I’d hate to be involved in the censorship department at Twitter, at least for the next few weeks.
In case you hadn’t heard — and Twitter certainly hoped you didn’t — the New York Post began a running a series of stories Wednesday derived from data obtained from a laptop that Hunter Biden allegedly dropped off at a Delaware computer repair shop and never retrieved.
Before changing course, Twitter blocked users from sharing links to the stories in part because the company said the data was hacked and it didn’t want to “incentivize” that kind of journalism. (Facebook has only throttled the distribution of the stories as opposed to an outright embargo on sharing.)
Some of the stories seem tawdry and unnecessary, granted; if you know who Hunter Biden is, you know his personal struggles and you don’t need to see a picture of him with drug paraphernalia. Of more legitimate interest are the emails recovered from the computer that he allegedly owned, which seem to suggest the president’s younger son was potentially using his positions with a foreign firm to peddle influence in Washington, and potentially with his father.
Now come a new batch of reported emails from the computer, these being published by former Fox News executive Ken LaCorte. In them, a top executive with Ukrainian energy giant Burisma reportedly describes part of Hunter Biden’s role with the organization as helping halt investigations into the oligarch who co-founded Burisma.
“The previously unreleased emails show that Burisma board advisor Vadym Pozharskyi, one of the company’s top executives, wrote to Hunter Biden and his partner Devon Archer that the company’s ‘ultimate goal’ in the hiring of a well-connected public relations firm was for US policy makers to help stop investigations,” LaCorte wrote on his Media Action Network website.
Pozharskyi is the Burisma executive who, according to the Post’s reporting, emailed Hunter Biden thanking him “for an opportunity to meet your father” in a 2015 email. That would have placed the meeting during Joe Biden’s tenure as vice president, of course. It also would have undercut the Democratic nominee’s assertion his knowledge of his son’s dealings with the Ukrainian energy giant were essentially nonexistent.
According to Politico, the Biden campaign called the Post’s reporting “Russian disinformation.”
Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said the campaign had “reviewed Joe Biden’s official schedules from the time and no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place.” The campaign did acknowledge, however, that this doesn’t rule out a more informal interaction with the Burisma executive.
The alleged 2015 email was sent to Hunter Biden and Devon Archer, one of Biden’s co-partners in Rosemont Seneca Partners, a consulting/investment firm Hunter Biden co-founded.
In it, the Burisma executive seemed to indicate part of Rosemont Seneca’s work for Burisma would involve taking some of the heat off of Mykola “Nikolay” Zlochevsky, a Burisma co-founder who fled Ukraine in the wake of the 2013-2014 anti-government Euromaidan protests in the country.
Zlochevsky stood accused of (now here’s a stunner) corruption and theft while he served as natural resources minister in the Ukrainian government between 2010 and 2012. (Hunter Biden would join the board of Burisma in 2014, during the tumultuous period following the demonstrations.)
In the email, Pozharskyi reportedly wrote that “the suggested scope of work” in a proposal from a third company, Blue Star Strategies, “is largely lacking concrete tangible results that we set out to achieve in the first place, mostly focusing on the process.”
Blue Star Strategies is a consulting firm that has done work for Burisma. It’s been alleged that Hunter Biden has ties to the firm, according to CBS News.
“Also, it doesn’t offer any names of top US officials here in Ukraine (for instance, US Ambassador) or Ukrainian officials (the President of Ukraine, chief of staff, Prosecutor General) as key targets for improving Nikolay’s case and his situation in Ukraine,” Pozharskyi reportedly continued.
“If, however, this is done [deliberately] to be on the safe and cautious side, I can understand the rationale. And if all parties in fact understand the true purpose of the [Blue Star] engagement and all our joint efforts, it’s ok and we should proceed immediately.
“My only concern is for us to be on the same page re our final goals. With this in mind, I would like us to formulate a list of deliverables,” which included access to top U.S. officials, the email reportedly added.
“The scope of work should also include organization of a visit of a number of widely recognized and influential current and/or former US policy-makers to Ukraine in November aiming to conduct meetings with and bring positive signal/message and support on Nikolay’s issue to the Ukrainian top officials above with the ultimate purpose to close down for any cases/pursuits against Nikolay in Ukraine.”
No matter what you may think of LaCorte — who remains a controversial figure in the media world — there are cases to be made for and against believing these emails carry the same weight of provenance those published by the New York Post do.
If you’re a skeptic, you’d be curious why these emails weren’t released by the New York Post.
While most of the Post’s reporting is highly newsworthy — not just on Hunter Biden’s alleged influence-peddling in Ukraine but also in China — an email to Biden’s firm suggesting that the “true purpose of … all our joint efforts” was to “close down … any cases/pursuits against Nikolay in Ukraine” would have been the first thing to go from that MacBook hard drive to the front page of the Post. If the Post’s reporters either didn’t have the emails or couldn’t confirm their authenticity, LaCorte scoring the exclusive seems odd and deserves additional scrutiny.
However, speaking of provenance, LaCorte said he “obtained these emails from the owner of a Delaware computer repair shop, John Mac Isaac, who said that a man he believed was a ‘wasted’ Hunter Biden had dropped off the computer in mid-2019, then never responded to multiple emails and phone calls to retrieve it.” Isaac is the same source used by the Post.
“In Delaware, after 90 days of abandonment the computer legally became the property of Mr. Isaac. On reading the emails it contained, he became alarmed that it appeared to contradict the ‘conspiracy theory’ narrative regarding President Trump’s impeachment. He then contacted the FBI,” LaCorte wrote.
According to Isaac’s account, he turned the computer over to the FBI but kept a copy of the data for himself. After he became convinced the bureau wasn’t acting, he notified federal officials and presidential attorney Rudy Giuliani; Giuliani eventually helped make the data public.
Furthermore, while the Post may not have published the email about how Pozharskyi proposed — in an email to Hunter Biden and his business partner — a “scope of work” that involved closing down investigations into Zlochevsky, that email has been reported on by other media outlets — including Fox News — lending some credence to the fact this isn’t misinformation.
While no one has definitively confirmed the laptop or the totality of the data is Hunter Biden’s, no one from the Biden campaign has really denied it, either — which, if the whole thing is an elaborate 11th-hour hoax, would be the first thing anyone would do. There have also been confirmations that some of the more sensitive email chains discovered on the computer were indeed legitimate.
Even the tawdry stories have lent weight to the fact this wasn’t just “Russian disinformation.” No, I don’t need to see a selfie of a shirtless Hunter Biden, a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and a facial expression that indicates he hasn’t mentally made contact with the planet Earth in quite some time. I also don’t think a person in possession of that kind of photo is involved in a conduit for an elaborate Kremlin-originated deepfake designed to sink Joe Biden at the last minute.
That’s buttressed by the Biden campaign’s careful language regarding the reporting on the information.
The closest we got to a denial was from Biden campaign national spokesman Jamal Brown, who said that “Twitter’s response to the actual article itself makes clear that these purported allegations are false and they’re not true and glad to see social media companies like Twitter taking responsibility to limit misinformation.”
Not only is this circular logic (the message: Twitter censored the story because it was misinformation, and we can tell it was misinformation because Twitter censored it), it’s also incorrect circular logic.
Twitter said nothing of the sort — the platform’s explanation for censoring the articles was that its terms of service policy “prohibits the use of our service to distribute content obtained without authorization. We don’t want to incentivize hacking by allowing Twitter to be used as distribution for possibly illegally obtained materials.”
The policy, established in 2018, prohibits the use of our service to distribute content obtained without authorization. We don’t want to incentivize hacking by allowing Twitter to be used as distribution for possibly illegally obtained materials.https://t.co/qx9rlzWH4O
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) October 14, 2020
Those materials can still be completely factual — and indeed, much of this is being confirmed. Twitter just didn’t want it distributed, which doesn’t say anything about the story’s veracity but a whole lot about the lengths Twitter is willing to go to protect the Bidens.
In the meantime, if it turns out the emails LaCorte allegedly obtained are wholly factual, this presents more problems for Hunter Biden. The whole scandal, after all, was helped along by a video in which Joe Biden bragged about getting a Ukrainian prosecutor who had once investigated Burisma fired.
The Democratic nominee’s defense for this (which isn’t implausible) is that the prosecutor was a thoroughly buyable disgrace, even by the low standards of Eastern European politics.
This is both accurate and problematic: Corrupt though the prosecutor may have been, the former vice president had a massive conflict of interest due to his son’s work with Burisma.
If this email is indeed accurate — and Hunter Biden’s firm was told the “true purpose” of its work was to quash investigations into the fugitive Ukrainian oligarch who co-founded Burisma — that conflict of interest just got exponentially more problematic.
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