?
Me: It was the same contents.
Goldman: How do you know?
Me: Because it's the same —
Goldman: — you would have to authenticate it to know it was the same contents. You have no idea. You know hard drives can be manipulated.
Me: Are you suggesting the New York Post participated in a conspiracy to construct the contents of the Hunter Biden laptop?
Goldman: No, sir. The problem is that hard drives can be manipulated by Rudy Giuliani or Russia.
Me: But what's the evidence that that happened?
Goldman: Well, there is actual evidence of it, but the point is —
Me: There’s no evidence of it so you're engaging in a conspiracy theory.
Goldman: I'm glad you agree with me, Mr. Shellenberger, that transparency is the most important thing.
Had I been even quicker on my feet, I would have mentioned that the FBI agents who, in the summer of 2020, had warned social media platforms of a Russian “hack and leak” operation aimed at Hunter Biden, knew that the FBI had authenticated the Hunter Biden laptop as real way back in December 2019.
After the above exchange, Rep. Goldman asked me if I thought Hunter Biden should testify in a public hearing or behind closed doors. I replied that I had never thought about it.
I then tried to re-direct the conversation back to the topic at hand.
Me: Are you familiar with the First Amendment?
Goldman: Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Me: It says that Congress shall take no action to abridge the freedom of speech.
Goldman: Yeah, that's what you just described
What happens next is even weirder.