Everything About How the Hunter Biden-
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The supposed “smoking gun” that wasn't manages to involve Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon, and suspected Russian agents.

Let’s begin by stating the obvious: The New York Post’s big Hunter Biden hit is not the “smoking gun” proving his father’s corruption that the right so desperately wants you to believe it is. The revelations it contains wouldn’t be incriminating on their own, and there are serious concerns about both the veracity of the information in the Post’s piece and its provenance. It’s a knotty mess of a story — a tangle of conservative conspiracy theories, international relations, and electoral politics. But if there’s one thing that’s clear, it’s this: The whole thing is a desperate, Hail Mary attempt to smear Joe Biden in the final weeks of the 2020 election.

The imbroglio began Wednesday, when the tabloid reported that a top adviser to the Ukrainian energy company Burisma had emailed the younger Biden in 2015, thanking him for the opportunity to meet his father, who was then the vice president. For Donald Trump and his allies, the story was proof that Joe Biden used his office to help his son, a Burisma board member, as Trumpworld has maintained, and that the president was therefore justified in pressing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate — a matter that led to Trump's impeachment. “He’s always been a corrupt politician,” Trump tweeted Wednesday, congratulating the Post on its suspect scoop. “Disgraceful!”

But was this really slam-dunk evidence of the Democrat’s malfeasance — or just the latest salvo from a president who would stop at nothing to tear down his opponent, with help from his bumbling henchmen? The Post’s story was already suspicious, thanks to its timing, the errors contained within it, and its false claim — often put forth by Trump — that Biden strong-armed the government of Ukraine to fire a prosecutor (Viktor Shokin) investigating Burisma. (As the Washington Post points out, the United States government as a whole, along with other international actors, regarded Shokin as an impediment to anti-corruption reform efforts and wanted him gone.) But the story’s circuitous path to existence also undermines its credibility.

The supposedly incriminating email came to the Post by way of Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, who has been on a public quest to find dirt about Biden alleged misdeeds in Ukraine for more than a year and whose efforts, which helped lead to his boss’s impeachment, have made him bedfellows with an array of shady characters, including a Ukrainian lawmaker American intelligence believes to be a Russian agent. And how did Giuliani get his mitts on the email? As the story goes, he received a copy of it from a man named John Paul Mac Isaac, a computer repair shop owner in Delaware who said someone who he believed was Hunter Biden dropped off a laptop that contained the nefarious email. But Mac Isaac’s story is itself suspicious, riddled with inconsistencies. In a bizarre interview with reporters after the story broke Wednesday, an apparently nervous Mac Isaac spouted right-wing conspiracy theories, made varying claims about what he’d done with the hard drive and described Giuliani as his “lifeguard” — a characterization he appeared to regret immediately after. “Ah, shit,” he said, according to a recording of the interview published by the Daily Beast.

It gets weirder. Per the Trump-friendly Post, Giuliani gave the paper the hard drive on Sunday. But the tabloid was tipped off to the existence of the emails in September by Steve Bannon, the former Trump strategist who was indicted over the summer on fraud charges (Bannon has pleaded not guilty). If the involvement of Giuliani and Bannon makes you think that Trump himself probably had something to do with it, you’d be right. According to the Daily Beast, the president himself was informed about the supposed Hunter Biden material weeks ago, and has both talked it up to aides and pressed for its public release before the November 3 election. “It was evident that the president was interested,” a source familiar with the matter told the outlet, “and wanted it done before the election.”

To review: The Post’s story is said to be based on material obtained by an odd, pro-Trump computer repairman, given to the president’s unhinged attorney, and handed to the paper after Trump himself pushed for it to be released to help his electoral prospects. But couldn’t it still be in the public interest? Does the story’s origin matter if it does indeed provides “smoking gun” evidence of a presidential candidate’s corruption? Perhaps not, except for the fact that the proof it purportedly provides is itself awfully shaky. First, the implication that Hunter Biden was influencing U.S. policy through his father is seemingly undone by one of the other emails published by the Post, in which Hunter Biden writes that “what [the former vice president] will do and say is out of our hands.” Second, and more importantly, it’s not even clear the emails the Post published are authentic. As the New York Times reports, U.S. intelligence has been concerned that Russian election meddlers would leak stolen Burisma emails along with forged materials to hurt the Democrat’s chances. Not only is this Trump-peddled story not a smoking gun — the material it’s based on might not even be real.

Even so, the story got huge play on the right, which also turned social media companies’ efforts to limit its spread into a scandal of its own. “Clear bias,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh tweeted, after Twitter said the Post story violated its hacked materials policy. But it’s unclear whether the Burisma story, or its spin-off social media controversy, would actually do anything to hurt Biden or help Trump. Surely, it’s red meat for the base. But it’s hard to imagine anyone else voting on the Burisma issue, even if they were able to follow its twists and turns. Indeed, anyone who isn’t already versed in the arcane minutiae of Trumpworld conspiracy theories will likely find the whole thing next to impossible to follow. Having the words “Biden” and “corruption” in proximity to one another in the last two dozen days of the race could be damaging, even if the reason why is foggy and misleading. But it’s also plausible that the shadiness around the story — the machinations of Trump and Giuliani and Bannon — could serve more as a reminder of the president’s prolific corruption. Either way, expect Trump to play this up as much as possible in the last three weeks before Election Day. It’s not much, but down in the polls and with the country in dire straits under his watch, it’s about all he’s got going for him.

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From: VANITYFAIR