Washington – In an effort to undermine his rival, Joe Biden, 20 days before the election, President Donald Trump’s campaign has been consumed by a populist story that offers strange twists to a familiar line of attack: Biden’s relationship with Ukraine. But the story in the New York Post raises more questions than answers, including about the originality of the email in the story center.
The story also traces its origins to Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who has repeatedly pushed for unfounded allegations about Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Even if the Washington Post emails are legitimate, they do not substantiate Trump and Giuliani’s claims that Biden’s actions were affected by his son’s business dealings in Ukraine.
A look at evolution:
How did Bin Biden become a problem in the campaign?
Hunter Biden joined the board of directors of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma in 2014, at a time when his father, then the US Vice President, was helping to direct the Obama administration’s foreign policy with Ukraine.
Senate Republicans said in a recent report that the appointment may have caused a conflict of interest, but they did not provide evidence that employment affected US policies.
Meanwhile, Trump and his supporters have advanced a widely discredited theory that Biden had pushed to fire a Ukrainian attorney general to protect his son and Porisma from the investigation. Biden did push for the attorney general to be fired, but this is because he was reflecting the official position not only of the Obama administration but also of many Western countries and because the attorney general was seen as being lenient with corruption.
What does the New York Mail story say?
The main email highlighted by The Post is a letter in May 2015 that said it was sent to Hunter Biden by Vadim Pozharsky, an advisor to the Burisma’s board of directors. In it, the younger Biden thanks “for inviting me to Washington, DC and for the opportunity to meet your father and spend some time together. It is true (sic) honor and happiness.”
The wording makes it unclear if he actually met Joe Biden. The Biden campaign said in a statement that it had reviewed Biden’s schedules since that time and that no meeting had taken place as described by the newspaper.
How did the post get the emails?
It is a tangled saga. The Post said it received a hard drive containing the letters on Sunday from Giuliani, which pushed the baseless idea that Ukraine was trying to interfere in the 2016 election and that the younger Biden may have enriched himself by selling his access to his father.
The Post says the emails were part of a batch of data retrieved from a laptop that was delivered at a computer repair store in Delaware in April 2019. It says the customer, who the owner couldn’t definitively identify as Hunter Biden, He never paid for service or restoration, and she says the owner made a copy of the hard drive he gave Giuliani’s lawyer.
The owner of the Wilmington store declined to comment Wednesday to The Associated Press, saying he did not feel like talking. The newspaper says the owner alerted the FBI to the computer and hard drive, and that agents had taken them over. This could not be confirmed immediately, and the FBI declined to comment on Wednesday.
In response to a question via text message from an Associated Press reporter about how long he had had on the hard drive, Giuliani replied: “You’re interested in the wrong thing. This time the truth won’t be defeated by the process. I have a lot to go for.”
Are new emails original?
The actual origins of the emails are unclear. Nina Jankovi, a fellow at the nonpartisan Wilson Center in Washington, said disinformation experts say there are several red flags that raise doubts about its authenticity, including questions about whether the laptop actually belongs to Hunter Biden.
The Biden campaign did not address the issue Wednesday and Hunter Biden’s attorney did not respond to an email requesting comment from the AP.
Another potential ultimatum is the involvement of another Trump colleague, Steve Bannon, who the newspaper said first alerted her to the emails, and who has been active with Giuliani in promoting an anti-Biden narrative in Ukraine.
“We should look at it as a product of the Trump campaign,” Jankovi? Said.
Thomas Reid, a disinformation expert at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, said it was not yet clear to him whether the emails had been hacked or forged, but said it “could be one or both of them.”
“A common feature of these processes is that they combine generic content with accurate content and fake content,” said Reid.
If true, are these emails damaging Biden?
The suggestion that Joe Biden may have met a Burisma representative is important, as he has repeatedly insisted that he never discuss his son’s business with him.
But the emails do not provide any details on whether Pozharsky and Biden actually met, and if so, what they discussed.
If Biden had met Bozarsky, he would not have been the only US official who might have done so. Pozharskyi was part of the Burisma delegation that lobbied Congress officials in 2014 in an effort to show that the company was not a corruption risk.
How did social media companies respond to the story?
Companies like Twitter and Facebook, which are already under pressure to monitor their programs before the election, quickly reported the article and moved to restrict its online access – a measure that Trump and his supporters have denounced, including Republicans in Congress.
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone announced on Twitter that the company is working to reduce the distribution of the article on its platform.
On Wednesday afternoon, Twitter began preventing its users from sharing article links in Tweets and direct messages because it violated the company’s policy banning hacked content.
What is the political influence?
With less than three weeks since Election Day and polls showing he is falling behind Biden, Trump appears to be returning to his opponent’s family to energize his base.
But in an election dominated by concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, it is not certain that Trump’s strategy will attract the voters he needs to win, including moderate Republicans and suburban women.
Trump called for a full account of Biden’s conversations with Hunter and Pozharsky. Trump said in an interview with Newsmax that the newspaper had “chilled Biden” with “serious” allegations.
At a campaign rally in Iowa on Wednesday night, Trump led the Washington story and described Biden as “a corrupt politician who shouldn’t even be allowed to run for president.”
Meanwhile, the Biden campaign pointed to a recent Republican-led Senate investigation that found no evidence of Biden wrongdoing with regard to Ukraine. She also clearly referred to Giuliani’s involvement, saying that “corrupt conspiracy theories and alliances with figures linked to Russian intelligence have been widely reported.”
Associated Press writers Amanda Seitz in Chicago, Jonathan Lemire in New York, Alexandra Jaffe in Washington, Barbara Ortotay in Oakland, California, and Bill Barrow in Wilmington, Dell contributed to this report.
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