Wednesday, October 21, 2020

About the Hunter Biden emails...

 A couple of people have asked me why I haven’t written about the Hunter Biden email brouhaha. One reason I haven’t is that I wasn’t sure about the authenticity of the find. I’m still not, but the recent statements from Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and the FBI make this seem like a good time to address the issue.

To recap, the story of the laptops is pretty shady. David French does a good job of summing up the problems with the scenario in The Dispatch. These problems include inconsistencies in the repair shop owner’s story, questions about why Hunter would repair his computer in Delaware when he lives in LA, and why, if the FBI has had the computer for months, the emails were omitted from the Senate report on Hunter’s activities that was released in September and failed to find criminal wrongdoing. The top line of the report is that Hunter’s activities were “very awkward.”

But problems with the story don’t mean that the laptop trove is not authentic. There is evidence to support the claims as well, such as the Fox News report that Hunter Biden’s signature matches the signature on paperwork at the repair shop, although Fox notes that the signature has not been verified. Fox News also claims to have verified one email with one of its recipients, an anonymous source, who claims that a reference to “the big guy” means Joe Biden.

Now, we also have Ratcliffe’s statement that the emails are “not part of some Russian disinformation campaign.” That was confirmed by the FBI yesterday that the agency had “nothing to add at this time” but would “evaluate the need to provide defensive briefings” to Congress “if actionable intelligence is developed.”

So, it appears that at least some of the emails are genuine but that the investigation is ongoing. It isn’t impossible that incriminating emails were manufactured and salted away among the genuine emails, but let’s assume that all of the emails are genuine. What do they tell us about Hunter Biden and, more importantly, Joe Biden?

The evidence for wrongdoing is pretty thin. What the New York Post originally called a “smoking gun” was an email in which an advisor to the board of Burisma thanked Hunter for “giving an opportunity to meet your father.” That’s it. There is no allegation that anything improper happened at this meeting and, aside from the email, there seems to be no evidence that the meeting ever took place.

In the past, Joe Biden has claimed that he never spoke with Hunter about his “overseas business dealing.” The email does raise questions but does not disprove that claim.

The Biden campaign responded to the Post’s report with a statement that no meeting with Vadym Pozharskyi, the alleged author of the email, was on Biden’s official schedule. The campaign did not rule out the possibility of a brief, informal meeting. If true, that casts doubt on the Post’s claim that the email was a smoking gun for corruption.

For example, if Biden and Pozharskyi were introduced and shook hands, the brief exchange could be considered “meet[ing] your father” as described in the email, but it would fall far short of the nefarious plotting that the Post report implies.

Likewise, the “big guy” email is also not conclusive. The allegation that “the big guy” is the former vice president seems to be based solely on the unsworn testimony of an anonymous source.

There might be supporting evidence out there, but so far we have not seen it. There are no pictures of Biden shaking hands with Pozharskyi. Unlike Donald Trump, Joe Biden has released his tax returns and there is no evidence of questionable transactions. Biden has earned millions since leaving office, but that money is easily traceable to speaking fees in which he earned a minimum of $10,000 per event and lucrative book deals.

In my view, the specifics of the Biden campaign’s denials are telling. Although it has been pointed out that the Bidens have not denied that the emails are legitimate, they have denied the underlying conspiracy theory that the Post report paints. I think that is the core truth of the matter.

In a statement, a Biden spokesman flatly called out the Post’s reporting, saying, “We have reviewed Joe Biden’s official schedules from the time and no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place.”

The statement continued, “Investigations by the press, during impeachment, and even by two Republican-led Senate committees whose work was decried as ‘not legitimate’ and political by a GOP colleague have all reached the same conclusion: that Joe Biden carried out official U.S. policy toward Ukraine and engaged in no wrongdoing. Trump administration officials have attested to these facts under oath.”

And that claim is accurate. Numerous organizations on both the right and left have fact-checked the Trump claims about Joe Biden’s activities in Ukraine and found them to be false. Biden, who was vice president at the time that he pressured Ukrainian authorities to fire the country’s head prosecutor. In other words, Biden didn’t make US policy on the issue, he carried it out. Further, US policy matched that of our allies who agreed that the prosecutor needed to go. The US and other Western European nations were pushing for a prosecutor who would be tougher on corruption, rather than more lenient. Ironically, this would have put Burisma and Hunter Biden in legal jeopardy if they had been engaging in shady activities.

Taken in its entirety, the trove has so far been much ado about nearly nothing. For people who were already convinced that Biden was corrupt, the emails are a smoking gun. For others, there is so far no “there” there, even though there was an appearance of impropriety that was, as the Senate Republicans said, “awkward.” If there was firm evidence, the Trump Administration would have investigated and prosecuted Biden years ago rather than waiting until two weeks before the election.

My prediction is that the Hunter Biden saga will have very little impact on the election unless more damning evidence comes to light. I say this for two reasons. First, Hunter Biden is not on the ballot. The allegations are an attempt to tar Joe Biden with Hunter’s activities but so far the evidence does not support the claims. The allegations are not sticking to the candidate.

Second, this election is about Donald Trump, not Joe Biden. In April 2019, long before the impeachment and the pandemic, 52 percent of voters said they would never vote for Trump. Since then, the revelations of Donald Trump’s real – not imagined – corrupt activities with respect to Ukraine and his failing grade on the pandemic have not swung many votes in his direction. In an August poll, by an almost two-to-one margin, Biden voters said that their vote was against Trump rather than for Biden.

Donald Trump is not going to overcome the objections to his character and competence by attacking Hunter Biden. At best, the Hunter Biden story may slightly depress Democratic turnout and motivate some lackluster Republican voters. With Joe Biden leading by double-digits in many polls, it probably won’t be enough to sway the outcome of the election although it could shift some very close states such as North Carolina and Ohio.

Further, Trump’s own erratic behavior is likely to overshadow the already thin claims against the Bidens. Trump is already shifting the focus of the news by walking out of an NBC interview and attacking Anthony Fauci. The upcoming debate will also change the focus of the conversation. The president has little discipline for staying on message and the Hunter Biden story is not very compelling to most voters anyway.

Originally published on The First TV

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