The Post’s story was immediately compared to 2016, when Russian hackers tossed Democratic emails on the internet – which resulted in few malicious revelations but fueled Donald Trump’s corruption allegations.
There was no immediate indication of Russia’s involvement in the publication of emails received by the Post, but its general approach echoes a narrative that US intelligence agencies have described as part of an active Russian disinformation effort for the 2020 election.
The story also reinforced a line of scrimmage Republican senators have pursued over the past few months, culminating in a report that sparked a series of allegations against Hunter Biden. The cast of the characters are also well known: Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer whose amateur Ukraine investigation led to Trump’s impeachment, plays a major role in the story, as does Steve Bannon, the 2016 Trump aide. who directed opposition research that Clinton portrayed as corrupt were often misleading or factually dubious.
Despite Trump-led allegations of proprietary trading and corruption, multiple investigations into Republicans and Democrats have found no evidence that Biden – the Obama administration’s forerunner on diplomacy with Ukraine – took action against official US policies . In fact, during the House’s impeachment investigation last year, several high-ranking officials testified that Biden’s work made it more likely that Burisma would face a robust corruption investigation despite his son’s position on the board. Although some officials said that the position of Hunter Biden’s board of directors gave the “appearance” of conflict, they said it never had an impact on official US policy.
In a statement, Andrew Bates, spokesman for the Biden campaign said, “We have checked Joe Biden’s official schedules from that time and they never met, as the New York Post claims.”
“Investigations by the press, during impeachment, and even by two Republican-led Senate committees whose work was deemed ‘illegitimate’ and political by a GOP colleague have all come to the same conclusion: Joe Biden was following official US policy to Ukraine Trump administration officials have sworn to confirm these facts, ”said Bates.
Bates added that the Biden campaign was unable to respond to the claims of the story in the Post story immediately when it aired Wednesday morning because the publication “never asked the Biden campaign about the critical elements of this story. You surely never mentioned that Rudy Giuliani – widely reported on his discredited conspiracy theories and alliance with people connected to Russian intelligence – claimed to have such material. “
The Post did not address the Biden camp’s complaints, instead referring to an editorial accusing social media companies of censoring the story to help Biden politically.
The Post story included a screenshot of an email from Burisma consultant Vadym Pozharskyi to Hunter Biden in 2015 thanking him for the opportunity to meet your father. However, the e-mail does not indicate whether Pozharskyi described a meeting that has already taken place or is planned for the future. Nonetheless, the Post reported that the existence of such a meeting undermined Biden’s longstanding claim that he was not involved in his son’s business dealings.
Biden’s campaign wouldn’t rule out the former vice president having an informal interaction with Pozharskyi that wouldn’t appear on Biden’s official schedule. But they said every encounter was fleeting. Pozharskyi did not respond to a request for comment.
And high-ranking Biden advisors who spoke to POLITICO on Wednesday – including Michael Carpenter and Amos Hochstein, who was the vice-president at the time – also said that it was technically never conceivable that Pozharskyi would have turned to Biden, even though it was never an official one Meeting gave a broader event between the US and Ukraine. However, they stressed that they have no evidence of this and that they have never heard of Pozharskyi.
“I’ve literally never heard of this guy in my life,” said Hochstein, a close Biden advisor who served as the State Department’s special adviser on international energy matters during the Obama administration.
“This is a Russian disinformation operation,” said Carpenter, a former deputy deputy defense minister who specializes in Russia, Eurasia and the Balkans and now serves as the executive director of the Penn Biden Center. “I feel very comfortable saying that.”
Burisma’s website lists at least some of Pozharskyi’s meetings with US officials, including a meeting with then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in November 2017 and a series of meetings with members of Congress, although the company only represented Gus Bilirakis (R- Fla.) Lists. and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) by name. Meetings with Joe Biden are not listed. Pozharskyi too According to reports met in 2018 with Kurt Volker, the then envoy of the Trump administration for the peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.
And a Schedule of meetings Pozharskyi, held in the US in March and April 2016 and attached to a report recently released by Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., Said he met with Hunter Biden, a conference on US energy relations and Ukraine held and met with staff from three lawmakers: Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.), and MP Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio). Pozharskyi’s visit coincided with a US trip by then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who met with Joe Biden during his visit.
The Post reported that the emails were originally discovered on a laptop and the hard drive was dropped off by the customer at a Mac repair facility in Delaware in April 2019. The handyman in the store copied this hard drive, according to the Post, and shared it with a Giuliani employee, GOP senators and the FBI.
Hunter Biden’s attorney George Mesires did not respond to inquiries from POLITICO on Wednesday. Mesires told the Post that Giuliani “promoted widely discredited conspiracy theories about the Biden family and openly relied on actors associated with Russian intelligence”.
The story immediately presented social media companies with a practical application of the same delicate dilemma that has puzzled them for the past four-plus years: how to deal with unconfirmed or false allegations armed in politics.
Facebook security chief Nathaniel Gleicher warned last month that foreign adversaries could conduct hack-and-leak operations in which stolen and tampered content is leaked to the media in order to wreak havoc. In a September 24 tweet, he specifically warned that they “could trick journalists into doing their reinforcement for them,” a sentiment he reinforced again on Wednesday morning.
Facebook has taken steps in recent years to prevent foreign actors from interfering in the US elections, including policies against fake accounts and greater transparency from political advertisers. The company has also enlisted third parties to review messages. If these are classified as incorrect, they will appear lower in users’ newsfeeds.
The company has separately started adding labels to election-related content, such as: B. Voting posts, and even downgrading or removing posts that violate its misinformation policy. However, critics have said that these efforts do little to stop the spread of misinformation, which is often noticed faster than companies can shut it down.
A Facebook spokesperson tweeted Wednesday that the company would take steps to reduce the spread of the New York Post’s story.
“While I purposely won’t link to the New York Post, I want to make it clear that this story can be verified by Facebook’s third party fact-checking providers. In the meantime, we’re reducing the spread on our platform, ”tweeted Facebook spokesman Andy Stone. He added that the company’s standard practice is to reduce the diffusion of controversial content to the point of fact-checking.
Twitter went a step further, blocking users from posting links to the New York Post article on Wednesday. This explained to those who tried that the link “was identified as potentially harmful by Twitter or our partners”. The company applied for tweets published earlier in the day Click warnings The article states that the site is “potentially spammy or unsafe”.
A Twitter spokesperson said the company took action as part of its policy against hacked materials but didn’t elaborate on them. The company also said it had decided to limit the circulation of the article in the absence of authoritative reports on the origin of the materials cited by the New York Post.
The action sparked immediate backlash from Republicans and the New York Post staff. “This is a big tech information coup. This is a digital civil war, ”tweeted New York Post editor Sohrab Ahmari.
Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, a well-known GOP technology critic and ally of Trump, wrote a letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg accusing the company of “partiality,” and hit both social media platforms on Twitter.
“You almost get the idea #bigtech is looking to buy this choice,” Hawley tweeted.
Steven Overly and Cristiano Lima contributed to the coverage.