On Eve of Opening Arguments, WSJ Launders David Weiss’ Russian Disinformation Problem

WSJ has a weird story that purports to describe Merrick Garland’s oversight of Special Counsels.

It twice suggests only the left has complained about a perception that Garland slow-walked the January 6 investigation.

Garland has also become the subject of ridicule on late-night talk shows, including by comedian Bill Maher, who in May echoed the grievances of many on the left when he referred to Garland as “a purse dog” rather than a pit bull.


But many on the left wanted more. Some wanted prosecutors to also pursue an aggressive case against Trump himself, specifically for inciting the mob.

That will come as a surprise to Liz Cheney, who was among those claiming that Garland was working too slowly.

It reveals that Robert Hur was considered for the job given to Jack Smith and confirms my suspicions that the decision to hire him came from Lisa Monaco’s office, not Garland’s.

An aide drafted a secret contingency plan, to assign the Jan. 6 investigation related to Trump to a special counsel. At the top of the list of candidates was Smith, a former U.S. prosecutor who was then the chief prosecutor at The Hague investigating war crimes in Kosovo. The deputy attorney general’s office also considered Hur, who at the time was a defense lawyer in private practice, for the post.

But it makes no mention of how DOJ came to consider Hur for the job after settling Andrew McCabe’s lawsuit because he had been denied due process rights in his firing. Hur was a key player in that process of denying McCabe his due process, and yet Garland hired him to investigate Joe Biden.

It even gets the timeline of Hur’s hiring incorrect, ignoring the months of investigative steps taken by John Lausch before Hur was hired.

It mentions Brad Weinsheimer’s role in allowing Rob Hur to emphasize Biden’s age in his report, rather than the fact that Hur couldn’t even prove the documents that might have been intentionally withheld took the path he imagined they might have.

Biden’s lawyers read it and were aghast, objecting to “certain aspects of his draft report that violate Department of Justice policy and practice by pejoratively characterizing uncharged conduct,” they wrote to Garland. They wanted him to take a firmer hand with the special counsel he appointed and whose report they and some former Justice Department officials saw as gratuitous.

Garland didn’t respond, taking the same approach he had with other special counsels. He wasn’t going to step in to protect his boss. Instead, adhering to the Watergate-era policy he helped enshrine, he left it to the agency’s senior career official, Bradley Weinsheimer, who said the language in the report “fell well within the Department’s standards for public release.” Garland, as promised, released it the following day, Feb. 8.

But it doesn’t talk about how having Weinsheimer serve as supervisor for Special Counsels effectively eliminates any DOJ review of ethical violations, which role Weinsheimer would otherwise play.

Most bizarrely, it makes absolute no mention of John Durham, whose investigation Garland oversaw for over two years. It doesn’t explain, for example, why Durham was permitted to fabricate a conspiracy theory against Hillary Clinton in his report. It doesn’t explain why Durham’s lead prosecutor, Andrew DeFilippis, left with little advance notice, between Durham’s twin failed trials, at a time when many witnesses were making claims of abuse.

In short, whatever else this story is, it is not a story that is remotely useful for understanding Merrick Garland’s oversight of Special Counsels.

And in this story that doesn’t do what it says, on the eve of opening arguments in the Hunter Biden gun case, it launders David Weiss’ Russian disinformation problem.

By 2022, prosecutors and agents had already believed that Hunter Biden committed tax crimes, but Weiss still seemed no closer to charging him or resolving the case. FBI officials asked Garland’s office if he could help move Weiss along.

Garland refused to prod Weiss, saying he had promised him broad independence to pursue the inquiry as he saw fit.

FBI agents drafted a list of final steps to push the probe forward—including to follow up on allegations from an FBI source that tied Hunter Biden’s financial misdeeds directly to his father.

Weiss’s office reached a tentative plea deal with Hunter Biden in June 2023, in an agreement that would likely include no jail time. Republicans in Congress alleged that Hunter Biden was getting a sweetheart deal, which fell apart a month later. In August, Weiss asked Garland to make him a special counsel, pointing to the FBI’s list and asking for independence. Garland agreed, recognizing that he had earlier promised Weiss autonomy and any resources he sought. [my emphasis]

To be sure, this might be one of the only truly interesting pieces of news in the piece.

What WSJ is describing (including a journalist, Sadie Gurman, who has had good access to Bill Barr in the past) is that the FBI, including people senior enough to be able to complain to Garland personally, was demanding that David Weiss follow up on Alexander Smirnov’s attempt to frame Joe Biden.

Indeed, this passage wildly conflicts with what David Weiss claimed in the Smirnov indictment — that the FBI just came along in July 2023 and requested that Weiss help investigate (but we knew that was false in any case).

And it does seem to confirm what has been clear for a while: the reason David Weiss asked to be made Special Counsel is so he could chase Smirnov’s allegations.

But somehow WSJ neglects to mention the issue — the several issues — that go to the core of Garland’s inadequate oversight of Special Counsels. First, how was this allowed to get this far? How were senior FBI people bugging Garland about this allegation when the most basic vetting of travel records debunked it? How was the FBI chasing an allegation from a guy who had recycled debunked Fox News propaganda? How was David Weiss permitted to demand Special Counsel status, and renege on the plea deal he made with Hunter Biden, based on a tip he had been given back in 2020?

How is that not election interference?

Just as importantly for the issue of Special Counsel oversight, how can Garland leave Weiss in charge of the Smirnov allegation, when he is a witness to the process — implicating Bill Barr and Scott Brady — that ended up mainstreaming it?

And more importantly, WSJ never mentions that the tip turned out to be a hoax from a guy with close ties to Russian intelligence.

How do you write a piece describing that the FBI was pushing Garland to chase what may be Russian disinformation (and in any case is a hoax from someone with Russian ties), and fail to mention that it was a fabrication?

How, on the eve of opening arguments in the Hunter Biden case, do you launder the fact that David Weiss reneged on Hunter Biden’s plea deal because he was chasing false claims from a guy with close ties to Russian intelligence?

10 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Is it that Garland has a “hands off,” as opposed to a gloves off policy when it comes to special counsel, as facile attempt to avoid politicization? That seems to work the way Trump’s loyalty does: it’s entirely one-sided.

  2. klynn says:

    “And in this story that doesn’t do what it says, on the eve of opening arguments in the Hunter Biden gun case, it launders David Weiss’ Russian disinformation problem.”

    I am frustrated that CIA counter intelligence has not weighed in on Smirnov and the disinformation problem.

    “And more importantly, WSJ never mentions that the tip turned out to be a hoax from a guy with close ties to Russian intelligence.”

    This is a really huge story. Essentially, WSJ becomes a player in a foreign disinformation operation through bad reporting.

    With the quick turnover of leadership yesterday, is this a feature and not a bug?

    • Rayne says:

      Yeah, that — was Murray edged out of WSJ? Did he leave because he was a barrier to influence operations?

      Not that I trust a former employee of Murdoch’s NewsCorp.

  3. NerdyCanuck says:

    I’m curious to know, when you write these pieces that expose gaps, inaccuracies, dis/misinformation etc. in articles from other (mostly mainstream) media outlets, do you ever send the corrections/criticism directly to the article authors or editors? If so, what makes you decide it’s worth it? do they ever respond?

    To be clear I’m not saying you should or anything, I’m just super curious and have been wondering this for quite a while. I know you also xeet out a lot of your criticisms as well, and interact with a lot of these outlets that way… I just wondered about whether you ever decide to send the info directly to the papers or not… especially when they include outright falsehoods and/or Russian disinformation like this.

    Thanks for all you do! xox
    the nerdy one

    • MT Reedør says:

      I was thinking along these same lines. But my question is why not also put these posts in the comment sections of these newspapers where more people can see them?

  4. The Old Redneck says:

    It’s the selective use of the passive voice. Weiss didn’t renege on the plea deal. Instead, it “fell apart.” So . . . it just happened, like lightning striking or some other act of God.

    This kind of chickenshit journalism is really depressing to see.

    • klynn says:

      “This kind of chickenshit journalism is really depressing to see.”

      T O R –
      Thank you for the phrase “chickenshit journalism” and your comment!

      You may have just inspired something. How about a daily list of “chickenshit journalism” reviews as well as reviews of bad passive voice disinformation?

      Although, EW pretty much does this now all on her own! So, I guess not a new idea!

      • dopefish says:

        I second the thanks for that phrase.

        It seems like a very good label for a lot of what passes for journalism these days: all form, no substance.

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