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Damaged laptop renews Biden Ukraine questions

Updated October 15, 2020 - 9:43 am

WASHINGTON — Material found on a laptop computer appears to undercut former Vice President Joe Biden’s insistence that he never spoke with his son about the Ukrainian energy firm that paid Hunter Biden some $50,000 per month as his father served as President Barack Obama’s point man in the fight to stamp out corruption in Ukraine, according to a story in the New York Post.

The Post on Wednesday published a 2015 email ostensibly from Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to the Burisma board, that thanked Hunter Biden — who joined Burisma’s board in 2014 — for “giving me the opportunity to meet your father” and spend time together.

Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates responded in Politico with a statement that questioned the story’s legitimacy and offered, “Moreover, we have reviewed Joe Biden’s official schedules from the time and no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place.”

Blocking the story

Twitter and Facebook blocked posts and accounts that linked to the story — setting off accusations of censorship and liberal bias.

“They take negative post down almost before they go up,” President Donald Trump said during a campaign rally in Des Moines on Wednesday night. He said Twitter had blocked a tweet posted by White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone explained the social media giant’s stand on Twitter: “While I will intentionally not link to the New York Post, I want (to) be clear that this story is eligible to be fact checked by Facebook’s third-party fact checking partners. In the meantime, we are reducing its distribution on our platform.”

A chastened Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted, “Our communication around our actions on the @nypost article was not great. And blocking URL sharing via tweet or DM with zero context as to why we’re blocking: unacceptable.”

Emails, video on damaged computer

The genesis of the story, the Post reported, was a damaged MacBook Pro that had been dropped off at a Delaware computer repair shop but never retrieved. The shop owner, who could not identify who dropped off the computer, told the newspaper he repeatedly but unsuccessfully tried to reach the client.

Eventually the laptop ended up with the Department of Justice, but first the shop owner made a copy of the hard drive, which he gave to Robert Costello, an attorney for Trump’s lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The hard-drive copy also included a raunchy video that appears to show Hunter Biden engaging in a sex act and smoking crack with an unidentified woman, according to the Post.

Hunter Biden’s long battle with drug addiction and lack of qualifications raised eyebrows during the Democratic primary.

In July 2019, The New Yorker ran a story that asked, “Will Hunter Biden jeopardize his father’s campaign?”

The New York Times reported that when Burisma hired the Georgetown and Yale Law School graduate, Biden “lacked any experience in Ukraine and just months earlier had been discharged from the Navy Reserve after testing positive for cocaine.”

During the first presidential debate in September, Biden asserted, “My son did nothing wrong at Burisma.”

But according to Politico, the Democratic nominee’s campaign would not rule out the possibility that Biden did have an informal interaction with Pozharskyi, which would not have appeared on his official schedule.

Firing chief prosecutor

During a 2018 talk at the Council of Foreign Relations, Biden famously bragged about threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees during a 2015 trip to Kyiv if then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko didn’t fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.

“I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money,” Biden said at the council meeting. “Well, son of a bitch. He got fired.”

Trump, during a July 25, 2019, telephone call, asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to look into “talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution” of Burisma to help his son.

The Washington Post fact checked Trump’s remarks and found them to be false because Shokin was not investigating Burisma and “Shokin’s ouster was considered a diplomatic victory.”

The Trump-Zelenskiy conversation resulted in a whistleblower complaint that launched a House probe that ended with the House’s February vote to impeach Trump.

Trump long has maintained that the Russian probe and impeachment were based on “false and libelous” charges and that the Obama administration had misused its power in Ukraine.

“There was never an administration more corrupt than the Obama-Biden administration,” Trump said in Iowa as he called Biden a “corrupt politician” who should not hold the Oval Office.

New York Times White House reporter Maggie Haberman called the story “sketchy” in a tweet that asked why the emails in the New York Post had not been reported earlier.

The Center for American Progress’ Neera Tanden slammed Haberman for “promoting” the story.

“Twitter totally censors disputed NY Post report on Hunter Biden, Facebook limits distribution. (Sen. Ted) Cruz charges attempt to influence the election. And reporters who questioned story get heat from the left for even mentioning it,” Fox News media reporter Howard Kurtz then tweeted.

The New York Post chimed in with an editorial that charged, “Censor first, ask questions later: It’s an outrageous attitude for one of the most powerful platforms in the United States to take.”

NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Vadym Pozharskyi’s connection with Bursima.

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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