THEOn October 28, 2016, then FBI Director James Comey dropped a bomb in the middle of the presidential race. Just 11 days before polling day, he announced that his agents were investigating a newly discovered batch of emails from Hillary Clinton’s personal server.
The highly irregular intervention got nowhere, but it was enough to wreak havoc on the home stretch of the contest, putting Clinton on the defensive and giving Donald Trump an artificial head start. To this day, many Democrats – and Republicans – are convinced he played a substantial role in Trump’s unexpected victory.
Twenty days before Election Day 2020, the Trump campaign dropped what it hoped was a similar bomb in the middle of the current race. On October 14, the New York Post (owner: Rupert Murdoch) splashed with the screaming headline “Biden Secret Emails.”
The newspaper alleged that a laptop was discovered at a computer repair shop in Delaware, the home state of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. On his hard drive, the Post said, were stored personal emails from Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, which indicated inappropriate conflicts of interest between young Biden’s business interests in Ukraine and the elder’s diplomatic work as as vice-president at the time.
It was a case of Clinton’s redux of emails. Like the 2016 saga, the Hunter Biden emails were fragile in content and, in this case, of questionable provenance.
The cast of characters involved in the laptop’s “discovery” was like a roll call from some of Trump’s most discredited associates. At the center of the scheme were former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon, who has been charged with fraud and money laundering linked to the border wall with Mexico; and Rudy Giuliani, who has his own questions to answer about his blushing appearance in Sacha Baron Cohen’s new film, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.
The way the Hunter Biden story was set up from inside the New York Post also raised eyebrows. The New York Times reported that the Post reporter who wrote most of the story declined to name it because of doubts about the credibility of the material.
The story’s main signing, Emma-Jo Morris, recently worked as a producer on Trump loyalist Sean Hannity’s Fox News Show. The second signing, Gabrielle Fonrouge, had little to do with the article and only learned that her name was in it after it was posted, the Times reported.
Such machinations over a controversial story are nothing new in the Post’s newsroom, a former employee of the newspaper told The Guardian. “When I saw this Hunter Biden play, I had flashbacks to the crap in this place. It happened to me there. I would wake up and think, ‘I didn’t write this story,’ ”the reporter said.
The Hunter Biden story was a transparent effort to replicate the undoubted success of Clinton’s email success in 2016. But as a work of political dirty tricks, it was too obvious to impress many.
“It’s glaring and it’s desperate,” said Elaine Karmack, a senior researcher at the Brookings Institution. It was also tired. “Hunter Biden’s allegations were fully publicized during the arraignment. If you want a real October surprise, you’ve got to find something new, ”she says.
If it didn’t hit its mark, the Biden cunning has at least underscored the lengths Trump and his friends are willing to go to cling to presidential power. Karmack predicted that more dirty tricks are yet to come.
“We have 10 days left, who knows what else they might be up to. You have a president with his back to the wall and acting more and more bizarre, ”Karmack said.
John Weaver, John Kasich’s chief strategist in his presidential battle with Trump in the Republican primaries in 2016 and now co-founder of the anti-Trump group of disgruntled former Republicans, the Lincoln Project, urged the nation to prepare to a wild state. ride in the last days. “The next two weeks are going to see some dirty stuff on a scale we can’t imagine, and we wouldn’t either.”
Weaver pointed out that the dirty tricks of American politics are as old as the nation. They date back to the competition of 1796.
In this race between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, vying to replace George Washington as president, Alexander Hamilton, acting on behalf of Adams and their federalist party, adopted the pseudonym of Phocion. He then wrote a scandalous article in the United States Gazette accusing Jefferson of having an affair with a slave.
If that sounds bad, it was nothing compared to what we are witnessing today, Weaver said. “What we’re seeing from Trump is on one scale, and in the intersection of norms and blatantly inventing things, and meanness, on another level. Even when Hamilton and Jefferson were in line, they had respect for the new institutions they had just helped set up – there is no respect for any institution now.
Hunter Biden is just the end of the corner. The Trump coterie has also attempted to heat up the grotesque ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy theory that made the rounds in 2016, claiming Hillary Clinton was at the center of a pedophile ring – this time with the Bidens at the center of it. Warning.
The lie was broadcast this week by Fox Business Network presenter Maria Bartiromo and alluded to when Trump refused to expose the cult QAnon conspiracy theory to an NBC News town hall.
The litany of dirty tricks starts from there. They come in all shapes and sizes: Processing digital material to create disinformation is a favorite. Dr.Anthony Fauci, the chief infectious disease official in the United States, found himself at the end of this technique in a Trump re-election announcement that roughly took his words out of context to make it sound like he approved of the president.
For Karmack, the most insidious dirty tricks of this cycle have been directed at the electoral process itself. Trump has repeatedly and incorrectly portrayed the American voting system, and postal voting in particular, as riddled with fraud; in fact, the number of substantiated frauds is infinitely small.
Ballot boxes where voters are encouraged to cast their mail-in ballots have started to appear suspiciously in Los Angeles and other parts of California. They turned out to have been the work of the local Republican Party which was duly ordered by state officials to expel them on the grounds that they are illegal.
“Misinformation about how to vote is the worst dirty trick I see,” Karmack said. “Voting is already confusing in the pandemic, and if you add more confusion to that, efforts to suppress voting may be successful in places.”
As Trump and his allies are actively stepping up their distortion efforts, a stark contrast to 2016 is that there are far fewer signs the tactics are working this time around. The FBI has so far resisted pressure from the White House to make another Comey and announce an investigation into the Bidens, much to Trump’s fury.
The media has also been much more disciplined in handling Trump’s fireball of lies and disinformation. Hunter Biden’s story has been treated with care by most of the media, in stark contrast to the breathless treatment of Clinton’s emails four years ago.
If the mud that is thrown at the wall doesn’t stick the same way it did then, it is possible that the underhand tactics will backfire on the increasingly besieged president. Every dirty trick that is pulled is a distraction from Trump’s central message on the economy.
“Time is wasted on Hunter Biden, QAnon and all that other circus activity,” Weaver said. “Voters don’t care about that stuff, and Trump is using his own re-election chance every minute he spends on it.