Hunter Biden, former VP Joe Biden's son, is getting a lot of attention these days.
His alleged emails. Exactly one week ago, the New York Post published an unverified story about former VP Biden and his son's dealings with Ukrainian energy company Burisma. (Sound familiar? That's because it was at the center of President Trump's impeachment.) The claim: that Hunter Biden's emails show he arranged a meeting between his dad (who was VP at the time) and a Burisma exec in 2015. And that this may have helped Burisma (and Hunter – who was on the board of the co) escape a criminal investigation. But many news orgs and social media companies approached the Post's report with skepticism and limited its distribution.
The chain of events that led up to the story is raising red flags. The owner of a computer repair shop in Delaware alleges that someone who identified himself as Hunter Biden came in and dropped off his laptop there last year. Then, the owner reportedly tried sending it to the FBI. But first made a copy of the hard drive for himself. Then, Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani got a hold of the copy from his own lawyer. The Post claims it learned about the hard drive from former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. And then obtained the 'receipts' from Giuliani. Still following?
Great. Former VP Biden has denied the allegations. His campaign also said the then-VP's schedule showed no formal meeting with a Burisma exec at that time (but didn't rule out an informal encounter). Hunter Biden's stayed mum about the whole ordeal. Meanwhile, Trump's talking about this. A lot. (Both on Twitter and at his rallies). And he's calling on AG William Barr to investigate the Bidens – something two Republican-led Senate committees have already done. They didn't find any wrongdoing from the former VP.
Many have come out saying 'this story reeks.' It's not clear if the emails are real. Fox News reportedly passed on the story when Giuliani offered them the scoop because of credibility concerns. Earlier this week, dozens of former intel officials wrote a letter saying the Hunter Biden story "has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation." But the director of national intelligence says 'not true.' Now, the laptop is reportedly in the FBI's hands. But others are zeroing in on the story's timing and Giuliani's involvement (think: he's allegedly coordinated with Russian agents to gather info that he thought would hurt the Bidens). And US intel officials have warned that the Kremlin's trying to interfere in this year's election in favor of Trump.
The US is no stranger to Russian election interference (see: Hillary Clinton's emails in 2016). Just this week, the DOJ indicted six Russian military officers for major hacking attacks from the last four years. As we inch closer to the election, experts are warning voters not to trust every story they hear.
With less than two weeks until the election, several states across the country are offering early voting. One to watch: Florida. On Monday, over 350,000 Floridians cast ballots – a new record for opening day. On top of that, more than 2.5 million Floridians have already voted by mail. And that's a big deal because…
Florida is a swing state and holds 29 electoral votes. History has shown that no Republican in the last several decades has won the White House without winning Florida. And the state's being closely watched because of its past contested presidential election (see: Bush v Gore in 2000).
Google. Yesterday, the Justice Department announced a landmark antitrust lawsuit against the Silicon Valley giant. And pointed the finger at its search engine, saying it helped make the company a "monopoly." The DOJ said Google has paid billions of dollars to become a default search engine in web browsers and smartphones, making it impossible for others to compete. It's the biggest case of its kind since the DOJ sued Microsoft nearly two decades ago. Google rejected the DOJ's claims, calling them "deeply flawed" and said that any change would give users "lower-quality search alternatives" and raise phone prices. But others, including consumer advocates, are thrilled someone is finally holding Big Tech accountable ("The Social Dilemma," anyone?).
What's next: This is the beginning of a potentially long legal battle. But if the DOJ wins, Google could be forced to change up its ops, opening the door to its rivals.
PS: GV (formerly Google Ventures) is a minority investor in theSkimm.
The UK. Starting next year, UK researchers plan to infect healthy volunteers with COVID-19 to test out the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines. The Human Challenge Programme will target young adults (18 to 30) who haven't had the coronavirus and don't have any other risk factors. Some say 'this sounds really dangerous,' but researchers say these types of studies have been done with other diseases. And that it's the quickest way for them to understand the virus and speed up the approval of a vaccine.
Ireland. Today, it's reimposing a nationwide lockdown for six weeks. It's the first European country to go back to a national shutdown. All nonessential shops will be closed, and restaurants will be limited to takeout or delivery. Schools will remain open but people are expected to stay home (with some exceptions – like going to work), and can only exercise within three miles of their home.
A grand juror in the Breonna Taylor case. Yesterday, the juror released a statement – after a judge ruled the jurors could talk about the case – contradicting Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron's version of events. Reminder: last month, Cameron announced no police officers would be charged in the 26-year-old Black woman's shooting and death. (Although one was charged for endangering her neighbors.) Cameron also said "the grand jury agreed" the officers' actions were justified. But the grand juror says they "didn't agree that certain actions were justified" and prosecutors didn't explain homicide charges to them. Cameron says he asked for an indictment on charges that could be proven. And now, Breonna Taylor's family is asking for a new independent prosecutor to take over.
Skimm’d by Maria del Carmen Corpus, Mariza Smajlaj, Ellen Burke, Niven McCall-Mazza, and Clem Robineau
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Jul 31 | Election Day is still on for November 3rd.
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Aug 19 | The US Postal Service is suspending its controversial changes.