Baltimore Sun

An ex­plainer: Trump and the Bi­den-Ukraine tabloid story

- By Eric Tucker and Stephen Braun U.S. News · US Politics · Politics · Elections · Donald Trump · Joe Biden · Ukraine · Washington · New York City · Rudy Giuliani · Hunter Biden · Barack Obama · U.S. government · Republican Party (United States) · United States of America · Wilmington, DE · Delaware · Wilmington · FBI · Nigeria · Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars · Steve Bannon

WASH­ING­TON — Look­ing to un­der­mine ri­val Joe Bi­den less than three weeks be­fore the elec­tion, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign has seized on a tabloid story of­fer­ing bizarre 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 au­then­tic­ity of an email at the cen­ter of the story.

The ori­gins of the story also trace back to Trump lawyer Rudy Gi­u­liani, who has re­peat­edly pushed un­founded claims about Bi­den and his son Hunter.

A look at the de­vel­op­ment:

How did Bi­den’s son be­come a cam­paign is­sue?

Hunter Bi­den joined the board of the Ukrainian gas com­pany Burisma in 2014, around the time his fa­ther, then vice pres­i­dent, was help­ing con­duct t he Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s f or­eign pol­icy with Ukraine.

Se­nate Repub­li­cans said in a re­cent re­port that the ap­point­ment may have posed a con­flict of in­ter­est, but they did not present ev­i­dence that the hir­ing in­flu­enced U.S. poli­cies.

Trump and his sup­port­ers, mean­while, have ad­vanced a widely dis­cred­ited the­ory that Bi­den pushed for the fir­ing of Ukraine’s top prose­cu­tor to pro­tect his son and Burisma from in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Bi­den did press for the prose­cu­tor’s fir­ing, but that’s be­cause he was re­flect­ing the of­fi­cial po­si­tion of not only the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion but many Western coun­tries and be­cause the prose­cu­tor was per­ceived as soft on cor­rup­tion.

What does the New York Post story say?

The main email high­lighted by the Post is an April 2015 mes­sage it said was sent to Hunter Bi­den by Vadym Pozharskyi, an ad­viser to Burisma’s board. In it, he thanks the younger Bi­den “for invit­ing me to DC and giv­ing an op­por­tu­nity to meet your fa­ther and spent some time to­gether. It’s realty an honor and plea­sure.”

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 from the time and that no meet­ing as de­scribed by the news­pa­per took place.

How did the Post ob­tain the emails?

The Post says it re­ceived a copy of a hard drive con­tain­ing the mes­sages on Sun­day from Gi­u­liani, who has pushed the un­founded idea that Ukraine was try­ing to in­ter­fere with 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 trove of data re­cov­ered from a lap­top that was dropped off at a com­puter re­pair shop in Wilm­ing­ton, Delaware in April 2019. It says the cus­tomer, whom t he

owner could not defini­tively iden­tify as Hunter Bi­den, never paid for the ser­vice or re­trieved it, and says the owner made a copy of the hard drive given to Gi­u­liani’s lawyer.

The owner of the shop de­clined to com­ment Wed­nes­day to The As­so­ci­ated Press. The news­pa­per says the owner alerted the FBI to the com­puter and hard drive, and that agents took pos­ses­sion of them. That could not im­me­di­ately be con­firmed, and the FBI de­clined to com­ment.

Are the new emails au­then­tic?

The ac­tual ori­gins of the emails are un­clear. And dis­in­for­ma­tion ex­perts say there are mul­ti­ple red flags that raise doubts about their au­then­tic­ity, in­cludi ng ques­tions about whether the lap­top ac­tu­ally be­longs to Hunter Bi­den, said Nina Jankow­icz, a fel­low at the non­par­ti­san Wil­son Cen­ter in Wash­ing­ton.

An­other po­ten­tial alarm is the in­volve­ment of an­other Trump as­so­ciate, Steve Bannon, who the Post says first alerted it to the ex­is­tence of the hard drive and who along with Gi­u­liani has been ac­tive in pro­mot­ing an anti-Bi­den nar­ra­tive on Ukraine.

“We should view it as a Trump cam­paign prod­uct,” Jankow­icz said.

 ?? KATHY WILLENS/AP ?? The New York Post says it re­ceived a copy of a hard drive con­tain­ing the emails from Trump lawyer Rudy Gi­u­liani.
KATHY WILLENS/AP The New York Post says it re­ceived a copy of a hard drive con­tain­ing the emails from Trump lawyer Rudy Gi­u­liani.

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