President Trump’s reelection team seized on a news report Wednesday alleging that Joseph R. Biden, while vice president, was more involved in his son Hunter Biden’s lucrative overseas business dealings than he has acknowledged.
A laptop computer left at a Delaware repair shop last year included emails that appear to contradict Mr. Biden’s repeated insistence that he “never” spoke with his son about his business in Ukraine, Russia and China.
The “smoking gun” was an email from 2015 that Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to the board of Ukraine energy company Burisma Holdings, allegedly sent to Hunter Biden thanking him for setting up a meeting with his father in Washington, according to the report by The New York Post.
“Dear Hunter, thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spen[d] some time together. It’s real[ly] an honor and pleasure,” the email reads.
In an email from 2014, Mr. Pozharskyi asked Hunter Biden to “use your influence” to stop political and government attacks on the natural gas company, which was embroiled in a corruption probe at the time.
The report, if verified, shows that Hunter Biden did in fact leverage his father’s position as vice president to “cash in,” as two Republican senators charged in a report on his finances this month.
The Trump camp said the “explosive” allegations, if proved true, would expose Mr. Biden as a liar.
“If the New York Post story is true, we know now Joe Biden lied to the American people and he lied repeatedly to you,” former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who is campaigning on behalf of the president, told reporters on a conference call. “If the New York Post story is true, we know without any shadow of doubt that this was a bald-faced lie.”
The Biden campaign said the report can’t be verified and is not true.
“We have reviewed Joe Biden’s official schedules from the time and no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place,” said Biden 2020 spokesman Andrew Bates.
Mr. Bates said multiple investigations into Hunter Biden’s wheeling and dealing overseas, including by Republican-led congressional committees, “all reached the same conclusion: that Joe Biden carried out official U.S. policy toward Ukraine and engaged in no wrongdoing.”
Social media giants Twitter and Facebook, meanwhile, stepped in and curbed distribution of the story, prompting further complaints from Republicans about Silicon Valley’s political bias.
“While I will intentionally not link to the New York Post, I want to be clear that this story is eligible to be fact-checked by Facebook’s third-party fact-checking partners,” tweeted Andy Stone, Facebook spokesman. “In the meantime, we are reducing its distribution on our platform.”
Twitter users who clicked on the story were redirected to a webpage that warned the hyperlink to the story was “unsafe.”
“The link you are trying to access has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially spammy or unsafe, in accordance with Twitter’s URL Policy,” the Twitter message reads.
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany also had her Twitter account locked for sharing the article.
On Wednesday evening, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said his company bungled its handling of the Post’s story and called blocking shares of the story without explanation “unacceptable.”
Mr. Dorsey also shared a tweet-thread from another company account, @TwitterSafety, which said the violation was that images contained in the Post article contained personal and private information.
Conservatives accused Facebook and Twitter of playing defense for Mr. Biden.
“A healthy democracy depends on the free flow of ideas,” Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, tweeted in response to Mr. Stone. “Tech giants openly admit to suffocating a story that isn’t helpful to their chosen political candidate. Unacceptable and un-American.”
Questions over the Bidens’ business dealings date back to February 2014 when President Barack Obama named Mr. Biden his point man on Ukraine after the Russian annexation of Crimea.
Three months later, Hunter Biden, despite having no experience in the energy field, won a lucrative spot on the Burisma board.
In 2016, Mr. Biden and other Western governments pressured Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who had led an investigation into Burisma’s owner. Mr. Biden bragged in 2018 that he got him fired.
Mr. Trump and his allies questioned whether Mr. Biden’s real drive was to stop Mr. Shokin’s investigation into Burisma.
The New York Post published the report less than three weeks before Election Day. Mr. Biden is leading Mr. Trump by solid margins in most polls.
Jason Miller, a senior Trump 2020 adviser, said the latest news crystalizes how the election pits “a 47-year swamp creature in Joe Biden” against “a businessman in President Trump.”
“Many folks listening right now will remember that ‘Crooked’ Hillary’s self-dealing and selling access to her office in 2016 was a reminder to voters across the country of the way that the status quo works for some of these career politicians and people who make their personal fortunes by trading off of access,” Mr. Miller said.
The New York Post report said the emails to Hunter Biden were found on the hard drive of a MacBook Pro computer that was left at a Delaware computer shop. The Trump campaign said Hunter Biden apparently abandoned it there.
The hard drive also reportedly featured a 12-minute video appearing to show Hunter Biden smoking crack and engaging in a sexual act with a woman.
The computer repair shop owner said the FBI seized the computer in December 2019 after he notified them of its existence and after he shared a copy of the hard drive with Rudolph W. Giuliani’s attorney, Robert Costello. Mr. Giuliani, who is Mr. Trump’s personal attorney and a former New York mayor, gave the materials to the New York Post on Sunday.
The Biden campaign said it had no idea that Mr. Giuliani was the source on whom the New York Post relied for the information before the story was published.
“They certainly never raised that Rudy Giuliani — whose discredited conspiracy theories and alliance with figures connected to Russian intelligence have been widely reported — claimed to have such materials,” Mr. Bates said.
The New York Post reported that Steve Bannon, a former senior White House adviser to Mr. Trump, tipped off the newspaper to the existence of the drive in September.
Democrats called the entire story fishy, noting that it comes from a conservative tabloid newspaper in Rupert Murdoch’s news empire.
“Wait … so Rudy Giuliani and Steve Brannon magically had this email about something Trump’s U.S. Treasury itself has called a Russian disinformation plot?” Zac Petkanas, a former adviser to Hillary Clinton, said in a Twitter post. “And now a Murdoch paper is running it? Something stinks.”
• Ryan Lovelace contributed to this report.