Special counsel David Weiss’ indictment of President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, is “a smokescreen,” according to Mike Howell, director of the Oversight Project, the watchdog arm of The Heritage Foundation. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of Heritage.)

Howell says the three drug-related gun charges against the younger Biden “are the smallest things that Hunter Biden should be facing in any fair and impartial investigation. It would be like charging the Unabomber with mail fraud or stamp fraud or something.”

“I mean, there are serious things like running an international pay-to-play, influencing-peddling scheme involving Chinese intelligence officers in some of the most corrupt corners of the world in Ukraine, and having your father fire a prosecutor over it,” says Howell, who is also an investigative columnist for The Daily Signal, adding:

So, those are the big things that should be focused on, but instead, they’re trying to get him on the small stuff here to give some appearance of the law actually being enforced.

Howell joins today’s episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss the three charges, what’s next for the younger Biden’s indictment, and some of the other work the Oversight Project is doing.

Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:

Samantha Aschieris: Joining today’s episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast” is Mike Howell, director of the Oversight Project at The Heritage Foundation. Mike, thanks so much for joining us.

Mike Howell: Hey, thanks for having me.

Aschieris: Now, before we get into today’s topics, can you tell us a little bit more about the Oversight Project?

Howell: Right. So, we launched this about a year and a half ago. It is a recognition that we’re living in perhaps the most corrupt time in American history. And so the institutional Right and the American people deserve entities that are able to go out there and investigate and litigate on their behalf. And so, traditionally, The Heritage Foundation has been a real policy engine for the Right, but we wanted to add a new tool to our toolkit.

And so recognizing also that Congress hasn’t been able to get much in the way out of information, the executive branch or any accountability, by the way, we’re stepping in and filling that void through an all-star team of investigators and litigators.

So we go out—and all these major issues, you hear Congressman X, Y, Z sends a letter, they get nothing back. Well, we sue for that same stuff and we get stuff back because we’re in federal court.

And then you pair that up with some real exciting investigative tools and you’re really cooking with gas, applying this to the major policy issues of the day, I think really giving the American people what they’ve been missing for a long time, especially with the media just being completely co-opted, and that’s the straight, honest truth and the documents to back it up.

Aschieris: That’s great. You have all been doing such great work. And I want to talk more about what kind of work you’ve been doing, but first let’s talk about Hunter Biden.

Just last week on Sept. 14 the president’s son was indicted. As Fred Lucas reports, “The three-count indictment accuses Hunter Biden of lying on a form to purchase a Colt Cobra revolver by not revealing his addiction to crack cocaine. Conviction on the three charges could bring Biden up to 25 years in prison.”

First and foremost, can you tell us a little bit more about these three charges?

Howell: Yeah, absolutely. But at the outset, let me just say that these are the smallest things that Hunter Biden should be facing in any fair and impartial investigation. It would be like charging the Unabomber with mail fraud or stamp fraud or something.

I mean, there are serious things, like running an international pay-to-play, influencing-peddling scheme involving Chinese intelligence officers in some of the most corrupt corners of the world in Ukraine and having your father fire a prosecutor over it. So those are the big things that should be focused on, but instead, they’re trying to get him on the small stuff here to give some appearance of the law actually being enforced.

So on this gun thing, it’s important to recognize what actually happened. So, after Hunter’s brother Beau Biden unfortunately passed away, Hunter began a romantic relationship with his brother’s widow. And it was his brother’s widow who discovered a gun in Hunter Biden’s car when he was openly and notoriously addicted to drugs and all sorts of trouble. She then took that gun and threw it away in a grocery store dumpster.

When Hunter found out the gun was missing and she did that, he asked her to go get it. She went to go get it and it was missing. She alerted the grocery store manager who then reviewed the tapes and saw that a man who dug through trash found it. The police were called, there was concern because the dumpster was across the street from a high school.

So this is a horrendous fact pattern, absolutely just disgusting behavior all the way around. And so that’s what he was charged with, is lying on his form about being a drug user. So he was illegally in possession of a gun, that in addition to some tax crimes are what’s at play here.

Initially what [the Justice Department], after five years of investigating that crime—which that fact pattern has been known for a long time, so what took five years? I think you can answer that. It was political interference into the case.

Attorney [David] Weiss, who’s out of Delaware, cooked up a plea deal between Hunter and the government, which basically said, “OK, we are going to forgive you for every crime under the sun, including this international business peddling, but we’re going to give you pretrial diversion for the gun charge.”

And so that’s when we got involved with the Heritage Oversight Project. We were already suing DOJ on a lot of matters related to this, but we basically wrote a monster of a brief, and we were the first ones to do so, and I think only one of two at the end of the day that walked through all these issues with the judge overseeing it, saying, “There is a sweetheart giveaway, ‘get out of jail free’ card hidden in this plea deal.”

And that’s what blew up the plea deal, this recognition that this is not the way you absolve someone. It was essentially a pardon from [Attorney General] Merrick Garland and President [Joe] Biden to the first son over this diversionary deal.

So then that got scrapped and Weiss became special counsel—which is an abomination because he’s the one who should be under investigation himself—and actually took it to a grand jury who then decided to charge him. And so that’s where it’s at now.

Obviously, you went over the range of punishment that could be dolled out. We’ll see what ends up happening. The Bidens are going to fight this. We obviously know how weaponized the Department of Justice is. I would encourage the listeners not to buy into the appearance that they’re trying to sell that this is justice working, it’s not. It’s a big distraction.

Aschieris: And just speaking of our listeners, my next question was, what is the most important takeaway that our audience, our listeners, need to know about the indictment?

Howell: It’s not the indictment itself, they should need to know the indictment is a smokescreen. That unfortunately we are living in a highly, highly corrupt time in American history.

Never in the course of this nation’s history have we had a president that’s so clearly implicated in wrongdoing. We’re talking, over the course of a decade, a lot of money, well over $20 million that’s been identified going into tons of Biden family members who set up all sorts of different LLCs, which certainly appears to be for the purposes of money laundering.

You have official actions that have been tied to this in the firing of the Ukraine prosecutor that was investigating Hunter. You have Joe being intricately involved in the business, whether that’s in meetings, whether it’s on emails using his pseudonym, whether it’s Hunter’s business partner basically testifying that Joe was the product and the entire brand.

And so I think It’s really sad and unfortunate, but we need to be really clear-eyed about the fact that this is unacceptable. We cannot have this.

Our country lived through variations of this in the Clintons when they were running the Clinton Global Foundation and obviously, a lot of corruption there. [Former President Barack] Obama didn’t have to work too hard to make his money because big corporations like Netflix and company basically backed up the Brink’s trucks for him.

But this is a really, really poorly structured corruption scheme that we’re looking at and we just can’t tolerate it and it’s unacceptable.

Aschieris: What are the next steps for the indictment? What happens next?

Howell: It depends. If Weiss is actually investigating this—which, if you were a betting person, I would bet no—are they going to proceed with the real charges? And that’s the international pay-to-play scheme that’s apparent to everybody with any activity between their ears.

So that’s what I’m looking for.

As it relates to the gun charge, we’ll see. The Hunter Biden team has taken the offensive against the House. So last week they announced an impeachment inquiry. The first two major pieces of legal action were from the Biden team.

So the Biden team is suing the IRS whistleblowers, they’re saying they didn’t comply with the law. It’s outrageous because they certainly did. They went through this long process with the Ways and Means Committee to release information and that’s exactly what they did legally and ethically. And they’re also suing Marco Polo, which is the entity that put out the report on the Hunter Biden laptop.

And so they’re basically tying up, the Biden team is tying up the key sources of information for the House in federal court and the House hasn’t taken any steps in furtherance of their impeachment inquiry. So the table’s been flipped a bit.

It’s very frustrating, especially as someone who believes that whistleblowers deserve every last protection regardless of policies or politics, and I would like to see them protected more.

Aschieris: Now, in addition to Hunter Biden’s indictment, I also wanted to ask you more about the work that Oversight has been doing. Just recently you issued a memo on the investigation and trial of Dr. Patrick Ho. First and foremost, who is Dr. Patrick Ho?

Howell: So, Patrick Ho is currently in federal jail. He was a business partner of Hunter and by extension Joe. He was referred to by Hunter as “The bleeping spy chief of China.” OK, this is somebody with connections to [Chinese Communist Party] intelligence.

He was operating a group called CEFC, which was a Chinese energy conglomerate that was in business with Hunter. He got tied up in a, guess what, international bribery scheme—that’s kind of the pattern we’re seeing here—actually related to things in Africa. And so he went to jail for that.

To make matters more interesting, guess who his lawyer was? His lawyer was Hunter Biden for his case. He paid Hunter Biden a million dollars for “legal services,” which clearly, to me, appears to be a way to just get some political help by giving the president’s son a million dollars or tie things up with this fake attorney-client privilege for someone who’s probably not even doing any real legal work.

All sorts of questions about the DOJ’s handling of this case. Patrick Ho, I think, was subject to some surveillance, there’s tons of emails and communications to which the DOJ would’ve had awareness of Hunter Biden’s involvement in this. Obviously, no investigations or prosecutions emanated from that. So you have to wonder why DOJ, faced with what looks like a mound of evidence, did nothing.

Also, in the court filings you see this redaction of Hunter Biden and the Bidens from the records. And so that certainly appears as they’re trying to protect the Bidens from political fallout.

So these are the people that, if the House was doing a thorough, thorough job, would be center in the public campaign to let people know about how this corruption actually worked. So to that end, we stepped into the void and we put out about a 20-page memo that lays this all out. Check us out at Oversight PR, @OversightPR, on, I guess we call it X now, and we’ll walk you through every last part of this.

Aschieris: I will definitely make sure to include a link to the memo in the show notes so people can easily access it. In addition to this memo that you put out, what other work is the Oversight Project doing?

Howell: We’re all over the board. All the major issues of the day, we’re there. We are very aggressive in that we have, I think, about 35 active lawsuits right now for every topic under the sun.

Some of the recent high-profile successes on the pro-life front; what’s happening with the Supreme Court justices where basically the Biden administration and Merrick Garland made it a policy to allow the breaking of the law to intimidate them by protest over their house—that’s a retaliation for overturning Roe v. Wade and it’s completely lawless that the president is indirectly allowing intimidation of the Supreme Court he doesn’t like.

So we have been putting out document after document that basically shows how that has been working in practice.

We saw that the U.S. Marshals were directed not to arrest anybody who is engaged in this illegal activity under USC 1507 and instead gets to do this, take notes. Their job is to document it. And this is happening around the context and the time of an assassination attempt on [Justice] Brett Kavanaugh. And you have the U.S. Marshals saying, “Hey, we have seen no threats, no credible threats.” And so putting out a lot of information to further that.

On the border—and I’m a little biased here because I’m a former [Department of Homeland Security] guy from the Trump administration—we’ve been all over them.

One of the big things that we uncovered was [Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro] Mayorkas, after this fake whipping incident at the border where a bunch of liberals saw a horse and then just assumed that it was a whipping incident, we found out that Mayorkas knew there was no whipping. He was told by a staff.

And then he went to the White House podium and basically said it was a very racist thing he saw at the border and they just drug these guys through the mud and they tried to refer them for criminal prosecution. They wanted to lock up Border Patrol agents for securing the border.

And then guess what? When they figured out they couldn’t prosecute them, out of everybody in the world, the first person they wanted to break the bad news to was none other than Al Sharpton. This is how the libs work. It’s often these caricatures you see out there, they’re accurate. The DOJ’s like, “We got bad news, somebody call Uncle Al.” It is just outrageous.

But we could pick any different policy area that’s top of mind and we got a case there and documents that we’re putting out.

Aschieris: Any final thoughts on any of the topics that we discussed today?

Howell: Stay vigilant. I think one of the biggest problems with us on the Right is we let these things go. It’s a news cycle-type environment, it’s a social media-type environment. We need to see the connective thread between all of this and that’s one of corruption and that’s corruption in its classic sense of financial corruption, we’re certainly seeing that at the highest levels.

We’re also seeing that via policy with the veneer of legitimacy, whether it’s this COVID money or this transportation money that didn’t really go to transportation and infrastructure or if it’s the so-called Inflation Reduction Act, which was just another boondoggle.

We’re getting ripped off. There is power that is being illegitimately weaponized against us and it has legitimately awful consequences.

And so don’t take it one bite at a time, realize it’s the whole thing and our mission, not only as conservatives, but this is across party lines and political persuasions. We just need to get some legitimacy back in government. And we don’t have that now and it’s OK to say we don’t have that now because that’s the only way we get it back.

Aschieris: Well, Mike Howell, thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate it.

Howell: Hey, thanks for having me.

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