With 41 days to Election Day 2020, here’s the news that you’ll want to know:
The top news items from the Senate report on Hunter Biden’s work with Burisma and others.
“The 87-page interim report comes amid a months-long probe in which members of the Senate Homeland Security and Finance Committees and their staff reviewed more than 45,000 pages of Obama administration records and interviewed eight witnesses, many of whom are current or former U.S. officials.” (National Review)
- What’s happening: The Senate’s long-running investigation into Hunter Biden’s work with Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company, has now been published as an 87-page interim report.
As the Daily Caller notes: “The report does not produce any direct evidence of wrongdoing on Hunter Biden’s part. But Republicans say the documents paint a troubling picture of Biden receiving ‘millions of dollars from foreign sources as a result of business relationships that he built during the period when his father was vice president of the United States and after.'”
Reporters are still combing through the document (we linked it for you above to read in full); here are some of the most newsworthy items we’ve seen from reporting so far.
— “The probe found that in 2015, two Obama administration officials voiced concerns to White House officials about the possibility that the younger Biden serving on the board of Burisma could create the appearance of a conflict of interest, as his father oversaw Ukraine policy.” (New York Post)
— “New documents unveiled in an explosive Senate report Wednesday show former Secretary of State John Kerry lied to reporters when asked whether he was aware of former Vice President Joe Biden’s son serving in a lucrative board position for a Ukrainian energy company.” (The Federalist)
— “This Grassley/Johnson report on Hunter Biden has some explosive allegations – worse than what was included in the false dossier on Trump – Hunter Biden received a $3.5 million wire transfer from Elena Baturina. Ms. Baturina is the wife (widow) of the former mayor of Moscow.” (Susan Crabtree Hennebury, RealClearPolitics)
— “The committees also said they obtained records from the US Treasury Department that ‘show potential criminal activity relating to transactions among and between Hunter Biden, his family, and his associates with Ukrainian, Russian, Kazakh and Chinese nationals.'” (New York Post)
— Meanwhile, the report states that Senate investigators found millions of dollars in ‘questionable financial transactions’ between Hunter Biden and his associates and foreign individuals, including the wife of the former mayor of Moscow as well as individuals with ties to the Chinese Communist Party.” (Fox News)
— “Separately, the report pointed to an instance in which Hunter Biden ‘opened a bank account’ with a Chinese national linked to the CCP. That account ‘financed a $100,000 global spending spree’ for the former vice president’s brother, James Biden, and his wife, Sara Biden.” (New York Post)
— “Hunter Biden made a number of payments to foreign nationals with ‘questionable backgrounds’ consistent with ‘organized prostitution and/or human trafficking.'” (The Federalist)
- What’s at stake: Call us cynical, but we presume if this were a report about a Trump family member rather than a Biden family member, the media response would be much different.
As it stands, the mainstream media has downplayed this report’s release.
— The New York Times headline is “Republican Inquiry Finds No Evidence of Wrongdoing by Biden,” and the story description calls it “little more than a rehashing of unproven allegations.”
— And some reporters on Twitter have been similarly dismissive.
That doesn’t mean the news items won’t get coverage, though. President Trump is highly likely to bring up some items in the presidential debate next week, and conservative media outlets at least are thoroughly reviewing the document.
- What else to know: This is an aside from the investigation, but it’s a story that has always stuck with us, from the Washington Free Beacon: “Hunter Biden was hit with a $450,000 lien in July over delinquent state income taxes, which he paid off in six days despite having no discernible income. Last year, he told the court judge in his paternity case that he was broke and unemployed.”
Six topics announced for the first presidential debate next Tuesday, September 29.
“Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, the moderator of the first 2020 presidential debate, has announced the topics for the head-to-head battle between President Trump and Joe Biden.” (Daily Wire)
- What’s happening: The first presidential debate is less than a week away, and the six topics have now been announced:
— Trump and Biden records (on policy, we assume)
— Supreme Court
— COVID-19 / coronavirus
— race and violence in cities
— election integrity
Each topic will be debated for 15 minutes before the moderator moves on to the next. (The topics won’t necessarily be in the order listed above.) The debate won’t have any commercial breaks, so it will be a solid 90 minutes of debate in total.
The moderator is Fox News anchor Chris Wallace. He interviewed President Trump earlier this summer, and he’s since criticized Joe Biden for ducking an appearance on his show.
- What’s at stake:
(1) On the debates in general: In an unusual campaign year with fewer campaign events than normal — especially for Biden — the debate series seems to take on even more importance than usual. But that’s tempered by the knowledge that many battleground states have already started early voting, with long lines reported in Virginia last week.
(2) And for this debate in particular: some Republicans are now concerned that the expectations for Biden are too low, per POLITICO’s reporting.
President Trump has been widely expected to perform better in the debates, as he did in 2016. But given how low expectations are for Biden, given both President Trump’s criticisms of him and his absence from the campaign trail, even a mediocre Biden performance may seem like a victory.
We’d call this is a very good “problem” for President Trump, and we doubt it will be a concern on September 29, the day of the first debate — no matter how much the media wishes it were.
Joe Biden’s bizarre campaign schedule is starting to draw attention.
“As of late, Biden’s team has regularly put a ‘lid’ on his day by noon — or even earlier. And, when it does not, the events that Biden attends seem to have been designed to be either easily cancelable or easily replaceable. Were President Trump to cancel a rally, he would be unable to hide it. This is not true of the events on Biden’s schedule, which, the New York Times‘s Mark Leibovich observes, are ‘quiet, eerie and almost entirely fan-free.'” (National Review)
- What’s happening: Yesterday, as The Federalist noted, Joe Biden’s campaign put a “lid,” i.e. no events, on the day before 9am.
Today, as National Review observed, it’s part of a pattern from the Biden campaign to either host no events or host events that are “easily cancelable or easily replaceable,” suggesting the campaign is not committed to them.
- What’s at stake: There’s no rule about how many events presidential candidates must do. But given the close margins in the presidential race — and that we’re just over 40 days out from Election Day — it is bizarre that Biden has been so absent from the campaign trail.
This may reinforce President Trump’s criticism of Biden: that he is not up to the job of president. (We can likely judge that at least partially for ourselves in the 90-minute, commercial-free presidential debate next week.)
But it may also reflect Biden’s low-key, minimal-personal-contact campaign style that has also seen the campaign abandon door-to-door campaigning, even in battleground states and to the concern of fellow Democrats. Alternatively, it may be due to the campaign’s focus on COVID safety.
Either way, don’t expect the mainstream media to ask any questions as they continue their quest to see Biden elected president in November.