- The Washington Times - Monday, October 19, 2020

PRESCOTT, Ariz. — President Trump stepped up accusations of corruption on Monday, saying Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter should face prosecution as the president’s campaign, looking for the jolt needed to catch the Democratic nominee in the polls, seized on allegations of sweetheart deals.

Amid a growing sense of momentum for the Trump campaign with Election Day two weeks away, the president told supporters in this battleground state that Mr. Biden has been “lucky” to avoid federal prosecution for enriching his family with foreign payments while he was vice president for eight years.

“He has been a corrupt politician for a long time,” Mr. Trump said. “This man should not be your president. Number one, he’s corrupt. Number two, he’s not a smart man, never was. Number three, he’s seen better days.”

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe added the weight of the U.S. intelligence community to news reports the Trump campaign sees as favorable to his reelection, with Mr. Ratcliffe saying Monday there is no evidence that Hunter Biden’s explosive emails are part of a Russian disinformation campaign, as some Democrats have claimed.

“There is no intelligence that supports that,” he said on Fox Business.

Underscoring the importance that the president’s team is placing on the story’s impact on the campaign, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Monday that he spoke with Mr. Ratcliffe over the weekend and urged him to go public with his assessment.

SEE ALSO: House GOP pushes AG William Barr for special counsel to investigate Biden revelations

Trump campaign officials say the allegations of the Bidens’ foreign graft have helped to sway the race in the president’s favor in the final two weeks, as they announced a $55 million boost in TV ads in five states aimed at seniors. They said Mr. Biden is on the defensive, and that early vote totals in key states are encouraging for the president.

“Democrats just aren’t getting the returns they wanted or needed [in early voting] because they don’t have a ground game,” said Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien.

The president and his campaign advisers have been trying since the spring, with little effect, to tag Mr. Biden as a China appeaser. In the story about Hunter Biden’s recovered laptop and emails alleging lucrative and shady foreign deals, they think they are finally reaching voters and reversing the polls that have consistently shown the Democrat leading the race.

As the president has pounded the corruption theme during his three-day campaign swing through five Western and Midwestern states, his supporters have begun to direct a familiar chant at Mr. Biden: “Lock him up!”

“This is called the laptop from hell,” the president told thousands of supporters at an airport rally in this central Arizona community. “The only laptop that was almost as good, or maybe was worse, was the laptop of [former Rep.] Anthony Weiner. We’re exposing some real garbage.”

The scandal and its implications for Mr. Biden resonate strongly with Mr. Trump’s supporters, who see it as more of the political establishment’s business-as-usual corruption that they elected Mr. Trump to fight.

“It is obvious that that money was meant to buy influence in the American government,” said Della Montgomery, 77, a retired clerical worker at the Trump rally Monday in Scottsdale, Arizona.

She said the scandal will turn voters against the elder Mr. Biden.

“I don’t see how anyone could not see something wrong with it,” she said. “It is just like lying is wrong. Stealing is wrong. And selling influence in the American government is wrong.”

Mr. Trump said of the story first reported by the New York Post, “They caught Biden in a scandal — I say the second-worst in the history of our country. The first worst was when they spied on the president of the United States and tried to take him down.”

“Joe Biden is a criminal, and he’s been a criminal for a long time. He got caught,” Mr. Trump told reporters.

Mr. Biden again ducked questions about the claims, remaining in seclusion on Monday at his home in Delaware. Aides said he was preparing for the final presidential debate on Thursday.

Mr. Trump quipped, “I think today he’s staying in the basement to talk to his lawyers. They caught him cold.”

The president took his complaints a step further on Monday, saying Mr. Biden would be in prison if Attorney General William P. Barr weren’t such “a very nice man.”

“I know people that would have had him locked up five weeks ago,” the president said. “Bill Barr is a very nice man and a very fair man. And in many ways, it doesn’t make some of us happy.”

House Republicans on Monday urged Mr. Barr to appoint a special counsel to probe allegations stemming from the laptop.

With the Biden campaign limiting its comments about the story, few Democrats have come to the defense of their nominee. Simon Rosenberg, president of the liberal think tank NDN, said the attack on Hunter Biden is “crossing a line which cannot be uncrossed.”

“Going after the kid of a politician with a history of substance use issues as hard they are doing it right now — both Trump and Russia — just cannot be in bounds,” he tweeted. “There has to be consequences.”

In Arizona, polls show Mr. Biden leading by an average of 3 percentage points in the state that Mr. Trump won four years ago. The president predicted he’ll win the state, pointing to its economic recovery under Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

“We’re way ahead of where we were in 2016,” the president said of Arizona. “Every one of these Republican-run states are doing phenomenally. The Democrat-run states are not, but they’re not going to affect our numbers very much.”

He said of Arizona, “If we win this state, we win it all.”

Republican Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona is considered one of the most endangered incumbents, as the GOP fears a “bloodbath” on Election Day that could flip control of the Senate to Democrats. The president urged supporters to help her overcome a strong challenge from Democrat Mark Kelly, a former astronaut.

“Will you go out and elect Martha?” the president asked. ” Get her elected, will you please? That other guy, he’s bad news. He will vote to get rid of your Second Amendment. He’s a radical leftist, and he’s going to vote to take away your guns. What the hell do we need that for?”

Mr. Kelly’s wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, survived an assassination attempt.

Ms. McSally told the crowd in Prescott that Arizona is “ground zero” for the national election.

“This state will decide to put President Trump back for four more years. This state will decide the Senate majority and stopping the radical left,” she said.

The Hunter Biden controversy also has provided Mr. Trump with a welcome diversion from constant media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. Referring to the large crowds he draws at every campaign stop, the president said life in Arizona is returning to normal.

“Everybody needs to get out and vote. Your state is doing great with the pandemic,” he said. “They’re getting tired of the pandemic, aren’t they? People aren’t buying it, CNN — you dumb bastards. That’s all they talk about. Under my leadership … the pandemic will soon end. We’re rounding the turn. Normal life will rapidly return.”

The president’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee said Monday they will surge spending by $55 million on TV ads in five battleground states in the final two weeks of the tightening race. The spending is a 40% increase from the campaign’s initial plans, and will focus primarily on seniors in Michigan, North Carolina, Arizona, Iowa and Wisconsin.

“We have more than sufficient air cover,” said campaign manager Bill Stepien. “The goal of this is to make sure we’re supporting our ground troops.”

Mr. Stepien also said campaign officials feel more confident than at any point this year that the president will win reelection, based on their internal polling, voter registration data and early-voting trends. He predicted the president will win Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Nevada, Iowa, and Ohio, among other contested states.

Campaign senior adviser Jason Miller said several developments have given the president’s reelection a boost in the past two weeks. He noted that Mr. Trump returned to the campaign trail last week after recovering from COVID-19, the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett put Democrats on the defensive over their plan to “pack” the high court, and the Hunter Biden email scandal has the Democratic nominee looking for cover.

“This is really dogging Joe Biden,” Mr. Miller said, noting that Mr. Biden has dodged questions about it and won’t hold public appearances this week until the final debate on Thursday. “It’s really disrespectful to voters. They can tell if a candidate truly wants the job.”

• Dave Boyer reported from Washington; Rowan Scarborough contributed to this report.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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