Biden email episode illustrates risk to Trump from Giuliani

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Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani pauses while addressing supporters of President Donald Trump supporters Monday, Oct. 12, 2020 during a Columbus Day gathering at a Trump campaign field office in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

WASHINGTON – A New York tabloid’s puzzling account about how it acquired emails purportedly from Joe Biden’s son has raised some red flags. One of the biggest involves the source of the emails: Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani has traveled abroad looking for dirt on the Bidens, developing relationships with shadowy figures, including a Ukrainian lawmaker who U.S. officials have described as a Russian agent and part of a broader Russian effort to denigrate the Democratic presidential nominee.

Yet Giuliani says foreign sources didn’t provide the Hunter Biden emails. He says a laptop containing the emails and intimate photos was simply abandoned in a Delaware repair shop and the shop owner reached out to Giuliani's lawyer.

That hasn’t stopped the FBI from investigating whether the emails are part of a foreign influence operation. The emails have surfaced as U.S. officials have been warning that Russia, which backed Trump’s 2016 campaign through hacking of Democratic emails and a covert social media campaign, is interfering again this year. The latest episode with Giuliani underscores the risk he poses to a White House that spent years confronted by a federal investigation into whether Trump associates had coordinated with Russia.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that intelligence agencies had warned the White House last year that Giuliani was the target of a Russian influence operation. The newspaper, citing four former officials, said that assessment was based on information including intercepted communications showing Giuliani had been in contact with people tied to Russian intelligence.

The newspaper said national security adviser Robert O’Brien had warned Trump that information Giuliani brought back from Ukraine should be considered contaminated by Russia, but that Trump brushed off the warning.

Far from distancing himself from Giuliani, Trump has made the purported Hunter Biden emails one of his main talking points in the final weeks of the campaign as he tries to disparage his Democratic rival.

The Trump-friendly New York Post began publishing stories about the emails Wednesday, saying it had obtained them from the former New York mayor. The newspaper said the emails of Hunter Biden, a California resident, were found in a laptop that had been dropped off for service at a Delaware repair shop by an unidentified man who never picked it up. They said the shop owner turned it over to the FBI, but also made a copy of the hard drive and provided that to Giuliani’s lawyer.