Politics

Mysterious Emails and Sensible Leaks: The Trump Marketing campaign's Hunter Biden Assaults Defined

In a notable series of coincidences, or, more likely, orchestrated campaigns, three different sources began providing e-mails and text messages with Joe Biden's son Hunter over the past week to conservative journalists and Republican politicians.

The contents of allegedly Jäger's laptop were first made available to the New York Post last week by Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani. A computer repair store owner claimed the laptop was left at his store, but questions have been raised as to whether this story is accurate and whether any information supposedly on the laptop is authentic.

Since then, two disgruntled former Hunter business partners – Bevan Cooney and Tony Bobulinski – have provided pro-Trump journalists or GOP politicians with their own emails and texts about Hunter. These emails and texts were quickly tweeted or published by these outlets (notably Breitbart News, Fox News, the Daily Caller, and the Federalist). They're usually spun in an inflammatory manner with a minimum of skeptical or contextual reporting.

And on Thursday afternoon it was announced that Bobulinski would take part in the final presidential debate as an invited guest of President Donald Trump. (Cooney was apparently unavailable as he is currently serving a sentence in federal prison for securities fraud.)

All of this is part of the Trump campaign's efforts to argue that Joe Biden is corruptly linked to his son's questionable business relationships with foreign interests. And they have complained that the mainstream media is trying to ignore or suppress this story.

However, these Hunter emails and texts have been purposely sent to staunch pro-Trump reporters and media outlets likely not skeptical, to question whether they really prove what their handlers claim or to post data points that don't match the preferences of the Trump campaign message.

The particular problem here is that Joe Biden has almost nothing in the news published (except for an exchange in which the former Vice President comforts his desperate, drug-addicted son). There are quite a few hunters who make claims about his father, but that could be Hunter throwing his father's name around without his father's knowledge.

Diligent investigative journalists would take some time to determine what actually happened here, but it seems certain that much of this material was deliberately withheld in the weeks leading up to the election. Combined with the way it's released, it all feels like a dirty last minute trick.

There are now three separate batches of Hunter-related emails

Despite the fact that President Donald Trump continues to own a company that employs his children and that regularly accepts high payments from overseas companies, Trump's final game in his re-election campaign is to argue that Joe Biden is corrupt because of his son Hunter has accepted large payments from overseas companies.

This is not a new piece. Trump's attempts to soil the Bidens in connection with Jäger's work for a Ukrainian gas company resulted in his being indicted last year. And for most of 2020, efforts by various Republicans to revive the attacks on Hunter appeared to have failed.

But now, emails, text, and photos with or about Hunter are being leaked in a variety of ways to reproduce the October 2016 hacked emails of Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta, to create a barrage of negative stories about the Bidens before election day.

Some of this new material has been linked directly to the Trump camp – by Rudy Giuliani, who claimed a computer store owner had given him Jäger's laptop, which was allegedly left there. There is no concrete evidence yet to refute this story, but authorities are reportedly investigating whether these emails are linked to a campaign with foreign influence.

The more recent development is that two former Hunter business partners stepped into the picture and suddenly made their emails and texts available to conservative journalists and GOP politicians with Hunter.

The first, Bevan Cooney, is currently in jail for fraud. The emails he has sent to journalists Matthew Tyrmand and Peter Schweizer so far do not show that he has direct contact with Hunter (Cooney appeared to be primarily interacting with Jäger's then business partner Devon Archer, who was also convicted of fraud). So Cooney's emails received less attention.

Then there's Tony Bobulinski, who was involved in Hunter Biden and James Biden's (Joe's brother's) efforts to partner with a Chinese energy tycoon, Ye Jianming, in 2017. Bobulinski released a statement claiming Joe Biden was also partially involved and released documents to various Conservative journalists on Wednesday and Thursday. Although he claimed to be "not a political person", the introduction of his material appears terribly politically savvy and he will be an invited Trump guest at Thursday's debate.

The two things the Trump campaign seeks to prove

The response from Biden supporters to all of this has usually been that Hunter isn't running for president – Joe is.

Trump's team is well aware of this, so trying to tie Jäger's work to Joe Biden in every possible way has been their top priority. And they tried to do this in two ways.

First, Trump's team has tried to argue that Joe Biden, as Vice President, took action to help Jäger's customers in some way. Their best-known example – the vice-president pushing for the Ukrainian attorney general to be dismissed – was largely exposed last year as the attorney general himself was corrupt and many Western governments and institutions wanted to remove him for this reason.

More recently, they have tried to argue that Vice President Biden was "soft" on China because Hunter had business ties with Chinese interests. But here, too, it is difficult to see how Biden's views of China differed from those of the rest of the Obama administration, or were significantly outside the norm for his party and the time.

Second, Trump's team hoped to prove that Joe Biden got some of Jäger's money himself. However, Joe Biden's tax returns and financial disclosure forms show no evidence of this. And after the Obama administration, Joe and Jill Biden made more than $ 15 million in 2017 and 2018 – mostly from speaking fees and book payments – so they certainly weren't bothered about money.

However, there is an alleged email from Tony Bobulinski about the deal with the Chinese energy tycoon, which Hunter business partner James Gilliar sent to Bobulinski and Hunter in May 2017, suggesting a split in equity for their new venture. In addition to "20 H" (20 percent for Hunter) and "10 Jim" (10 percent for James Biden), it includes the line: "10 thought H was the big guy?"

Excerpt from an alleged May 2017 email sent to Hunter Biden's business partners.

Daily caller

Bobulinski claims "the big guy" means Joe Biden. In particular, however, this line ends with a question mark. And if it's correct, it's unclear whether Joe Biden himself (the former Vice President until then) actually knew about it – or whether Hunter was twirling his name around without his knowledge. Additionally, six days after this news item, Hunter said his "chairman" gave him an "emphatic NO". (Fox News claims the "chairman" is Joe Biden, which if so, suggests that he turned down Hunter's offer.)

Actual investigative reporters would take the time to do their best to determine what actually happened here. This is much more like a dump of opposition research, however – so it was only released by conservative journalists with little context or additional information to help Trump make it part of his final campaign push.

Help keep Vox free for everyone

Every month, millions turn to Vox to understand what is going on in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racist reckoning to what is probably the most momentous presidential election of our lives. Our mission has never been more important than this: to empower you through understanding. However, our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism is resource intensive. Even if the economy and the news advertising market recover, your support will be a vital part of keeping our resource-intensive work going. If you've already contributed, thank you. If you don't, you can help everyone understand an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute from $ 3 today.

Related Articles