On 28 October 2016, the then director of the FBI, James Comey, dropped a bomb into the middle of the presidential race. With just 11 days to go until election day, he announced that his agents were investigating a newly discovered batch of emails from Hillary Clinton’s personal server.
The highly irregular intervention led nowhere, but it was enough to wreak havoc in the final stretch of the contest, putting Clinton on the defensive and giving Donald Trump an artificial leg-up. To this day, many Democrats – and Republicans – are convinced it played a substantial role in Trump’s unexpected victory.
Twenty days before election day 2020, the Trump campaign dropped what it hoped would be a similar bomb into the middle of the current race. On 14 October, the New York Post (owner: Rupert Murdoch) splashed with the screaming headline “Biden Secret Emails”.
The paper alleged that a laptop had been discovered at a computer repair shop in Delaware, the home state of the Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden. On its hard drive, the Post said, were stored personal emails from Biden’s son Hunter Biden that pointed to inappropriate conflicts of interest between the younger Biden’s business interests in Ukraine and the elder’s diplomatic work as then vice-president.