Terry H. Schwadron
Oct. 17, 2020
Once again, in the late innings of the election, Republicans supporting Donald Trump’s reelection are throwing out catnip about Hunter Biden as if that is somehow going to persuade you and me to vote for Trump.
Breathless headlines at Breitbart,com shouted that Joe Biden never even was asked during this week’s town hall about new allegations arranged and forwarded by Rudy Giuliani that he had an email that showed definitively that Hunter had gotten an appointment for someone at his Ukrainian business to greet his father — an email without metadata to show the who and when.
Well, no. What concerns most of us is how 62,000 Americans were found coronavirus positive in a single day while Trump insists that masks are ineffective and that the disease is “rounding the corner.” What bothers us –just take a look at the snakingly long voting lines — is a sneak attack on the Supreme Court, a long record of seeking to eliminate health care, consumer and environmental protections, and an outwardly offensive set of policies on race, immigration, division, Science and rational thought.
Nope, not a lot of room in there to denounce the Bidens for something that may or may not have ever happened years ago with no particular consequences for U.S. foreign policy that was in step with European allies to oust a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor who apparently has found his way to Giuliani and Trump.
But okay, let’s consider what the incidents reported in the New York Post, as if they are an indictment of Biden’s honesty and character. Of course, as a voter, taken whole, they don’t hold a candle to the objectionable character of Donald Trump on display daily, but okay, what is it that I’m missing here?
What I do know now is that U.S. intelligence agencies warned the White House last year that Giuliani was the target of an influence operation by Russian intelligence, that Steve Bannon and Giuliani have been working for months on more Biden disclosures just before elections, and that other news media outlets have done reporting and found serious questions about that Post report.
Indeed, The Daily Beast tells us that a YouTube posting last month by Guo Wengui, a Chinese dissident linked to Bannon, also broadcast a bizarre conspiracy theory in which Chinese politburo officials had “sent three hard disks of evidence” to the Justice Department containing damaging information about Joe Biden.
The Huffington Post summarized: “Trumpworld seems to believe it has found an October bombshell that will damage Biden’s dominant standing in the polls. But critical elements of the story are dubious, contradictory or outright false.”
Hey, it’s all just election talk,
Examining the Issues
The Washington Post, among others, took on the task of looking hard at the allegations that emails purportedly obtained from a laptop that Hunter Biden, supposedly left behind for repair in a Delaware shop in April, 2019. The main idea is that a 2015 email thanks Hunter Biden for arranging for Vadym Pozharskyi, an executive at Burisma, which had put him on the board at an outrageous salary for no work, to meet with the then-vice president. when he was in charge of U.S. policy toward Ukraine. There is nothing to say that the meeting happened or would happen or would be more than a handshake, but Republicans are promoting it as evidence of a conflict of interest.
Apparently there is no header information or metadata to confirm its authenticity and requests to look at the hard drive from which it supposedly was taken have not been granted. There also is no indication that Hunter Biden replied to the email. Indeed, another email suggested Hunter could not influence his father to meet.
Andrew Bates, a Biden campaign spokesman, said a review of Biden’s schedules from 2015 finds no record of any such meeting, though they could have met at a public event. An attorney for Hunter said, “We have no idea where this came from.”
The Washington Post noted that during President Barack Obama’s second term, Biden was in charge of the Ukraine portfolio, keeping in close touch with the country’s president, Petro Poroshenko. Biden’s brief was to jawbone Poroshenko into making reforms but viewed Viktor Shokin, the top Ukrainian prosecutor, as an obstacle. Among other things, Shokin had failed to pursue an investigation of the founder of Burisma.
Neither the FBI, which was given the laptop, not investigators from a Senate committee, found any wrongdoing here.
In the End
Throughout, in seeking dirt on the Bidens, Giuliani has regularly interacted with a Ukrainian lawmaker who was recently sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department as being an “active Russian agent for over a decade” and was engaged in an influence operation to affect the 2020 election. Those interactions have given rise to fears that the emails could be part of a broader disinformation campaign.
So, news that National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien actually had warned the White House last year that Giuliani was the target of an influence operation by Russian intelligence was interesting, but not startling. What was more interesting was that Trump apparently just shrugged it off, saying, “That’s Rudy.”
Several senior administration officials “all had a common understanding” that Giuliani was being targeted by the Russians — again and again, it is Trump and Russians. Giuliani has said that he was never informed that Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russian lawmaker in Ukraine whom he met in Kyiv, was a Russian intelligence asset. Last month, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Derkach for allegedly running an “influence campaign” against Joe Biden, calling the Ukrainian “an active Russian agent for over a decade” who has maintained “close connections with Russian intelligence services.”
Trump has relied for years on Giuliani, and has asked him to coordinate any post-election lawyering that Trump thinks needed.
We all saw a late-inning swing at Biden’s character coming. This one just feels way wide of the plate and frankly irrelevant when the whole house is on fire.