The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Monday, December 11, 2023

It’s Monday, December 11, 2023.

I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

One Down, Two to Go? Moral Pressure Builds After Disastrous Appearance Before Congressional Committee Reveals Moral Disaster in Elite Academia

As we went into the weekend, one of the biggest stories in the United States had to do with controversy surrounding three universities and in particular the presidents of those universities. The universities would be Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And what all three of those presidents shared in common was that they had appeared before a house committee. And quite frankly, all three of them committed absolute malpractice as not only a university president but as a human being with any kind of decent moral compass. All three of them blew the question as to whether or not calling for the genocide of the Jewish people on their campuses would be unacceptable behavior that could lead to charges in terms of student discipline.

All three of them failed the test. They failed it miserably and they failed it publicly. Friday, I published an article at WORLD Opinion entitled The Moral Rot Starts at the Top. And that’s exactly what we’re looking at here. We are looking at a moral rot in our society and we have known for a long time that this ideological moral rot has been spreading campus by campus, program by program, professor by professor, student group by student group. But now we have absolute proof and we also have ample documentation, the rot by no surprise starts at the top.

But over the weekend, three presidents became two presidents and a former president, and in all likelihood, the pressure for termination or for resignation is likely only to grow when it comes to the presidents of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Elizabeth Magill who appeared last week before Congress as the president of the University of Pennsylvania is now very quickly to be the former president of the University of Pennsylvania.

She announced her resignation just before a special called meeting of the board of trustees. The announcement of her resignation came in the ensuing controversy after the congressional hearing. Elizabeth Magill, the president at the University of Pennsylvania an Ivy League university, one of America’s top ranked universities, she had attempted to do a bit of damage control, but it was too late. Indeed it was way too late. It was also too late for the chairman of the university’s board of trustees, Scott L. Bok, who also has resigned from his post.

Mary Elizabeth Magill had only taken office as the ninth president of the University of Pennsylvania, a matter of just over a year ago. Prior to that, she had been the dean of the law school at Stanford University. She had gone to Penn first as provost and upon the retirement of the then president, she was elected to that office last summer.

It’s safe to say she had had a very rocky tenure as the president of Pennsylvania. By the way, the presidency in any of these major universities right now is a very dangerous position. For example, another major American university, in this case Michigan State University just recently named it sixth president in six years. That’s the kind of turmoil you see on these campuses, but the campuses have largely invited the turmoil because they’ve given themselves over to ideological revolutionaries, and, as is so common in revolutions on the left, the new revolutionaries simply turn on the older revolutionaries. By the time you’re elected president of one of these universities that say MIT, University of Pennsylvania, Harvard to take the three presidents in central controversy right now, you may have begun on the academic left, but by the time you take office, the ideologues will have moved far to your left and you’ll be seen as the enemy.

On the other hand, what we see in these three presidents and in particular with the controversy that is directed at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, what we see is that here you have the complete moral abdication of responsibility. This is absolute moral rot. If you can’t answer and you can’t answer convincingly that on your campus calls for the genocide of the Jewish people would be actionable offenses in terms of the campus discipline code, then quite frankly you need to close the university, which in the case of several of these schools would not be a bad idea.

The pressure at Pennsylvania was growing after you had made your donors withdrawing support. You also had the board of the Wharton School, which is the very respected business school of the University of Pennsylvania, openly calling for the president’s resignation or removal. And then you had members of Congress doing the same. And as the nation went into the weekend, at least 74 members of Congress signed a letter demanding the removal or resignation of these academic leaders.

The announcement of Liz Magill’s resignation at the University of Pennsylvania came as no surprise. There was no way in practical terms she was going to survive the special called meeting at the board of trustees scheduled for noon on Sunday. That tells you something about the urgency. But here’s where we need to understand that the removal of one president doesn’t really resolve much of anything. As a matter of fact, you can have a consolidation on the left in which the new president can actually be far to the left even of the former president because right now the left is winning virtually every single battle in these academic contexts.

The focus is likely now to turn to Claudine Gay, the president at Harvard who’s also been in that role only for a short amount of time. She actually just assumed office July the first of this year. It’s been a rocky road already and calls for her resignation are coming heavily and they’re coming fast. And once again, they’re backed with major donors who are saying they’re just going to stop giving to Harvard. You also have the members of Congress. You also have the fact that congressional committees are now indicating that they are likely to launch formal investigations of these universities. And that should make all the other elite American universities a bit nervous as well because they know whether Congress is aware of it yet that they are also a big part of the problem. Most of them.

We’re going to be following this story very closely because it’s likely to turn and turn again even in the course of the next several days. That’s the way this works. These institutions have a huge problem and institutions tend to solve these problems by trying to translate them merely into personnel issues. But when you look at these three universities, the big problem is actually not the presidents. The presidents are where the rot is at the top, but they didn’t put themselves there.

A board of trustees or its equivalent had to elect them and a campus culture had to have produced them. And it is simply a swamp that was created by ideology on the one hand and political activism on the other hand. And quite frankly right now, administrators who are scared of everyone on the left starting with the students. As I say, we’ll be following this very closely because as we think about the future of our culture, there actually are few stories right now more important than this one. But there are some side stories here. There always are and they turn out to be very interesting.

Elizabeth Magill, by the way, the president of the University of Pennsylvania who just resigned over the weekend. She’s a lawyer. She’s been a law professor for a number of years. And one of the problems when these three presidents appeared before the House Committee in recent days is that they didn’t answer as human beings with a moral compass, they answered as if they had been briefed by lawyers and for that matter badly briefed, and badly served.

They bear responsibility. The institutions that took this route bear the responsibility. Ultimately, boards of trustees in this respect also bear the responsibility, but it does turn out that one particular elite law firm bears a lot of responsibility. The law firm is known as WilmerHale and the New York Times broke the story that the one law firm had prepared the two leaders in the greatest controversy and prepared them extensively for how they were to answer the questions posed in this congressional hearing.

Now, there is no doubt that they answered the questions disastrously in very lawyerly ways. That’s not a statement against lawyers. It is to say that lawyerly in this sense is not a compliment because it appeared that they were evasive trying not to say anything that might be actionable or might create further problems for them.

Again, let’s remind ourselves it was an absolute disaster if that was the intention. It had the opposite effect. These presidents responded as amoral automatons rather than as moral beings, and that’s at least a part of the problem. But it is also interesting to notice that this is how things work. If you’re going to have a major elite university president appearing before Congress, they’re going to spend hours upon hours being briefed, not by, say, ethicists, not by people who are talking about the reality, for instance of the horror of genocide. No, they’re going to be briefed by lawyers. And the lawyers are going to be telling them to hide behind policy and they’re also going to be advising them to speak in very, very careful language that is intended to avoid trouble.

Now, of course, again, it had the opposite effect and predictably so. Who would’ve thought that the kind of question about genocide, public calls for genocide against the Jewish people would bring a lawyerly response. Even if you were to tell that story, say a week before it happened, I think few Americans, even Americans knowledgeable about the rot in American universities, would believe that the rot could stink this much in public. The belief would be that these presidents would at least put on a better show than they actually did when they appeared before this committee.

But there’s something else in terms of worldview analysis that appears in this article in the New York Times. One of the statements is this, “Critics said the answers appeared to be too focused on whether conduct would violate the First Amendment.” One lawyer speaking about this, Edward Rock, professor of law at New York University said, “Once they were in that box, I think they stuck with their preparation. That’s why they came across so wooden, and then afterward they realized it was a terrible answer.”

Here’s the worldview question. Did they realize it was a terrible answer because it went over so badly or because they heard the words that they themselves had spoken and said that is a moral abhorrence? The indication in the context of this letter is that it was the former rather than the latter, another indication of just how rotten this whole business is.

One more very interesting angle on this appears in this article when Claudine Gay, the president of Harvard is cited trying to clean up the controversy after she was back at Cambridge.

She said, “Let me be clear. Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community or any religious or ethnic group are vile. They have no place at Harvard and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account.” Well, how President Gay? How are they going to be held to account? You, before a congressional committee just said that the rules at Harvard don’t call out that kind of behavior as on its face unacceptable. This president along with the others said that it’s only when the speech leads to some kind of action that it might be a violation of the student code.

Well, what changed? Have you changed the policy at Harvard? Have you told anyone you changed the policy? Well, the answer is by now they couldn’t have changed the policy. The president has changed her story and not very plausibly. So again, I just have to say we’re going to be following this and no doubt there will be more to say. There’ll be more to know in coming days.

Part II

Massive New Indictment Against Hunter Biden Reveals Key Evidence: Hunter Biden’s Own Memoir

But next, as we’re talking about big moral issues that have to be handled very sensitively and very accurately, we need to turn to the new indictment against Hunter Biden, the 53-year-old son of the President of the United States. Perpetually all of his adult life, Hunter Biden has been the object of controversy because he’s made himself controversial because he’s made himself notorious.

And of course, he became the subject of headlines in the course of the last year because after a very long investigation by an independent counsel, there was supposedly a plea agreement that had been arranged and was actually to go into effect before a federal judge months ago.

But that plea agreement fell apart at the last minute. The judge found it quite unacceptable, structured in such a way that the court was going to have to take unusual responsibility. And it also fell apart because Hunter Biden and his legal counsel backed out of the agreement once the prosecutor indicated that there was no assurance that there would not be further charges.

Now, of course, there’s a political context here. Hunter Biden is being discussed precisely because his father is president of the United States, and furthermore, the accusation is that the president of the United States benefited in some way by his son or cooperated with his son or assisted his son. And even as you have people saying, “Well, that’s not at this point the point of the indictment.” And that’s true, it’s not structured in that way, but it is likely that things are going to get very, very, very hot and very difficult for the Biden White House.

Now, remember that once the plea agreement fell apart months ago, the special prosecutor brought three felony gun charges against Hunter Biden, but now you have another series of charges. In this case, nine charges for evading $1.4 million in federal taxes between the years 2016 and 2019. In this case, three felony and six misdemeanor charges. So now there are six misdemeanor charges altogether and six felony charges against the son of the President of the United States.

But in this case, the indictment on the tax evasion came with an incredible amount of documentation. Now in our legal system, in our system of criminal justice, an individual is innocent until proven guilty. There’s the presumption of innocence. So we do not speak of someone who has neither confessed to the crime nor been found guilty of the crime. We do not speak of that person in our legal system as having committed the crimes but having been charged with the crimes.

But we can speak honestly about the evidence and in this case, the evidence is quite frankly overwhelming. And that’s why you see so many even who are friendly to the president, even associates of the president, even office holders in the president’s own party who are beginning to create as much distance as they can between themselves and Hunter Biden, if not President Joe Biden.

As a matter of fact, it’s really interesting to note that the main argument being made right now among people in the Democratic leadership is that this is an unfair prosecution of the president’s son because he is the president’s son, but there’s also a determined effort to say that there is no evidence of the president was complicit in the crimes. But here’s what we do know. We do know that Hunter Biden was involved in all kinds of businesses and made millions upon millions of dollars for no obvious reason other than his last name was Biden.

And an awful lot of this money was made during the time that Joe Biden was vice president of the United States under President Barack Obama and was directly involved in the affairs, for example, of Ukraine having ought to do with American engagement with Ukraine and American financial support for Ukraine. And at the very same time by coincidence, his son with no apparent talents whatsoever was involved in making millions of dollars with Ukrainian companies for projects that had never been explained. It is also well-known and has been attested that the big guy that is to say the vice president of the United States during part of this time, Joe Biden did appear or did speak on the phone in such a way that at least we can say it was convenient for the undisclosed business affairs of his son.

It is really interesting that Abbe Lowell, very well-known defense attorney in the United States in criminal cases, it’s very interesting that Abbe Lowell, who is Hunter Biden’s attorney, made the statement, the accusation, the special prosecutor was bowing to political pressure from Republicans. And then he went on and he said, “On the facts and the law, if Hunter’s last name was anything other than Biden the charges in Delaware, now California would not have been brought.”

Now, Abbe Lowell, that is to say Hunter Biden’s attorney clearly did not mean to set up his client, but that’s exactly what he did because the obvious rejoinder to the charge that there would be no such charges, criminal charges against Hunter if his last name was not Biden as to point out that there never would’ve been the income in the first place if his last name had not been Biden. It’s also fascinating that in the actual documents of the indictment, one of the key charges is that Hunter Biden had sought to evade paying taxes again over a million dollars in taxes.

And one of the ways he had done it was to cover up for spending and it was absolutely grotesque levels of spending for things that were, well, absolutely grotesque, such as strippers, staying in luxury hotels, charging vast amounts of money. It’s really interesting that Hunter Biden is alleged by the government to have been paid for no apparent reason, because the indictment clearly says that these were not expenses related to a business because they couldn’t find any work done whatsoever.

The indictment accuses Hunter Biden of having filed “false business deductions” and furthermore said that he willfully ignored the obligations to pay his taxes and instead was involved in tax evasion and then a coverup. What makes this particular indictment particularly interesting is the amount of documentation that was released, but there’s another fascinating angle to this. Of course, there’s politics here. You’re talking about the son of the President of the United States, and by the way, the president himself has made this political by arguing that this is just an effort to try to get at him.

Well, this may get at him, but it will be at least partially his fault. And of course, it’s easy simply to say everybody does it. And when it comes to numerous presidents and presidential families, and that includes the Trump family as well, there are all kinds of questionable business deals. And quite honestly, there is no way to keep the lines clear if you’re going to put members of your family in the government or in any kind of service that might benefit by the government and its policies and decisions.

So as you’re looking at this, you recognize, yes, it’s easy to point the finger all over the place, but right now the most important thing is that the finger being pointed at Hunter Biden is being pointed by federal prosecutors. We’re not just talking about the media here, we’re not talking about just making headlines, we’re talking about the potential of massive criminal convictions. But there’s another fascinating aspect of all of this just in what is known already and is in this documentation, and frankly long before it was in documentation, it was in print. And it was in print because Hunter Biden wrote a book.

He wrote the equivalent of an autobiography or at least a memoir, and he wrote himself of what he was doing at this time with this money. His own words have now appeared repeatedly in the indictment. In the memoir, he says that he was addicted to alcohol and crack cocaine and made very clear that was at least in part, in large part what he was spending his money on, that is to say not related to business. And when it comes to the business, no one can figure out exactly what the business was anyway.

It’s really interesting that the New York Times on Saturday ran a half page article in the print edition, a major article with a headline, Salacious And Indictment Buoys GOP, but Fails to Implicate President. It is really interesting that just about everyone has to try to put this exclusively into a political framework. GOP buoyed this says, but the president is not yet implicated.

Well, a couple of big things to recognize there. Is that the tripwire? Is that the threshold? Is that the bottom line? If the President is not criminally implicated, there’s no moral responsibility. I don’t think the American people are going to buy that argument. But the other thing is that of course this is political. In a fallen world, everything gets political, and if you are a politician of the long tenure of Joe Biden, that means you’ve got a lot of political friends. It means you’ve got a lot of political enemies.

When it comes to Joe Biden’s political friends and his enemies, he has worked hard at earning both. Joe Biden couldn’t order a Happy Meal at McDonald’s without it becoming a political issue, nor could Donald Trump, or Ron DeSantis, or Nikki Haley or any number of other people because if you’re going to play in that realm of politics, guess what, folks? Everything is now political. In any event, it’s going to be very interesting to see what takes place here and to watch it closely, and we’re going to have to do that in weeks and months and dread the thought maybe even years to come.

But it is also a reminder to us that when you have a system of law and order, much of the most important moral action actually takes place within that system of law and order. That system follows particular rules. And those rules are important to the rule of law. And it’s going to be very important that those rules be followed. But at the end of the day, the justice system may move slowly, but it does move.

One way or another, there is no doubt we’re going to be returning to this story in time to come.

Part III

The Charade of a Tyrant: Vladimir Putin Announced He Will Run for President … Again

Meanwhile, there was a big announcement coming out of Moscow. Guess what? Headline News, big shock. Vladimir Putin has announced that he’s going to run for another term as Russia’s president. And here’s the thing about being a tyrant and an autocrat, even as the election is set for the 17th of March of the year 2024, if you know anything about Russian politics and anything about Vladimir Putin and anything about autocracy, then you already know you can write the headline in advance.

Vladimir Putin has announced he’s running for president, and I can tell you with absolute assurance, he will win and he will win in a landslide. You don’t have to count the votes, frankly, you don’t even have to have the vote because the vote already in because the only vote that matters is Vladimir Putin’s vote. But nonetheless, the charade is put on. It’s all put on as a show and you have to admit the show is clumsy, but it is in its own way interesting if pathetic.

It just so happened that with the big question looming as to whether or not Putin would run for another term, and remember, he led or forced a constitutional revision so that he could run for another term, which means he will be decades in office as the leader of Russia. The only exception was when the constitution did not allow him to serve as President, so he got himself made prime minister, and he actually ran the country, but then he was elected president again and he changed the constitution so that he can be president basically for life. At this point, certainly until the year 2036.

But as I said, it has to be set up as a show, and this is always true of tyrants. There always has to be a show. And in this case, it is a ridiculous show and attempted legitimacy. In an event at the Kremlin late last week, it just so happened entirely by accident, entirely as a coincidence that a couple of military figures who were being honored there at the Kremlin, who happened to be from the area of Ukraine now under Russian control, asked the president if he would not run for another term because of course they want to vote for him.

It was the kind of show that would be embarrassing except for the fact this is the way totalitarian governments work. Several in the international media noted that the event seemed to be highly choreographed. You think? The soldier said that they just couldn’t wait to vote for Vladimir Putin and they wanted him to pledge that self-sacrificially he would assure to run again. In response to the soldiers, Putin said this quote, “I won’t hide it. I had different thoughts at different times. But now you are right,” said Putin. “The time is such when a decision needs to be made, I will run for president of Russia.” Well, there you have it, question asked, question answered.

Part IV

The Application of the Law and Its Preservation of Human Dignity: Life and Death Hang in the Balance in Texas Abortion Case

As we close today here in the United States, a life and death drama is being played out in the state of Texas as a woman is seeking an abortion and she’s claiming that there should be a medical exemption that would allow her abortion against current Texas law or as an exception to the Texas law because of a threat to her health or her fertility. The baby has been diagnosed with the genetic condition, which is generally fatal and often shortly after birth.

What we’re seeing here is that pro-abortion forces are seizing on this as an illustration they say of why the Texas law is so Draconian and needs to be changed. And at the same time, the Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is fighting the exemption in court. It went back and forth as the nation went into the weekend, and it will assuredly be back in court in Texas as we begin this new week.

So any of the issues we discuss come down to good and evil and right and wrong, and yet at times it comes down to life and death, and that’s the situation in Texas. There will be events unfolding in days to come and we’ll be tracking it with you. But in the meantime, it’s important for us to recognize that human dignity rides not only on the law, but on the application of the law. When it comes to the pro-abortion side, we need to be honest and say they’re not really seeking exemptions to a law that they admit is righteous. They want to eliminate any pro-life law entirely.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to

For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to

I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me using the contact form. Follow regular updates on Twitter at @albertmohler.

Subscribe via email for daily Briefings and more (unsubscribe at any time).