But why tweet it in the first place? Why is it useful for a House committee’s minority caucus to post a social media post ostensibly aimed at getting the attention of Republican and right-wing users? What’s the point? What is the value?
The answer, of course, is precisely that it attracts attention – a central objective of the committee’s leaders, if not the main one.
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On Thursday, Republican House Judiciary Committee member Jim Jordan (Ohio) participated in a press conference where his party outlined its plans to investigate Hunter Biden, the president’s son. The Republican Minority House Committee on Oversight and Reform released a document it said offered sufficient predicate for an investigation, including that “members and associates of the Biden family [were] Take advantage of the public service.
“The Republicans’ investigation quickly established that few members of the President’s extended family failed to capitalize on their relationship with Joe Biden.”
“From Valerie Biden Owens, the President’s ‘sister, confidante, and longtime political strategist’, writing a book about the Biden family shortly after the inauguration of Francis ‘Frank ‘Biden’ promot[ing] his relationship with the Commander-in-Chief in an inauguration-day ad for the law firm he advises[,]The Biden family’s monetization of the President’s time in Washington is well documented.
The contrast with the activity of members of the Trump family is left as an exercise for the reader.
Much of the document (titled “A Compromised President: The Biden Family Investigation”) centers on the decision by social media companies to limit a New York Post article about emails and photographs that allegedly came from a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden – certainly a tangent to an investigation into the Bidens, if related.
During the press conference, Jordan Underline this aspect of the story. He suggested that the media’s presentation of Hunter Biden’s material had evolved in a way that increasingly vindicated him and the GOP about its importance. This is not the case. Most outlets were barred from reviewing the material at the time, making it difficult to report on the content. (Fox News itself carried the story.) When The Washington Post got the material, we were able to validate some of it, but not all of it. But here was Jordan trying to score rhetorical points on a side issue almost entirely unrelated to the Bidens as he and his party outlined what they plan to do when they win a majority in 2023.
But the press conference did what press conferences are designed to do: grab media attention. Specifically, Jordan and Republican Oversight Ranking Member James Comer (Ky.) Were guest on Fox News primetime programming to explain their arguments. Arguments, you won’t be surprised to learn, that Hannity and other Fox News hosts have been making for months.
There is a pattern to the investigative process here. In 2013 and 2014, when Republicans controlled the House, there were numerous investigations into the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012. This story got a lot of attention on Fox News itself; there was an often explicit feedback loop between the network and the object of the investigations.
These investigations were lucky: they discovered that Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State at the time of the attacks, had used a private email server while she was a cabinet minister. This spawned its own obsessive coverage, until the day Clinton lost her 2016 presidential bid to Trump.
It was no coincidence.
“Everyone thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — likely the next speaker — said in 2015. “But we put together a special Benghazi committee, a select committee. What are its numbers today? His numbers are dropping.
Republicans were out of power in the House from 2019 until now. But Fox News continued to hammer home the themes that were picked up by GOP officials.
One was that the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election was contrived or dishonest, prompting Fox News to spend a lot of time talking about Special Counsel John Durham, assigned to investigate the to investigate and prove the Justice Department’s rot. He couldn’t do it, but gave Fox News plenty to say.
The other theme was Hunter Biden and his laptop. (There was also a flash of Hunter Biden coverage in 2019. That was when Fox News and Republicans — including Jordan — were trying to hijack the impeachment inquiry into Trump by suggesting that his asks Ukraine to investigate the Bidens was valid.) If you’re a politician looking to make an appearance on Fox News or get the attention of an audience watching Fox News, these are topics that will probably the case.
It goes without saying that it is good for Congress to investigate presidents and other officials. This is true even if the surveys are overtly partisan; sometimes the kind of presumption of guilt that accompanies such investigations uncovers genuine wrongdoing that might otherwise have been overlooked. And there are legitimate questions about Hunter Biden’s business activities – although the Justice Department is also currently reviewing his actions.
The House Republican effort, however, cannot be separated from the eagerness with which party caucus members explicitly appeal to the Fox News/right-wing media echo chamber. After Thursday’s press conference, many observers scratched their heads over the timing: the party had just had this electoral underperformance thanks in part to a universe of rhetoric that mirrored what was being amplified at the hurry. In response, the party pledged to use its power to double down on the demands of this universe?
Yes. Partly because it fits the pre-2016 and pre-2020 pattern of targeting a presidential opponent. And partly because it ensures that Republican officials will get Fox News retweets and hits and coverage on the network that will keep them in the center of attention.
If they discover something nefarious along the way? Even better.