What do “Lock Him Up!” chants, social media, and some suspicious emails have in common? They are all part of a purported “October Surprise” intended to boost the President’s re-election chances. The story is about the “smoking gun” emails allegedly found on a laptop that implicate Joe Biden in criminal partnership with his son Hunter involving the Burisma board of directors and China.
The heart of the scandal is that Hunter, with the help of his father, sold access to Joe Biden in exchange for significant amounts of money. If true, the alleged activities would be felonious.
Facebook and Twitter took down the stories, which are not yet verified. Trump and Republicans have since attacked the two social media giants for doing so. Republicans accuse the companies of bias in favor of Biden, a perception supported by some Facebook executives joining the Biden team.
The dramatic content of the alleged emails–direct contradictions of the former Vice President’s claim he knew nothing about his son’s business activities–qualifies the story as an “October Surprise.” The President enthusiastically welcomed the New York Post coverage. At a Las Vegas campaign rally, he referred to Biden’s family as “a criminal enterprise.” This prompted the crowd to start a “Lock Him Up!” chant. Trump himself joined in, obviously enjoying this moment.
How the New York Post Got the Emails
The Post claims incriminating emails were extracted from a MacBook Pro computer that was dropped off at a repair shop in 2019 but never picked up. Because the emails include messages sent to and from Hunter Biden, the assumption is that the laptop (hard drive) was his. The memory also held photos of the Biden family.
Through his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani obtained the emails and shared them with the Post. Steve Bannon, a former Trump aide now under indictment for fraud, was also cited as a source by the Post. CBS News reports the repair shop owner is “unwilling and unable” to provide details on who dropped off the laptop for repair and other information that might support the emails’ authenticity.
The FBI is now investigating the emails. Several major news organizations, including NPR, have also raised questions of authenticity. A Biden campaign spokesman has said that a 2015 meeting detailed in the emails did not take place.
The New York Times reports that there was dissension in the New York Post newsroom relating to the decision to publish the piece. One reporter who worked on the piece declined to put his name on it due to his doubts.
Trump Jumps onto the Story
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the email scandal is how quickly President Trump moved to incorporate it into his campaign message. Since the news broke, he has tweeted dozens of times about Facebook and Twitter’s decision to remove the story. Here’s one example:
So terrible that Facebook and Twitter took down the story of “Smoking Gun” emails related to Sleepy Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in the @NYPost. It is only the beginning for them. There is nothing worse than a corrupt politician. . ..
Then There is the Chant, “Lock Him Up!”
Trump is calling the Biden story the “second biggest” case of political corruption in history. That may be an exaggeration, but his supporters are agreeing. Attendees at Trump’s recent Las Vegas rally did the chant, just like those in Detroit called for the jailing of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. (Whitmer’s crime is shutting down the State to curtail the virus—the same crime that almost got her kidnapped).
Trump has also called for former President Obama to be jailed, in this case for allegedly spying on his 2016 campaign. The President is also resurrecting Hillary Clinton and her alleged crimes in his rallies.
Is Trump Asking for Trouble in Calling for the Jailing of Politicians?
One aspect of the Trump focus on the alleged Biden scandal is curious. Trump himself may face criminal investigations and prosecutions once he leaves office. Have you read the New York Times reporting on the President’s taxes (non-payment)?
Is it smart for Trump to focus on prosecution of elected officials?
The Bottom Line
As of today, doubts continue to rise regarding the authenticity of the emails. Major news outlets, including the Washington Post and NPR are not convinced. Hopefully, the FBI will decide and, if the emails are fakes, find out who produced them and why.
None of this is likely to make a difference to President Trump as he enters the home stretch of a campaign he appears to be losing. Vilifying Hillary Clinton over emails contributed to his surprise victory in 2016. Will a similar tactic work in 2020?
Not if everyone gets out to vote.
It’s time for the circus to end.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy.