Small rays of hope for Donald Trump: As the election campaign turns into the home stretch, there are two glimmers of hope for the president. On the one hand, some of his poll results are improving shortly before November 3. In the important battleground state Florida, for example, according to the average of all polls measured by Realclearpolitics.com, he is now on a par with challenger Joe Biden, after the Democrat had recently led the polls there with seven percentage points. And in the US-wide polls the (traditionally Republican-friendly) polling institute Rasmussen even puts him ahead of Biden with 48 to 47 percent – the first time since September. On average, however, Biden leads at the national level with 7.5 percent.
The second glimmer of hope for the president: According to the figures published on Thursday, the US economy has returned in the third quarter with astonishingly good figures. According to these figures, the gross domestic product grew by 7.4 percent between July and September – in the second quarter it was minus nine percent. If it is true that the decision to vote continues to depend primarily on the economic situation (“It’s the economy, stupid!”), these figures could still drag some Americans over to the presidency.
Nevertheless, Trump has not yet gone on the offensive again. Yet the revelations about the China business of Hunter Biden, the son of the former vice president, may be much more than a “Russian disinformation campaign”, as the Democrats have been assuring for weeks. While we don’t like Donald Trump’s amorality, we nevertheless have to listen to allegations against his contender and check them.
And doing so, we have to note: There are new questions. Did the presidential candidate, contrary to his claims, know about details of his son’s economic activities? And did he even personally support the initiation of a multi-million dollar business deal between his brother Jim and Hunter with a Chinese company? This was claimed on Wednesday evening by Tony Bobulinski, a former business partner of Hunter Biden, on the talk show “Tucker Carlson” on Trump’s beloved channel FoxNews. It was the first time Tucker Carlson had cleared the show for a single guest, and the 49-minute interview catapulted him to the top of all political TV shows apart from candidate debates with 7.56 million viewers.
Many things and allegations against Biden remain mysterious even after that. Bobulinski’s story goes like this: Hunter Biden and his British business partner James Gilliar had recruited him, a Navy veteran and businessman, by e-mail on Christmas Eve 2015 for a deal between the Chinese energy company CEFC and “one of the most prominent families in the United States” – the family of the then Vice President of the United States, as Bobulinski soon learned.
It was only after the end of the Obama administration that a meeting with Joe Biden was arranged in Los Angeles in May 2017. “Dad not there now until 11 p.m.”, Hunter Biden texted (with obvious typos) to Bobulinski on May 2. “Meet me and Jim at the Beverly Hilton where he’s staying at 10:00.” Bobulinski later replied, “It was nice to get to know each other and spend some time together, please give my thanks to Joe for that, thank you, Tony.”
Bobulinski explained to the TV presenter that obviously the Bidens had invited him to “wining and dining” to impress him with the family’s connections and power and to strengthen his commitment to the family – and that Joe Biden should vet him. Eleven days later, Gilliar sent him an email to let him know that ten percent of the profit he wanted to make should go to Jim Biden and ten percent to “the big guy” – because of the connection it was “crystal clear” for him that the ex-vice president was meant.
Shortly thereafter, a document presented by Bobulinski stated that the profits were to be divided 20 percent each between Gilliar, Rob Walker (another partner and confidant of the Biden family), Hunter Biden’s company GK Temujin LLC and Jim Biden’s company Sino Atlantic Solutions LLC. Did Jim Biden want to split his contingent with his brother Joe? Then everyone would have received the previously discussed ten percent. However, this assumption has not been proven. Furthermore, there is no proof that Joe Biden got anything from this (or other) business deals his son and his brother have ever made.
And it is not clear what happened to the China business. Perhaps the planned deal fell through because the Chinese state company CEFC bought 15 percent of the Russian oil company Rosneft in 2017 – and the USA had imposed a boycott on this company. Bobulinski says that he never received a single cent from any of the parties involved and even paid for his own expenses, including several domestic and international flights. Nevertheless, according to the Chinese partners (says Bobulinsk), five million dollars went “as a loan to the Biden family”. Bobulinski cannot prove this, either. He says he had decided to go public because the Biden family had dismissed the documents, which had initially been launched by another party, as “Russian disinformation”. With this, his name had been put into the ranks of an agent for Moscow, and he did not want to sit on it, said former Navy soldier Bobulinski.
Statement against statement
Former vice presidents are not prohibited from doing business, whether at home or abroad. But if it were true that contacts with China (and similarly, according to Bobulinski’s unsubstantiated claims, with companies in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Romania) were initiated by the deliberate instrumentalization of the office of vice president and the name of his family at a time when Joe Biden was still sitting in the White House, the suspicion of an amalgamation of interests would be more than obvious. Moreover, Joe Biden would have lied when he repeatedly assured that he knew nothing at all about his son’s business activities. Bobulinski claims the opposite: the father was even actively involved. Hunter had even spoken about him as the “chairman”, and business partner Walker then sent Bobulinski a text message explaining to him that the son had “talked about his father”.
After all, it is statement against statement. The Senate had already appointed a committee of inquiry into Hunter Biden in the summer. The committee could not find any violations of the law. But at that time the current documents were not known. Shouldn’t a special investigator deal with the topic now? But surely only after the election, because so shortly before November 3, a “in doubt for the accused” must apply. An impeachment trial would then still be possible – especially since Washington, thanks to the machinations of Donald Trump, is once again quite familiar with impeachment trials.
In this complicated matter, one should not jump to conclusions either in favor of Joe Biden (he himself speaks of a “smear campaign”) or against him (the entire Biden family is “corrupt and criminal,” the president proclaims). For several points are contradictory. For example, Tucker Carlson never once returned to Hunter Biden’s mysterious laptop submitted for repair, on which the material was allegedly found and which made headlines two weeks ago. Obviously, at least this part of the story, in which Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani plays a decisive role, remains fishy and suspicious in whole or in part. Thus, the Trump-friendly “Wall Street Journal” initially rejected the story because of obvious doubts about its truthfulness. In the less scrupulous tabloid “New York Post”, which the story subsequently received and published, some reporters actually responsible for the subject did not want to appear with their author names in the byline.
The allegations must be precisely verified
The portrayal of Bobulinski, however, cannot be dismissed as a simple lie. And neither Joe Biden nor his son Hunter nor his brother Jim denied his statements to Tucker Carlson. And American journalism? It is threatening to embarrass himself by disinterest in this topic. Major American media, from the “New York Times” to the “Washington Post” to the cable networks CNN or MSNBC, do not pay adequate attention to the topic – while they are always eagerly (and with good reason) digging into all the many scandals Trump has caused. Some of these media summarize Bobulinski’s claims and then declare that they could not be proven. But this realization should mark the beginning of journalistic investigation, not the end of interest. The (correct) suggestion that American journalists are more left-wing and therefore sympathetic to the Democrats is true, but it is not enough to explain the journalists’ extensive silence. Presumably another point plays a major role: Trump has blunted the issue with his constant derailments, with his uncountable lies and with the insolence with which he mixes corporate and political interests. Oh, Joe Biden lied too? Come on, it won’t be that bad compared to the misconduct of this president.
The obvious amorality of the one, however, must not shift the compass of the media in the oldest democracy in the world to the point where they overlook the possible mistakes of the other. If Joe Biden asks Americans to measure his character against that of the president, journalists in Washington shouldn’t hesitate to do so. The allegations about Joe and Jim and Hunter Biden, Tony Bobulinski, and the China tracks must be checked by serious media – and falsified or verified.