Election campaign officials for former Vice President Joe Biden have dismissed a report in The New York Post that he met a senior official from a Ukrainian energy firm at the center of a controversy over the dismissal of a prosecutor investigating the company.
The Post did not give evidence the meeting had taken place, but based its October 14 report on unverified e-mails it said it had received from Trump surrogates.
Social-media platforms Facebook and Twitter restricted sharing of the article pending third-party fact-checking over concerns of misinformation with just three weeks left until the November 3 election.
“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. Trump Administration officials have attested to these facts under oath," Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement.
"Moreover, we have reviewed Joe Biden’s official schedules from the time and no meeting, as alleged by The New York Post, ever took place," Bates said.
The Post article alleges Hunter Biden used his influence to introduce an executive at Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma, where Hunter Biden was a paid board member, to his father, who at the time was leading U.S. policy toward Ukraine as vice president.
The Post said an e-mail sent from Vadym Pozharskyi, a top executive at Burisma, to Hunter Biden in April 2015 revealed a meeting between the Ukrainian and former vice president about a year after Hunter Biden joined the Burisma board despite having no experience in the natural gas sector.
“Dear Hunter, thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together. It’s realty [sic] an honor and pleasure,” the e-mail reads according to the newspaper.
Another unverified e-mail from May 2014 allegedly shows Pozharskyi asking Hunter Biden for “advice on how you could use your influence” on Burisma’s behalf.
The e-mails, if true, would contradict Joe Biden’s claim that he’s “never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings.”
Trump, who is trailing Biden in most polls heading into the November 3 election, has repeatedly drawn attention to Hunter Biden's work in Ukraine, including an unproven allegation that the former vice president pressured Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, in an attempt to block an investigation into Burisma.
Trump blasted the social-media platforms for restricting access to what he called the "smoking gun" e-mails, while White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany accused them of censorship.
"This is part of our standard process to reduce the spread of misinformation," said Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone.
Twitter said it was limiting the article's spread due to questions about "the origins of the materials" included in the article.
The Post reported it had obtained the e-mails from the owner of a computer repair shop in Delaware, who said a customer had dropped off a computer in April 2019 and never picked it up.
The storeowner could not identify the customer as Hunter Biden, but said the laptop had a sticker from the Beau Biden Foundation, named after Hunter’s late brother.
The shop owner reportedly notified federal authorities about the computer, which was said to have been seized by the FBI in December. The Post said that before turning over the hard drive, the shop owner made a copy of it and gave it to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is Trump’s personal lawyer.
It did not say when Giuliani obtained the hard drive or whether it is legal to copy the personal hard drive of a private individual's computer without their permission.
The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee confirmed the panel is probing e-mails released in the report.
Giuliani has been involved in finding compromising information on Biden, including engaging with a Ukrainian politician the U.S. government says is “an active Russian agent” seeking to undermine U.S. elections.
Ukraine has played an outsized role in U.S. politics over the past year.
An impeachment case against Trump, who was charged by the Democratic-led House of Representatives but acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate in February, centered on the allegation that Trump "used his official powers to pressure" Ukraine’s government to "interfere in a United States election for his personal political gain."
Trump and his Republican allies, meanwhile, have continued to try to discredit Biden by questioning the propriety of his actions in relation to Ukraine and Hunter Biden’s former position at Burisma despite a lack of evidence proving their claims.
These issues came to the fore briefly again in late September with a controversial report by Republican senators focusing on the older and younger Bidens’ activities in Ukraine and when the two candidates sparred over the same matters in their first presidential candidate debate on September 29.