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Oversight Committee Can’t Find Key Witnesses in Biden Investigation
Plus: Tuberville’s block on military promotions starts to crack
Good afternoon and welcome to Press Pass, The Bulwark’s twice-weekly guide to Congress, campaigns, and the way Washington works. Quick programming note for Thursday night: The Bulwark will be live from New York. (Some tickets are still available.) You won’t want to miss it.
Today’s edition of Press Pass examines the case of a missing witness (or perhaps multiple witnesses) that House Republicans believe are key to their investigation of what some of them refer to as the vast Biden crime family conspiracy. There are also some critical updates on Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s blocking of nearly 200 senior military promotions. Much more below. But before we dive in, please consider becoming a Bulwark+ member if you are not already. Members support important journalism while gaining access to tons of exclusive content, including ad-free podcasts.
It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your whistleblowers are?
House Oversight Chairman James Comer has a problem on his hands: Some of his bombshell witnesses ready to blow the lid on the crimes of President Joe Biden and his
criminal syndicate family have gone missing—and none of the committee members I spoke to seem able to provide a clear answer on exactly who is or isn’t accounted for.
Comer has been cagey about which witnesses are gone. (In his appearance on Maria Bartiromo’s Fox News show where he first raised the alarm over missing persons, the Oversight chairman distinguished between the whistleblower, who is accounted for, and the Biden family informant that person knew, who is missing.) However, Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of Comer’s deputies on Oversight, has said the “whistleblower that led us to the evidence of crimes directly implicating Joe Biden is safe, but does fear for his life,” though she did not reveal who it is or any of the circumstances or content of the dramatic revelations. Other whistleblowers, Greene says, are in court, in jail, or “can’t be found.”
“This is a very real situation that we’re dealing with,” she continued.
Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee, another Republican on the committee, said in a separate interview with Bartiromo that he also did not know where their informant currently is, adding:
The telling thing about this is that our Federal Bureau of Investigation and our Justice Department have basically just turned a blind eye to all of this and now it's come down to the point where speaker McCarthy has to have a one-on-one meeting with Director Wray over the way that they've handled this and bungled this thing from the start.
When I followed up with Burchett Monday afternoon in the Capitol, he acknowledged he and Comer had misspoke. He then read me a text message he had just received from the chairman clarifying which witnesses are missing.
“Our FBI whistleblower is not missing,” Burchett said. “He was referring to the two guys from CEFC Energy in China and the Siberian national whistleblower as currently missing. Not our FBI. Not the one Chuck Grassley had.”
When I asked Rep. Andy Biggs about a purportedly missing whistleblower from CEFC, a former Chinese energy conglomerate that declared bankruptcy in 2020 following allegations of corruption, he told me I’d received incorrect information.
“I’ve been told that he’s not missing and that they’re in contact with him,” Biggs said. “That’s what I’ve been told.”
When I made clear that I was referring to a person Burchett characterized as an informant from CEFC, Biggs reiterated, “If we’re talking about the same witness, I’ve been told that they still have contact with him.”
But one individual who had initially sought refuge with congressional Republicans is indeed missing, although it’s unclear how far he got with the committee.
I reported back in February on Israeli professor and right-wing author Gal Luft’s predicament. He was arrested at an airport in Cyprus on an Interpol warrant for alleged arms trafficking to China and Libya.
Looking to fight extradition, Luft claimed the charges were retaliation for his whistleblowing on Hunter Biden. Luft’s lawyer, a former DOJ prosecutor named Robert Henoch who registered as a foreign agent to lobby Congress on the accused arms trafficker’s behalf, did not respond to request for comment about his client’s current status. Henoch’s profile with the Justice Department shows no activities since his initial filing, though he was hired for the explicit purpose of drafting and sending letters to lawmakers to raise awareness about Luft’s situation (and his client’s alleged dirt on the Bidens). Whether or not any letter was ever drafted or transmitted is unclear, but Comer did mention attempts to connect with Luft during a March Fox News appearance.
Luft got out on bail in Cyprus and then missed his extradition hearing in late March. His abandoned car was discovered a day later. He is still missing.
Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) brought up Luft’s status when I asked her which witness was missing.
“I actually asked the chairman about that. We didn’t lose the informant. That was referencing a different informant,” she said. “There was an Israeli informant, to my understanding, that came forward.”
When I asked if she was referring to Luft, Luna confirmed, noting “that was a separate case. We still have our informant that we’re actively working with.”
Whether or not the Republicans to whom Luft made his appeals took him seriously, Burchett told me he hadn’t spoken to him. He then noted, “It’s Washington, dude. It’s all smoke and mirrors. So you kinda just gotta figure it out. But yeah, some of those guys are 100 percent, straight up legit.”
If you’ve found this all a bit confusing, here’s a recap of where things stand with the Oversight Committee’s purported whistleblowers, informants, and/or witnesses, according to the Republicans I spoke with:
one from the FBI is safe and accounted for, but apparently fears for his life;
one from a bankrupt Chinese energy company may or may not be missing;
one from Russia is allegedly missing; and
one from Israel is confirmed to be missing. While it’s unclear how much he worked with the committee prior to his disappearance—or how seriously they take his story—this is apparently the person Comer was alluding to in his Bartiromo interview.
And an unknown number of others are allegedly in court, in jail, or missing, as well.
When it comes to Comer’s tenure so far, the chaotic story of the missing informant(s) is par for the course, according to ranking Oversight Democrat Rep. Jamie Raskin. He told me, “It just seems like we’re always on a wild goose chase to find the evidence that they’re asserting.”
I reached out to a spokesperson for the Republican side of the Oversight Committee, but have yet to hear back on a clear timeline of missing or safely located witnesses.
My Bulwark colleague Tim Miller has more on the case of the missing witnesses and how the conservative media echo chamber gets to work to spread conspiracies far and wide:
For conservative media consumers what Bartiromo et al. are trying to get across is unmistakable. It is part of a long history of vague and not-so-vague accusations that Democratic political elites and the Deep State are willing to go so far as murder in order to silence whistleblowers who might harm the Democratic Party. This tactic was employed most notably against the Clintons with the “Kill List” rumormongering in the 1990s. In the last decade, it was most prominent in the slander surrounding the Seth Rich murder in 2016.
That this was not missed by its intended audience is clear by the response you can see in certain corners of the MAGA internet.
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Tuberville’s block on military promotions is starting to crack
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, now several months into a solitary campaign to block nearly 200 senior military promotions over the Biden administration's support for abortion access among members of the armed forces, is starting to catch heat from his colleagues. While the senator is still demanding a vote to block the administration’s military abortion policy, Republicans are growing vocally impatient following months of dutiful silence.
“No, I don’t support putting a hold on military nominations,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters last week. Senate Armed Services ranking member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) also told reporters this week he disagrees with Tuberville’s approach.
To make things worse, Tuberville has found himself in hot water for condemning the Biden administration’s effort to oust “white nationalists” from the U.S. military. His problems started during an interview with his local Alabama radio station during which he said of white nationalists, “I call them Americans,” and argued the Biden administration is wrong for trying to weed them out of the armed forces.
Things got worse during a conversation with reporters in the Capitol at the end of last week.“Well, you got to define that first: what is a white nationalist?” Tuberville asked a group of us standing outside the Senate chamber. When one reporter explained that white nationalism is synonymous with white supremacy, Tuberville was perplexed.
“You think a white nationalist is a Nazi? I don’t look at it like that. I look at a white nationalist as a Trump Republican,” Tuberville said. “That’s what we’re called all the time, a MAGA person.”
The senator seemed to think “white nationalist” is simply a slur for a Trump supporter—or he was playing dumb about the notion following the backlash he received over his radio interview comments. Either way, he eventually declared, “I agree that we should not be characterizing Trump supporters as white nationalists.”