What a stroke of luck for Donald Trump, just when the president's election prospects look irretrievably bleak: A trove of incriminating emails has turned up that supposedly connect Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden to a dubious businessman in Ukraine. Uncovered by the president's own intrepid lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his former adviser Steve Bannon, the newly discovered emails suggest that Biden is as corrupt as they've been saying for months.
Supposedly sent by Vadym Pozharskyi, a consultant for Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that paid the younger Biden to join its board of directors, the emails thank him for making an introduction to his father, then the vice president of the United States. If that actually happened, then the Democratic presidential nominee lied about distancing himself from his son's business activities. Trump himself bellowed about the "smoking gun" emails at his Iowa rally on Wednesday evening, saying, "Joe Biden has been blatantly lying about his involvement in his son's corrupt business dealings!"
From Trump's point of view, this is too good to be true. But it certainly isn't true.
Leave aside for a moment the tattered credibility of Bannon, currently under indictment for fraud by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Giuliani, still under investigation by that same prosecutorial office. Look instead at the purported source of the emails, based on a chain of evidence that seems ... extremely dubious.
According to Giuliani, who provided the emails to the New York Post, the "smoking gun" was supposedly found on a laptop that Hunter Biden dropped off at a Delaware computer repair shop. The man who owns the shop turned over a copy of the hard drive to the FBI, he says, and later to Giuliani.
But the thank-you email doesn't prove that Biden ever met with Pozharskyi. The Biden campaign notes that his schedules show the meeting, alleged to have occurred on April 16, 2015, never happened. There is no other evidence that such a meeting occurred, and, of course, the "reporter" who wrote the Post story -- a former Fox News booker for Sean Hannity -- didn't bother to contact the Biden camp for a response or verify the emails in any way.
Verifying the emails might have proved difficult because, as served up by Giuliani, their images contain no headers or identifying marks to establish who sent them, who received them and when this exchange might have happened. In fact, a close examination of the typefaces on the email by bloggers Brian and Eddie Krassenstein raises strong suspicions of forgery.
Writing for Medium, the Krassensteins note "the tremendous clarity of the text, when compared to the 'VP' gmail icon in the upper right-hand corner." By zooming in on the PDF published by the Post, they explain, it is easy to see that the file text "remains crystal clear, yet the gmail icon for 'VP' gets extremely pixelated. ... This is the hallmark of email alterations. There is no reason that the gmail icon should be of a different resolution than the text on the same document, unless of course the icon or the text were photoshopped in."
The Daily Beast reported that metadata on "the PDF files purporting to show Biden's emails ... suggest they were created on a Mac laptop" in September and October of 2019, whereas Biden supposedly had dropped off his laptop at the Delaware shop in April 2019. (He was then living in Los Angeles, not Delaware.) But that date coincides with Giuliani's trolling for dirt in Ukraine.
Whether forged or genuine, the emails don't prove what Giuliani claims they do. Along with Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and others affiliated with Trump, the former mayor has been peddling disinformation about Biden for many months, mostly derived from disreputable Ukrainian sources with Kremlin backing. These are the same dirty tactics that got Trump impeached and the same dirty tactics used by the Trump campaign in 2016, all perpetrated by the same cast of characters.
When honest government returns to Washington, this episode will require a thorough investigation by congressional committees and federal prosecutors. That will be the only way to clean up our elections and sanction those who have corrupted them.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.Copyright 2020 Creators Syndicate Inc.