If you’re old enough, you remember when the GOP fashioned itself the “law and order” party. This was because of its tough-on-crime stance, which, like most Republican policies (excessive tax cuts for rich people, relentless punishment of people on food stamps, contempt for science and environmental responsibility, etc.), has done immeasurable harm to the nation in our modern history, wrecking the lives of God-knows-how-many young people apprehended with a couple joints on their person. It was terrible, but at least it was true.
Here’s your “law and order” party at work today. House Republicans like to refer incessantly to the “Biden crime family.” They claim to be in possession of evidence of criminal wrongdoing, like secret Biden bank accounts that were set up to hide the numerous bribes they say Joe Biden has taken from foreigners. They claim all kinds of stuff. I guess we should not rule out the possibility, however remote, that this proof exists.
But we have the right to come to certain conclusions based on what they’ve shown us so far, half-a-year-plus into their majority. It’s been a complete and total clown show, culminating this week in a development that is so beyond absurd that if I were saying it instead of typing it, I’d be spitting out my coffee: The GOP’s whistleblower is literally a fugitive.
Gal Luft is the whistleblower around whom House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer of Kentucky built considerable drama in recent weeks. Comer repeatedly told Fox News and Hill reporters that he had a guy who had the goods on Capo di Tutti Capi Biden but was being silenced by those crazy Marxists over at the FBI. Well, news broke this week that Luft was indicted for acting as an unregistered agent for China, trying to do various arms deals, including to Iran (in violation of U.S. sanctions), and more. And he is quite literally a fugitive from justice: Luft has lived outside the United States since November 2017.
You’ll notice that I didn’t say he was indicted this week, only that the news broke. This is an important point that you need to keep straight. Republicans like Comer and Jim Jordan have been whining about the timing of the indictment, accusing the Justice Department of attempting to silence their star witness at the crucial moment. But the indictment was actually filed last November. In other words, Luft has been under suspicion and investigation for some time, and the government came down on him before even the midterm elections. The indictment was logged when Justice didn’t even know who’d be running the House now.
Here’s just one charge from the indictment. Luft was working for a think tank. In the summer of 2015, it is alleged, a Chinese national who was the head of something called the China Energy Fund Committee, or CEFC, approached Luft and offered him and his think tank $350,000 a year to engage in some pro-China agitprop. Luft duly carried this out, hosting conferences, placing op-eds, and so on. Luft, the indictment alleges, was working with a former high-ranking U.S. official, who was called only “Individual 1” in the indictment but is known to be James Woolsey, who was for a couple years the head of the CIA under Bill Clinton.
Woolsey’s involvement here is interesting. He has referred to himself as a “Scoop Jackson Democrat” (that means hawkish), but evidently he decided at some point that Barack Obama was destroying America with his defense cuts. Woolsey threw in with Trump in the fall of 2016, at a time when dozens of national security eminences were warning what a danger he was.
Luft agreed to work on behalf of the CEFC to “educate” Woolsey, who would make public statements that were in the interests of China. Sure enough, on November 30, 2016, with Trump as president-elect, Woolsey spoke at an event called the Belt & Road Forum in Washington, co-hosted by the CEFC. “We want to joyfully participate with China in international trade operations and economic growth,” Woolsey said. “I think we have no reason why China and the U.S. cannot be close and friendly nations.” (Woolsey, it must be noted, later quit the Trump transition team, claiming he was being cut out of meetings.)
Maybe, as is always the case in such matters, none of the indictment is true. Like anyone, like even Donald Trump, Luft is entitled to the presumption of innocence.
But if the charges are true, put yourself in James Comer’s shoes. Would you really decide to try to build a case at least in part around a man who was accused of the things Luft is accused of? Is that a credible witness? Then there’s the simple practical matter that the guy hasn’t set foot in the U.S. in nearly six years. Was Luft going to Zoom his way to stardom from some undisclosed location in Cyprus? (That’s where he was when he skipped bail in April.)
This just scratches the surface, but take a breath with me here. What does Comer accuse Joe Biden of? Corruption pertaining chiefly to China—taking bribes mostly to get filthy rich, but in part to conceal the regime’s true face, thereby gussying up China’s image in the West. And what does the government allege his star-witness-in-waiting did? Took several payments of $350,000—to gussy up China’s image in the West. In other words, Comer wants us to believe that Biden behaved in a certain way with respect to China. But if the Justice Department is right, Luft behaved in exactly the way Comer accuses Biden of acting!
Luft released a video earlier this month saying, among other things, that he’s on the lam because “I did not believe I will receive a fair trial in a New York court.” Perhaps one day we’ll find out. But right now, we know this much. James Comer doesn’t look like he could run a one-car funeral, let alone the proverbial two-car version. The right-wing media has fashioned a ready excuse for such situations: It’s all the deep state covering up for the Bidens and persecuting truth tellers. Back here on planet Earth, though, the bottom line remains that Comer’s star witness is a fugitive from justice. If Joe Biden actually is corrupt, he couldn’t ask for a better, more Clouseau-like pursuer than James Comer.
This article first appeared in Fighting Words, a weekly TNR newsletter authored by editor Michael Tomasky. Sign up here.