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Politics A tabloid got a trove of data on Hunter Biden from Rudy Giuliani. Now, the FBI is probing a possible disinformation campaign

01:50  18 october  2020
01:50  18 october  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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 India: Hundreds of thousands of tea pickers in Assam on indefinite strike © Biju BORO / AFP Tea pickers joined farmers in protesting the liberalization of the sale of fruits and vegetables. The strike began this Friday, October 9 to demand wage increases. These workers joined the farmers, who have been protesting for two weeks now against the new selling prices for fruit and vegetables. With our correspondent in Bangalore, Côme Bastin The State of Assam produces nearly 50% of India's tea, and it is found on many tables around the world.

The FBI is reportedly investigating whether emails published Wednesday by the New York Post in connection with widely discredited corruption allegations about Hunter Biden are part of a possible Russian effort to spread disinformation ahead of the presidential election.

Hunter Biden received .5 million from Elena Baturina, the widow of the former mayor of Moscow, and millions of dollars from business transactions with individuals FBI lied to FISA court about Carter Page’s affiliation with the CIA so they could get a warrant to spy on Trump campaign for Obama.

When a New York tabloid published the alleged contents of a computer hard drive purporting to document the Ukrainian and Chinese business activities of Hunter Biden, the newspaper cast the information as a "smoking gun."

Enter the FBI.

Less than three weeks before one of the most contentious presidential campaigns in history, federal authorities are investigating whether the material supplied to the New York Post by Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, is part of a smoke bomb of disinformation pushed by Russia.

US spies say the Hunter Biden email controversy shows how 'exploitable' and 'grotesquely vulnerable' Trump and Giuliani are to Russian intelligence

  US spies say the Hunter Biden email controversy shows how 'exploitable' and 'grotesquely vulnerable' Trump and Giuliani are to Russian intelligence "They want to protect their boy in the White House because Trump's policies have been strategically fantastic for Russia," said a former CIA spy."Lock him up!" they shouted as the president laughed.

Here we go with more Deep State BS. You really cannot trust the fake news media with anything outside of the weather anymore. According to Fake News Washington Post four anonymous “former intelligence officials” say President Trump was warned that Rudy Giuliani was a target of a Russia

Hunter Biden 's questionable past. The Biden campaign said in a statement that it had reviewed Mr The Post said the emails were part of a trove of data recovered from a laptop that was dropped off at a Disinformation experts have said there are multiple red flags that raise doubts about their

Rudy Giuliani wearing a suit and tie: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks during the 2016 Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Giuliani endorsed and campaigned with then-candidate Donald Trump. In April 2018, Giuliani joined the legal team defending President Trump in the special counsel's Russia investigation. © Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks during the 2016 Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Giuliani endorsed and campaigned with then-candidate Donald Trump. In April 2018, Giuliani joined the legal team defending President Trump in the special counsel's Russia investigation.

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The inquiry, according to a person familiar with the matter, is at least in part aimed at determining whether Russia is taking new aim at a familiar target: Biden's father, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The FBI has declined to comment, refusing to either confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.

The FBI is investigating whether purported Hunter Biden-Burisma emails were part of a foreign intelligence operation

  The FBI is investigating whether purported Hunter Biden-Burisma emails were part of a foreign intelligence operation The news comes shortly after it was reported that one of the sources of the emails, Rudy Giuliani, was a target for Russian intelligence.The emails first surfaced in a dubious and widely discredited story from the New York Post this week purporting to feature "smoking-gun" emails showing the Burisma executive discussing with Hunter the prospect of meeting his father, Joe Biden, when Biden was vice president in 2015.

However, Twitter said the Biden story would remain blocked for "violating the rules on private On Wednesday, the New York Post published a story purporting to expose corrupt dealings by Biden and his son Hunter in The popular conservative-leaning tabloid claimed that the former vice-president

Hunter Biden pursued lucrative deals involving China’s largest private energy company — including one that he said The email is contained in a trove of data that the owner of a computer repair shop in Delaware said was Hunter Biden probed over hard drive, smoking-gun emails exposed by Post.

The gauzy details of the newspaper's account trace the hard drive to a computer repair shop in Delaware, where a laptop had been left for service last year but was never re-claimed by the customer. Exactly how the material moved to Giuliani, who with Trump has long pushed debunked conspiracy theories about the Bidens, has raised as many questions as the authenticity of the laptop data the president's lawyer provided to the tabloid.

After months of investigation, two Republican-led Senate committees unveiled a report in September that found no evidence of wrongdoing or corrupt actions by the former vice president in connection with his son Hunter's business dealings in Ukraine.

But Trump and Giuliani have continued to lob allegations at the Democratic nominee, despite multiple investigations, including the recent GOP probes, that have found no basis for the claims.

Experts dismiss "garbage fire" Hunter Biden exposé in NY Post: "Seems like a complete fabrication"

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Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon, via The FBI is one of the major reasons that Americans feel there is a two-tiered system of justice. The Democrat Party and its leadership are immune to investigations for their many corrupt deeds but Republicans are indicted for made up lies they didn’t make to the FBI .

intelligence was using Rudy Giuliani to funnel disinformation to Trump (businessinsider.com). I love that they bring up that Hunter Biden used drugs in the past when Trump's kids seem like they The whole thing is ridiculous. I hope we get a working DOJ back after the election and these fuckers

a man talking on a cell phone: Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani worked together on presidential debate preparations. © Joshua Roberts, Getty Images Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani worked together on presidential debate preparations.

On Wednesday, the president and his lawyer seized on the New York Post story, asserting that an email purporting to show an adviser to the Ukrainian energy company Burisma thanking Hunter Biden for arranging a meeting for him with Joe Biden, who was then the vice president.

The story provided no evidence that such a meeting ever occurred and has come under fire for its reliance on questionable sources and documents whose authenticity was not verified. Biden's campaign team told USA TODAY that no meeting ever occurred.

Explainer: Biden, allies pushed out Ukrainian prosecutor because he didn't pursue corruption cases

Giuliani, through his lawyer, declined to provide the material to USA TODAY for examination.  

When Twitter initially blocked the sharing of links to the story, citing a "lack of authoritative reporting" on the origin of the source materials behind the story, the newspaper hit back in an editorial, calling the criticisms "ridiculous."

Debate transcript: Trump, Biden final presidential debate moderated by Kristen Welker

  Debate transcript: Trump, Biden final presidential debate moderated by Kristen Welker Here is the full transcript of the final presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, moderated by Kristen Welker in Nashville on Oct. 22, 2020. Headers have been added for ease of reading. © Mario Tama, Getty Images People are pictured watching the final debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at The Abbey in West Hollywood, California. [0:00] Welker: A very good evening to both of you. This debate will cover six major topics.

Trump claims Joe Biden ' got some of Hunter 's millions' as Giuliani releases new emails showing son's bid for The latest emails, published again early in the morning, focus on Hunter 's dealings with Ye Donald Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has been probing Hunter Biden 's business dealings in Ukraine.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani reportedly gave the laptop to the Post, and Giuliani claimed to have received it from a Delaware computer repairman who changed his story multiple Both Hunter and Joe Biden deny the emails’ authenticity and say such a meeting never happened.

The Post has not responded to requests for comment.

Here's what is known about the origins of the New York Post and the claims made about the Bidens by Trump and Giuliani:

What are Trump's claims about Biden and Ukraine?

The effort by Trump and Giuliani to dig up dirt on Biden and Ukraine was at the center of the impeachment inquiry launched against the president last fall by House Democrats.

The Democrat-controlled House last year approved two articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The impeachment probe was set off by an anonymous whistleblower complaint accusing Trump of using the levers of U.S. diplomacy to pursue an investigations for his own political benefit.

Multiple senior Trump administration officials testified that they became alarmed about a July 25, 2019, call the president had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he urged his counterpart to announce an investigation into the Bidens. Administration officials also testified of concerns that Giuliani was carrying out a "shadow diplomacy" in Ukraine focused on pressuring officials to investigate Trump's political rivals.

The Republican-controlled Senate this year acquitted Trump of the charges after a trial.

Exclusive: Alleged Hunter Biden Emails Circulated in Ukraine as Rudy Giuliani Dug for Dirt There Last Year

  Exclusive: Alleged Hunter Biden Emails Circulated in Ukraine as Rudy Giuliani Dug for Dirt There Last Year Emails purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden were circulating in Ukraine last year at the same time that Rudy Giuliani was searching for dirt on Joe Biden.The emails’ alleged availability, which has not been previously reported, comes to light in the wake of Giuliani’s recent claims that he obtained private photos and emails of Hunter Biden from a broken laptop abandoned in Delaware. Giuliani, who is President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, has passed this material to right-wing news outlets, which began publishing it last week. Giuliani did not respond to requests for comment on the origins of the material he obtained.

Trump and Giuliani have accused Joe Biden of seeking the ouster of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin to thwart an investigation of Burisma – a claim that independent fact checkers and investigators have debunked.

Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump are posing for a picture: President Donald Trump and attorney Rudy Giuliani © Carolyn Kaster, AP President Donald Trump and attorney Rudy Giuliani

Shokin was widely and publicly viewed by international organizations such as the European Union and International Monetary Fund, as well as anti-corruption investigators in Ukraine, as an impediment to reforming the country’s culture of graft.

Biden helped to oust the prosecutor because he was not aggressively pursuing corruption cases. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden

An examination of the matter by PolitiFact in 2019 said there was "no evidence to support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son's interests in mind ... It's not even clear that (Burisma) was actively under investigation or that a change in prosecutors benefited it."

Last month, the two Republican-led Senate committees investigating the claims said in an 87-page report that Hunter Biden's role on the Burisma board was "problematic" but said it was "unclear" whether this ever affected the U.S. foreign policy of the Obama administration.

What did the New York Post report say?

The New York Post reported on unverified documents that were based on what it called a "massive trove" of data from a laptop computer. The newspaper said the data were provided by Giuliani and former White House adviser Steve Bannon.

Rudy Giuliani said he chose to release his Hunter Biden story to the New York Post because he knew other outlets would scrutinize it too much

  Rudy Giuliani said he chose to release his Hunter Biden story to the New York Post because he knew other outlets would scrutinize it too much Giuliani told the NYT that he chose the New York Post because other publications would "spend all the time they could to try to contradict it."Giuliani told The Times that he chose the New York tabloid because "either nobody else would take it, or if they took it, they would spend all the time they could to try to contradict it before they put it out.

The central claim of the documents is unclear. The article references an email from Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to Burisma, in which he thanks Hunter Biden for "giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together." 

The wording of the email leaves unclear whether Pozharskyi was referring to a past encounter or one he hoped to have in the future. There is also no evidence in the published documents that a meeting happened.

The newspaper characterized the documents as undercutting Biden's previous claims that he never spoke to Hunter about his son's business dealings in Ukraine.

But the Biden campaign categorically denied a meeting ever occurred between Joe Biden and Pozharskyi.

"They never had a meeting," Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, told USA TODAY.

“I’ve literally never heard of this guy in my life,” Amos Hochstein, a former Biden staff member, told POLITICO

Facebook and Twitter flagged the New York Post story as spreading disinformation. Misinformation experts have noted that the story has many hallmarks of a disinformation campaign, with questionable assertions at its core.

Fact check: Claims that Hunter Biden received $3.5M from Russia are unproven, lack context

The Post said the data it received were discovered on the hard drive of a laptop taken to a repair shop in Joe Biden's home state of Delaware.

In the tabloid's coverage, the emails are shared as image files, not in a file format that would contain header information and metadata. That makes it harder to analyze and verify the files.

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The laptop was allegedly dropped off at the Delaware repair shop but never retrieved. The Post said the store owner then copied the documents on the device's hard drive and sent them to Giuliani's lawyer, Robert Costello.

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The article does not explain the connection between Giuliani and the Delaware store owner.

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Former White House aide Bannon later told the New York Post about the existence of the documents. Giuliani provided the documents to the tabloid.

The article also claimed that the FBI seized the laptop for an inquiry.

The FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware declined to comment when contacted by USA TODAY. 

What did the Delaware computer shop owner say?

John Paul Mac Isaac, a computer repairman based in Wilmington, Delaware, identified himself as the store owner who gave a copy of the laptop hard drive to Costello, Giuliani’s attorney.

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a sign on the side of a brick building: The owner of the Mac Shop says he shared a copy of the hard drive belonging to Hunter Biden with Rudy Giuliani's attorney. © Karl Baker/THE NEWS JOURNAL The owner of the Mac Shop says he shared a copy of the hard drive belonging to Hunter Biden with Rudy Giuliani's attorney.

In a meandering session with reporters Wednesday, Mac Isaac said a man brought three liquid-damaged laptops to his repair shop in April 2019, according to the Wilmington News Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network.

Only one was left for repair, he said. No one returned to retrieve it, he said.

Mac Isaac said the laptop had a Beau Biden Foundation sticker on it – a reference to a nonprofit named after Hunter Biden's late brother – which led him to believe it belonged to Hunter Biden. He also said he has an unspecified medical condition that made it difficult for him to tell who had dropped off the laptop at his store.

Mac Isaac said he began hearing about Burisma and Ukraine shortly after the laptop was left at the repair shop. When a customer doesn't return after 90 days, Mac Isaac says he typically will reach out to them by phone.

Asked if he called Hunter Biden, Mac Isaac said, "No comment."

Mac Isaac said he had been in contact with the FBI over the contents of the laptop but did not say if the agency contacted him first or if he initiated the contact. He was vague about the timeline of the communications and suggested he was disappointed in the FBI's followup.

"I thought the FBI was going to help and then I got the overwhelming sense that they weren't going to help me," the shop owner said.

Mac Isaac dodged multiple questions about his intentions and his connections to Giuliani, repeatedly expressing fear "about saying the wrong things and getting in more trouble than I already am."

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Mac Isaac, 44, is registered as a Republican, according to Delaware voter registration records. He said he voted for Trump in 2016 and remains an ardent supporter, also called Trump's impeachment a sham.

In an interview Saturday with the Wilmington News Journal, Mac Isaac said he's been the subject of a lot of "anger and hate" in the days since the New York Post story published, but he's heard from an equal amount of supporters, too.

He declined to comment on the news of the FBI investigation of disinformation. 

"I don't want to talk about it anymore," he said. "I've gotten good at saying 'no comment.'

What did the Biden team say?

Bates, the Biden spokesman, said any suggestion that the former vice president did anything improper is false.

“Investigations by the press, during impeachment, and even by two Republican-led Senate committees whose work was decried as not legitimate and political by a GOP colleague have all reached the same conclusion: that Joe Biden carried out official U.S. policy toward Ukraine and engaged in no wrongdoing,” he said.

Joe Biden, Hunter Biden are posing for a picture: Hunter Biden, seen here with his father, former Vice President Joe Biden at a 2010 basketball game, has remarried, the family confirmed Wednesday. © Nick Wass/AP Hunter Biden, seen here with his father, former Vice President Joe Biden at a 2010 basketball game, has remarried, the family confirmed Wednesday.

Last year, Biden pledged that his family would not engage in any foreign business activities if he is elected president.

Why did Twitter, Facebook flag the story?

After the tabloid story published, posts promoting it on Twitter and Facebook were flagged as potential disinformation. Twitter and Facebook both said they were actively suppressing the story's visibility while independent fact-checkers investigated the story's claims.

Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said the platform would "reduce its distribution" as part of its effort to curb the spread of misinformation.

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"While I will intentionally not link to the New York Post, I want be clear that this story is eligible to be fact checked by Facebook's third-party fact checking partners," Stone wrote. "In the meantime, we are reducing its distribution on our platform."

Twitter went further, stopping users from posting links to the Post story while also cautioning users against retweeting posts that were already on the site.

The company cited its policy against allowing potentially hacked materials as a reason for its decision.

Conservatives denounced the media giants' moves as censorship. Subsequent statements from both Twitter and CEO Jack Dorsey acknowledged a lack of transparency after the company faced backlash for its decision.

"We know we have more work to do to provide clarity in our product when we enforce our rules in this manner," reads a statement from Twitter Safety. "We should provide additional clarity and context when preventing the Tweeting or DMing of URLs that violate our policies."

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Twitter then announced Thursday night that it will no longer remove purportedly hacked content unless it is directly shared by hackers or those acting alongside them. The platform will now also label tweets to provide context instead of blocking links from being shared on Twitter. 

Are there any clear 'hallmarks' of disinformation?

The New York Post story's publication prompted some to draw parallels to the runup to the 2016 election, when emails from the Democratic National Committee were hacked by Russian-affiliated operatives and released by WikiLeaks.

The FBI is now examining whether Russia is tied to the information cited by the New York Post.

Some experts say the story has many hallmarks of a disinformation campaign.

"It is also an old Cold War disinformation tactic to pass information, especially but not exclusively when forged, to low-brow newspapers that have high circulation and low standards of investigation. Ideal for surfacing and amplification," Thomas Rid, a political scientist who focuses on disinformation and information warfare at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said in a tweet.

Russian operatives worked to sow partisan divisions in the U.S. and spread disinformation during the 2016 presidential election cycle, according to a 2017 report from the U.S. intelligence community. That report found that Russian President Vladimir Putin "aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances," in part by discrediting his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. 

Trump's own intelligence officials have warned that Moscow is interfering again in the 2020 election.

In September, the Treasury Department sanctioned Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Derkach, who met with Giuliani in December, for being an "active Russian agent for over a decade."

Stephen K. Bannon looking at the camera: Former White House strategist Steve Bannon speaks during a television interview in New York on Oct. 9, 2017. © Craig Ruttle, AP Former White House strategist Steve Bannon speaks during a television interview in New York on Oct. 9, 2017.

Bannon was indicted for fraud in August in connection to a border wall fundraising effort that raised more than $25 million "under the false pretense that all of that money would be spent on construction," according to prosecutors. Bannon has pleaded not guilty. 

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In the case of Giuliani associate Derkach, the Treasury Department's move was aimed at "exposing Russian malign influence campaigns and protecting our upcoming elections from foreign interference." It also made clear that Giuliani has engaged with Russian agents in his campaign against the Bidens.

Former Biden aides have also suggested that Russians are behind the story.

"This is a Russian disinformation operation,” Michael Carpenter, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense with a specialization in Eastern Europe who now heads the Penn Biden Center, said to POLITICO. "I’m very comfortable saying that.”

Contributing: John Fritze, Courtney Subramanian and David Jackson

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: A tabloid got a trove of data on Hunter Biden from Rudy Giuliani. Now, the FBI is probing a possible disinformation campaign

Fact-checking Trump's massively dishonest weekend: The President made at least 66 separate false or misleading claims in three days .
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