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April 18, 2024

James O’Keefe and his hidden camera have done it again.  This time, he helps us answer the question, “Who, behind the scenes, is really running the Biden White House?”  (I think we have a pretty good idea who isn’t.) 

This time, the hapless subject caught on camera is Tyler Robinson, special adviser to Arthur Plews, the administrator of the Small Business Administration.  Plews is chief of staff to Isabel Guzman, director of the SBA.  Guzman was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris in 2021.

Before he gets into who’s running things at the White House, Robinson tells the undercover female journalist across the table from him at a restaurant how civil service employees work around the Hatch Act to do their politicking.  He explains to her that that his office isn’t supposed to do anything overtly political but confirms that the SBA is indirectly campaigning for Biden and “helping retain members of Congress to get re-elected.”  Guzman is traveling every week, he says, and making media appearances all over the country --- with an apparent emphasis on swing states --- to say “this is what the Biden administration is doing for you…”

As he explains it, Guzman can’t just go onstage and say, “Vote for Joe Biden!” because directly campaigning for him would be illegal under the Hatch Act, which covers all civil service employees.  She’s indirectly electioneering, though, on these trips.  This is how they essentially skirt the law against mixing campaigning with government business.  Sounds as though they might not violate the letter of the law but certainly do violate the spirit.

“Any time we go, we try to visit with a member of Congress, if they’re a Democrat,” Robinson says.  “So we’re going to Montana because Sen. Tester --- he’s the Democratic senator from Montana --- like, he’s in a tough re-election race.  And that’s like a seat we need in the Senate to maintain a majority.”  The whole office went on this politically important trip because the White House said to go, and it was arranged for Sen. Tester to appear at their event.  But they were not to invite the other senator, “because he’s a Republican.”

“And don’t invite the two members of Congress, because they’re Republicans.”

“So, the White House authorized you guys to go campaign for this senator?” the undercover woman asks.

“Yeah,” he answers, qualifying that it can’t be overt, like sending out an email to small businesses to say vote for Joe Biden.  But they get the sign-off to go on these trips from White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients.  “By getting Jeff’s sign-off, you’re getting the President’s sign-off,” Robinson says.  He calls Zients “the second most powerful person in Washington, DC.”  Sounds as though he might be the first.

“Generally, like, most of the time, it’s like, ‘whatever this guy says is what the President says.’”  And, yes, he can sign off on authorizations without asking the President.  He’s not elected but apparently can act in the President’s stead.  “I would imagine,” Robinson says, “if you, like, ask people who the White House Chief of Staff was, I’d doubt anybody outside of Washington DC would know...Like, the average American wouldn’t know who he is.”

So, who is Jeff Zients, the man who Robinson says “runs the White House”?  Well, he was named by FORTUNE magazine as one of their “40 under 40,” with an estimated wealth of $149 million, having been a management consultant before becoming head of DGB Enterprises, a holding company for the Advisory Board Company, Corporate Executive Board, and Atlantic Media Company, publisher --- no surprise here --- of the left-wing magazine THE ATLANTIC.  He’s been on the board of Facebook and has held numerous other corporate positions.

Zients was chosen by Biden in 2021 to head his COVID response.  I guess that went so well (sarcasm alert) that he was the logical choice for chief of staff when that slot came open.

It’s Zients who sets the President’s agenda, Robinson says.  Ah, so Zients is probably the one officially responsible for “putting a lid on the day” after one or maybe two events.  Sounds like an easy schedule to coordinate, at least compared to that of most Presidents.  As Robison puts it, Zients “controls what gets said.”

Is Zients more powerful than Kamala Harris?  “In some ways yes, in some ways no,” Robinson says.  “Like, not legally, but in practice he is.”

With Biden’s shall-we-say diminished capacity to even form a coherent sentence --- Robinson doesn’t get into that at all --- we’ve naturally assumed that others at the White House have been doing the heavy lifting.  Robinson says there are “five or six people” around the President, “a solid group” who are especially close to him, having worked with him for over 30 years, and he names names.

Some of these are familiar.  There’s political operative and Biden’s first chief of staff, Ron Klain, the one who while he had that position was sometimes called “Biden’s Brain.”  (So THAT’S where it is!)  He and Biden go way back, with Klain working for Senator and later VP Biden.  He went on to work for Obama “for a little bit,” according to Robinson, and also “helped run the Hillary campaign.”  We found that it was Klain who prepped her for her presidential primary debates and later debates against Trump.

Klain also helped prep Biden in his debates with Trump.  Presumably, he crafted that dishonest answer Biden gave about Hunter’s laptop being Russian disinformation.

He was also found in violation of the Hatch Act in 2022 and, according to Wikipedia, “was warned not to do it again.”  (Nothing ever happens to these people.)

Stever Ricchetti is a less familiar name.  He’s a senior adviser at the White House, a counselor to the President who also has been with Biden “for years.”

Another senior adviser:  Anita Dunn, who started her career in the Carter White House (!).  Her name might sound more familiar, as this top political strategist is an Obama holdover.  You might recall that early in Obama’s first term, she made news for having said in a speech to a high school graduating class that Chairman Mao was one of her favorite political philosophers.  Not a good look.  (She later said she’d borrowed the quote from Republican strategist Lee Atwater.)

Dunn has been married for three decades to Bob Bauer, who is Biden’s personal lawyer and was White House counsel under Obama.  The WASHINGTON POST calls him “the godfather of Democratic election lawyers.”  The White House granted him an ethics exemption (insert own joke here) that allowed him to simultaneously represent the White House, Obama’s campaign, and Obama as an individual.

Robinson also cites “economics guy” Gene Sperling as one of the anointed.  But maybe the most powerful of all --- especially, we would add, with Biden’s diminishing capacities --- isn’t a White House official, though she runs the Biden Foundation at the University of Delaware.  it’s Biden’s younger sister, Valerie, who has been a key player throughout his political career.

“I mean, like the President can’t do everything,” Robinson says in the video, “so you have to delegate.”  Of course, most of us at this point are genuinely wondering if he can do much of anything.

Robinson also talked about the roles still being played by (oh yes) Obama and Hillary.  He agreed that Obama is still “heavily involved” but didn’t go into detail, at least in this edited conversation.  As for Hillary, “she has people that are like super close to her that are still like senior people in the White House.”  The one she’s probably talking to the most, likely on a daily basis, is Neera Tanden, whom we remember from the Obama White House.

The former CEO of the leftist think-tank Center for American Progress, Tanden is now director of the Domestic Policy Council.  Biden’s nomination of her to be budget director had to be pulled because her caustic, anti-Republican social media posts had been so unpalatable.  So he named her White House staff secretary instead.  (Way to go around Congress, Joe.)  She presumably is Hillary’s primary contact at the White House.

O’Keefe concludes that Biden’s closest advisers are “not merely political bureaucrats but an increasingly insular group of insiders with their hands in every aspect of party politics and corporate America.”  This should give you an idea of who might be running the show whenever Biden is mentally out to lunch and/or sunning himself on a Delaware beach.  In other words, all the time.

We also learn from this video that you can get a job pretty high up in government and still overuse the word “like” to an incredibly annoying degree.

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