Anything’s possible. It could be that the dirt that’s finally going to sink Joe Biden went undiscovered during his 800 years in the Senate, eight as VP, a competitive Democratic presidential primary, and 95 percent of a bitter presidential campaign, only to come to light in the nick of time to save Trump from defeat.
It’s 2020. Anything. Is. Possible.
I just wouldn’t get my hopes up.
The president tells staff on call the Wall Street Journal is “working on an important piece.”
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) October 19, 2020
"I think Joe Biden has a scandal coming up that's going to make him almost an impotent candidate," Trump also told his staff during the call.
“We found stuff yesterday we gave it to the press," he said. https://t.co/E9G5ijNrmd
— Jill Colvin (@colvinj) October 19, 2020
It’s extremely Trumpy to reveal that you’re the source for a hit piece on your opponent, especially before that piece is even published. Usually campaigns don’t want their fingerprints on oppo research that appears in the news lest the partisan motive shift voters’ focus from the story itself to the ratf***ing involved in circulating it. If he’s willing to admit that he gave the Journal dirt on Biden, why doesn’t he just share the details himself?
And why didn’t he do it sooner? Presumably they’ve had whatever they gave to the paper for more than a few days. Early voting has already begun. The time to drop a Biden scandal was October 1, to let it fully circulate among the public, not this late in the process. As it is, it’s anyone’s guess at the moment whether the story will be ready before Thursday’s debate. That’s Trump’s last chance to give it a big spotlight.
Another question: Is it the Journal’s well-respected news section that’s working on this story or did the campaign give what they had to some lackey like Rudy Giuliani to put in a column on the Journal’s op-ed page? If it’s the former, the news section will come under heavy industry pressure to make sure whatever they have is authentic and not the product of some foreign dirty trick. Reportedly the staff at the New York Post was concerned enough about the provenance of the Hunter Biden laptop story they ran last week that the editors had to scramble to find someone willing to put their byline on it:
Bruce Golding, a reporter at the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid since 2007, did not allow his byline to be used because he had concerns over the article’s credibility, the two Post employees said, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation…
Many Post staff members questioned whether the paper had done enough to verify the authenticity of the hard drive’s contents, said five people with knowledge of the tabloid’s inner workings. Staff members also had concerns about the reliability of its sources and its timing, the people said.
The article named two sources: Stephen K. Bannon, the former adviser to President Trump now facing federal fraud charges, who was said to have made the paper aware of the hard drive last month; and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, who was said to have given the paper “a copy” of the hard drive on Oct. 11.
There was reportedly at least one other writer on staff besides Golding who refused to let their byline be used on the piece. In the end it was attributed to Emma-Jo Morris, a deputy editor, and reporter Gabrielle Fonrouge, who “had little to do with the reporting or writing of the article” and “learned that her byline was on the story only after it was published.” Hoo boy.
The Post wasn’t the first choice for the scoop either, if you believe Mediaite. Supposedly it was offered to Fox News — and Fox’s news division passed because they didn’t like the smell of it either, wanting to hold off until the sourcing and veracity of the emails could be proved. (Fox’s primetime bloc has been talking about the story nonstop for days, of course.) I don’t think it’s the anti-Biden nature of the scoop that’s giving these people pause: Even if you believe that most of the news staff at Fox and the Post lean Democratic, a juicy scandal is a juicy scandal, especially in the final weeks of a major election. What’s making them wary is Giuliani’s involvement. Trump himself was warned a year ago that Rudy was the target of a Russian influence operation. When the Daily Beast recently asked Giuliani if he’s concerned that Andrii Derkach, his Ukrainian associate in the hunt for Biden dirt, has been accused by the Treasury Department of being a Russian agent, he cheerily replied, “The chance that Derkach is a Russian spy is no better than 50/50.”
A 50/50 chance that he’s working with Russian operatives. By his own admission.
There’s no proof that the Biden laptop materials originated with Russia or that the contents of the emails are fake. But, having lived through 2016 and having observed Giuliani behave ever more erratically over the past few years, no media outlet wants to bet its credibility on a suspiciously timed and suspiciously sourced revelation emanating from Trump, Bannon, and Rudy. If Team Trump is behind the laptop story, they should have kept Giuliani a thousand miles away from it. And if they want whatever’s brewing at the WSJ to be taken semi-seriously, they’d better keep him ten thousand miles away from that.
For what it’s worth, the Hunter laptop story hasn’t made any dent in the polls yet.
There's no sign of tightening here, in other words. On average these polls (not a particularly good group for Biden) show Biden ahead by 9 points, exactly the same as before the NY Post story last Wednesday.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) October 19, 2020
It’s what you’d expect. The Ukraine saga (on both sides) has always been too complicated for the average voter to follow, I think. Trump got impeached for his dealings with the Ukrainian government and his job approval barely moved. Now he’s going to turn around and ask voters to choose him decisively over Biden on … good-government grounds? C’mon.
Frankly, that’s why any dirt they might have on Biden will be a hard sell to the public. Whatever Trump might realistically accuse him of, there’s some sort of “tu quoque” response for Dems right at hand. Sex scandal? Biden will point to Stormy Daniels and the 20+ women who’ve accused Trump of sexual misconduct. Family profiting from his public office? Biden will point to the Trump hotel in D.C. and the various business opportunities the Trump children have enjoyed over the past four years. Influence peddling? Biden will point to John Bolton’s wariness about Trump’s dealings with Turkey. Trump had a reasonable chance of beating Biden if he’d stuck to a policy campaign against him, especially economic policy. Instead he’s spent most of his time trying to demonize Biden as crooked, addled, or sinister — “where’s Hunter?”, Sleepy Joe has dementia, Antifa will run riot if Biden is in charge, etc. Maybe the Journal will have something truly dynamite on him. But they’d better hurry up.
Here’s righty Marc Thiessen becoming the second person on Fox News today to urge Trump to pivot away from the Hunter Biden stuff and focus. He has one argument that might realistically win him the election — economic growth, especially if he and Pelosi can get a new stimulus done at the last second. Everything else is noise.
This is pretty remarkable.
Fox News' Marc Thiessen is desperately trying to convince Trump to pivot away from the Hunter laptop stuff.
"This election is not going to turn on Hunter Biden… they care about the economy and they care about not having four more years of chaos." pic.twitter.com/6DwlWsYL1t
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) October 19, 2020