After the Biden administration successfully negotiated Brittney Griner’s release from Russia, many Republicans responded in unfortunate ways. Donald Trump, for example, whose record on Griner’s imprisonment has long been a mess, responded to her release by attacking her patriotism.
On Capitol Hill, GOP responses were hardly any better. Republican Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas, for example, suggested the athlete’s release may have been secretly related to congressional approval of the Respect for Marriage Act. The same day, Republican Rep. James Comer of Kentucky appeared on Fox News and made a curious reference to, of all people, Hunter Biden:
“[W]e fear that this administration’s compromised because of the millions of dollars that Hunter Biden and Joe Biden have received from Russia and China. You look at just what happened yesterday. This bizarre prisoner swap that clearly was in the benefit of Russia, is another example of why we need to investigate to see if, in fact, this administration is compromised.”
Right off the bat, let’s note for the record that the White House has not been “compromised” by the United States’ foreign foes. That said, if the GOP congressman is looking for an American president facing legitimate questions about his ties to Russia, I can think of someone the Kentuckian should find fascinating.
What’s more, the prisoner swap that brought Griner home wasn’t “bizarre.”
But watching Comer suggest that the Griner story might, in some unexplained way, help justify Republicans’ fixation on President Joe Biden’s son is part of an interesting pattern.
In May, The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank examined some rhetoric from Comer, who’ll soon become chairman of the House Oversight Committee. Summarizing the Republican congressman’s outlandish claims, the columnist explained, “So, to recap, Hunter Biden controls cobalt in Congo, fentanyl in Mexico, coronavirus in Wuhan and war in Ukraine. It is just a matter of time until Republicans find a Hunter Biden angle in Jeffrey Epstein’s demise and UFOs off the coast of California. ‘Where’s Hunter?’ went the popular refrain at Trump rallies. Now we know. In the Republican imagination, Hunter is everywhere.”
Six months later, literally one day after the GOP secured a House majority thanks to this year’s midterm elections, Comer led a news conference about the subject of his preoccupation. At one point, one of the reporters covering the event asked the lawmakers a substantive question unrelated to the GOP conspiracy theories. Comer quickly tried to nip the line of inquiry in the bud.
A month after that, Comer saw Griner return home, and his thoughts drifted, once again, to Hunter Biden.
There’s a scene in “Being John Malkovich” in which John Malkovich crawls into the head of John Malkovich (it’s kind of a long story). Suddenly, the actor finds himself stuck in a nightmare in which Malkovich is everywhere and he quickly becomes overwhelmed.
Every time Comer focuses anew on Hunter Biden, the scene comes to mind: The incoming chairman of the House Oversight Committee apparently sees the president’s son everywhere, all the time, and it’s becoming overwhelming.