Last week, The New York Post published a front-page article about Hunter Biden, son of Democratic presidential candidate and former VP, Joe Biden. The sensational story alleged that as vice president, the elder Biden used his influence to personally enrich his son, who sat on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company.
If the name Burisma sounds familiar, that’s because it was a central part of the impeachment against President Donald Trump. A White House whistleblower alleged in 2019 that Trump tried to pressure the president of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens regarding their relationship with Burisma, using military aid as leverage. The ploy did not work, and no investigation was ever launched, a key to the Republican defense of Trump’s actions.
Still, the Post story claims as its source a trove of Hunter Biden’s personal emails. The Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid says it obtained these messages from Hunter’s laptop. Now, as President Trump tries to draw attention to the story, several reputable sources have questioned the legitimacy of the allegations. All the while, the election draws ever nearer.
A major question in the story is how exactly the Post got its hands on Hunter Biden’s laptop. The paper claims that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was the one who provided it. Now Trump’s personal lawyer, Giuliani says that he received the laptop from the owner of a computer repair shop in Delaware. The former Mayor claims that a person, who might have been Hunter Biden, dropped off the laptop for repair, but never picked it up. Then the store owner called Giuliani and offered him the hard drive. Giuliani subsequently provided the information to the Post.
The story recounts an email that a Ukrainian Burisma adviser allegedly sent Hunter Biden, thanking him for setting up a meeting with the former Vice President. But the story is full of holes, some of which point to a potential Russian interference campaign to undermine the 2020 election.
Rudy the Pawn?
On Thursday, The Washington Post reported that US intelligence agencies warned the White House last year that Russia might be targeting Giuliani as part of an election influence operation.
That report additionally revealed that Robert O’Brien, a national security adviser, has warned Trump against believing any intel that Giuliani should bring from Ukraine. Such information, O’Brien warned the President, could be tainted by Russia to intentionally sew discord in the United States. Trump, however, has flouted the advice.
But while Trump embraces and amplifies the Hunter Biden email story, a source has told the Associated Press that the FBI is now getting involved. The Bureau is said to be investigating whether the intel is part of a Russian influence scheme.
The puzzling story about where the laptop came from, and how Giuliani became involved, has drawn into question the story’s very legitimacy. On Sunday, The New York Times reported that several staff writers at the Post did not want their names featured on the story because they had reservations about its credibility. In particular, the Times reported that Bruce Golding, a Post reporter who wrote much of the article, would not allow his name to be placed on the article for that reason. As a result, the byline for the story features two names: Emma-Jo Morris and Gabrielle Fonrouge.
But Morris has never received a New York Post byline before this story, according to the paper’s own website. In fact, she only arrived at The Post in April, after four years as an associate producer for Sean Hannity’s Fox News program. Fonrouge, meanwhile, had little to do with the reporting of the story, according to sources close to the paper. She only learned that she would receive a byline after the article went to print.
Still, The Post stands by its reporting. In an email, Colin Allan, the newspaper’s former editor-in-chief and current adviser, insisted that his reporters had thoroughly vetted the story. “The senior editors at The Post made the decision to publish the Biden files after several days’ hard work established its merit,” he wrote.
While some have drawn comparisons to the closing days of the 2016 election, when Hillary Clinton’s emails were at the forefront of the news cycle, this time might be different. Trump, Giuliani, and their allies in conservative media may continue to peddle the Hunter Biden story, but it’s hardly a major focus for most voters only two weeks before Election Day. Amid a global pandemic and the financial crisis it has caused, a mudslinger about Biden’s ne’er-do-well son is unlikely to win over the swing voters Trump so desperately needs.