Final Presidential Debate at Belmont University Moderated by Kristen Welker - Nashville, TN - October 22, 2020 Photo by Adam Schultz / Biden for President

With 5 days until the election, Emily Wade revisits the candidates’ positions on national security as defended in the presidential debate exactly one week ago. 

The Biden ‘pay-to-play’ scandal has proved persistent, with Tony Bobulinski, a former business partner of the Biden family enterprise, corroborating the story with receipts provided to the American public and law enforcement. 

The night before the second and final presidential debate, news broke that “top intelligence officials confirmed again both Russia and Iran are working to influence this election. ‘Both countries have obtained U.S. voter registration information,’ these officials say, ‘and Iran sent intimidating messages to Florida voters.’”

Welker summarized the briefing, leaving what some voters might consider to be an important chunk of information out. In the briefing, Ratcliffe specified that Iran had been “sending spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President Trump.” A critical issue, one wonders why Welker covered it only partially.

Biden received the first question, as Welker asked him, “What would you do to put an end to this threat?” He began, “It has been overwhelmingly clear in this election — I won’t even get into the last one — that Russia has been involved,” a sentiment for which the former Vice President did not offer up any evidence. “To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think the President has said anything to Putin about it.” 

While offering little suggestion as to how he would handle the problem, made clear was Biden’s stance on the situation: “His own national security advisor told him what is happening with his buddy — well, I won’t, I shouldn’t — I will — his buddy Rudy Giuliani. He’s being used as a Russian pawn.”

Ready to pounce, Trump came back at Biden. “Joe got three and a half million from Russia, and it came through Putin because he was very friendly with the former mayor of Moscow, and it was the mayor of Moscow’s wife [who wired the money].” Putin has, in fact, commented on the matter since the debate. Per his own view, the Biden family business dealings in Ukraine are not “anything criminal.”

Despite barely brushing the issue’s surface, a significant conflict within the intelligence community became clear. Biden has cited officials in the debate thus far, and Trump says, “John Ratcliffe, who is a fantastic DNI — he said, ‘the one thing that’s in common to both of them: They both want you to lose.’” Indeed, this does corroborate the portion of the press conference omitted by Welker. 

Stranger even, the intelligence officials referenced by Biden were described as former intelligence officials, suggesting they would not be privy to the details of this unraveling case. Consequently, their claims pertaining to the material lose credibility and momentum.

Intelligence officials aside, Trump rallied an even stronger point. Having increased NATO countries’ defenses against Russia, through such measures as selling tank busters to Ukraine, he claimed, “There’s been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump,” implicitly suggesting… ‘They want me gone.’

Biden, claiming, “I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life,” turned the focus back to Trump, accusing him of holding a bank account in China, suggesting a conflict of interest, and harping on his undisclosed tax returns yet again, understandably. 

Trump’s response was fresh, suggesting the documents are presently held up on one of many cogs in the machine of government. He claimed, “[The IRS] treat me horribly. We made a deal, it was all settled, until I decided to run for President… as soon as we’re completed with the deal, I want to release it.” He continued on, making the following point, “Let me just say this. Mueller and 18 angry Democrats and FBI agents all over the place spent 48 million dollars. They went through everything I had, including my tax returns, and they found absolutely no collusion and nothing wrong.” If the claim that his tax returns have already been investigated is substantiated, the anger around their delayed disclosure must lose some steam.

Welker intercepted the conversation, taking the chance to ask Biden, “In retrospect was anything about those relationships inappropriate or unethical?” Biden did not waver, responding, “Nothing was unethical… every single solitary person… testifying under oath who worked for [Trump], said I did my job impeccably. I carried out US policy. Not one, single, solitary thing was out of line.” 

Biden wiggled around the uncomfortable topic, attempting to steer the criticism back towards Trump and alleging he had attempted to bribe the Ukrainian government to say something negative about Biden. Yes, this is the same Ukrainian government that has recently indicted Joe Biden, only unsealing his name in the case months after it was filed due to his candidacy for President over here. Correct — this is also the same Ukrainian government from which the top prosecutor was fired and replaced per Joe Biden’s threat to withhold one billion dollars in funding. 

Trump brought the theme of ‘the dishonest politician’ to the forefront for the first of many times throughout the course of the debate, summarizing, “His son didn’t have a job for a long time, was sadly no longer in the military service, I won’t get into that. And he didn’t have a job. As soon as he became Vice President, Burisma — not the best, not the best reputation in the world — I hear they paid him 183,000 a month. Listen to this. 183, and they gave him 3 million dollars upfront payment, and he had no energy experience. That’s 100% dishonest.”

Before Welker turned the focus over to Trump’s own business dealings, Biden defended, “No basis for that. Everybody investigated that, no one said anything he did was wrong in Ukraine.” 

Her question to Trump regarded his company’s bank account in China. She asked, “How can voters know that you don’t have any foreign conflicts of interest?”

Succinctly, he explained the account was opened in 2013 while his company considered doing a deal in China. The deal was never made, and, in 2015, while contemplating running for President, the bank account was closed. Everything, he said, was above aboard. 

Shifting focus within issues involving China, Welker asked the former Vice President how he would make China pay for damages brought on by the coronavirus. “Please,” she urged, “be specific, what would that look like?”

Biden’s plan, as stated, was to make China “play by international rules.” After drifting off on an unrelated anecdote, he eventually made his way back to Trump. “They have to play by the rules, and what’s he do? He embraces guys like the thugs in North Korea, and, and, and the Chinese President and Putin and others.” Appealing to the broader theme that Trump has somewhat destabilized our alliances, Biden goes on to say, “We need to be having the rest of our friends with us, saying to China, these are the rules. Play by them or you’re going to pay the price for not playing by them, economically.”

Giddy once again, Trump responded, “China pays for $28 billion and you know what they did to pay for it, Joe? They devalued their currency and they also paid up, and you know who got the money? Our farmers.” Proud of his accomplishment and the delivery of his promise, he went on to poke at Biden’s ties to China again. “You never charge them anything. Also, I charged them 25% on dumped steel, because they were killing our steel industry.”

Biden turned to the camera, visibly pestered, and tried, “He doesn’t want to talk about substantive issues… We should be talking about your families but that’s the last thing he wants to talk about.” 

The ‘dishonest politician’ theme made its second appearance as Trump said, “That is a typical statement… just a typical political statement. ‘Let’s get off this China thing’ — and then he looks — ‘the family, around the table, everything.’ Just a typical politician when I see that… I’m not a typical politician, that’s why I got elected.” 

Welker mentioned the President’s positive attitude towards his relationship with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un. While the last three-almost-four years have seen significant de-escalation between the two nations, “North Korea recently rolled out its biggest ever intercontinental ballistic misleading and continues to develop its arsenal.” She asked President Trump, “Do you see that as a betrayal of the relationship?”

Trump began his response by explaining to the audience the particular threat North Korea had posed at the time he entered office. In a briefing during the transfer of power, Obama suggested the threat of war with North Korea was insurmountable, and that Trump would likely preside over the war. “Guess what, it would have been a nuclear war, and he does have plenty of nuclear capability. In the meantime, I have a very good relationship with him, different kind of a guy but he probably thinks the same things about me… we have a very good relationship,” Trump put forth. 

At this point, Welker shared there were four nuclear tests conducted by North Korea under the Obama administration. She asked Biden, “Why do you think you would be able to reign in this persistent threat?” Her follow up question in the segment regarded which conditions would need to be met for Biden to meet with Kim Jong Un, as he has claimed he would refuse to meet without preconditions in the past.

“I’d make it clear,” said Biden of the nuclear threat. He called for strengthening the military and practicing more maneuvers through China and South Korea in order to intimidate the other side. Biden declared that he would meet with North Korea’s leader “on the condition that he would agree that he would be drawing down his nuclear capability. The Korean Peninsula should be a nuclear-free zone.” 

Turning his focus back to Trump in advocacy for his own approach, he argued that Trump has “legitimized North Korea, he’s talked about his good buddy who’s a thug, a thug, and he talks about how we’re better off, and they have much more capable missiles, able to reach US territory, much more easily than ever did before.”

Trump interjected, adding an interesting tidbit of context, “They tried to meet with him, he wouldn’t do it. He didn’t like Obama.”

Biden retorts, “We had a good relationship with Hitler before he in fact invaded Europe, the rest of Europe. Come on!” Biden went on to explain that the refusal to meet Obama pertained to his demands for denuclearization, demands that Biden has declared he will have as well. To that, Trump said, “And it didn’t happen.” Consequently, relations between North Korea and the US will either return to a stand-still with escalated tensions or progress forward from where they stand today, dependent on the results of the election. 

Throughout the week that has passed since the two took the stage together for the last time, the volume of the supplementary context within each segment has only grown. Of peak interest is the development of the Biden scandal. 

The NY Post’s original coverage of the scandal faced censorship on Twitter and Facebook, who flagged the article for review and prevented its proliferation across those and other platforms. The early defense of the Tech Giants centered around murmurs that the information contained in the article was “Russian disinformation,” and needed to be verified before it could be shared. As of today, the NY Post’s Twitter account remains locked, as it will until Twitter’s condition that they remove the story altogether is met. 

The credibility of the story, however, has only strengthened since then. Tony Bobulinski, a business partner of the Biden’s whose name is implicated in the emails, came forward, first in a press conference before the debate and then for an interview on Tucker Carlson Monday (Tuesday?) night. After the press conference, he turned all of his devices from the time frame in question over to the FBI. A preliminary review of his devices has, so far, corroborated Bobulinski’s account of the events. His reasoning for coming forward revolved around the reputations of himself and his family, a great reminder that crying “Russian disinformation” is not a victimless crime. 

Americans find themselves in a precarious predicament. While evidence compiles in favor of the NY Post’s article, many are not aware due to the limitations placed on the article’s circulation. At what point will the Tech Giants have to admit they have wrongly imposed an unprecedented level of censorship without good reason if they ever do? Can the blunted popularity be compensated for? 

Most importantly: Will a man be elevated to office by the preferences of a monopolized industry constricting the public’s access to a story that has, so far, been nothing but factual? Our democracy is at stake. The nefarious, cherry-picking style of censorship displayed by the tech industry destroys the scale on which free speech has traditionally been allowed to balance itself out.

Originally introduced as a method of fighting strictly hate speech with the potential to incite violence, the monitoring of content has exponentially increased in volume and criteria since. “Fact-checking” third-party companies are now hired to continually check the information that has been flagged, reported, or has received an unusual amount of activity. The problem lies within the discretionary power a “fact-checker” holds combined with his or her biases. 

At the largest scale, we have a highly-censored conservative wing of media contrasted by the free-flowing information of the left. At the smallest scale, we have a young person working for hourly pay trying to make the internet a better place and acting, subconsciously, in his or her own self-interest — In this sense, the disproportionate censorship is not intentional. That does not make it any less of a problem.

These days are a good time to remember (or maybe learn that) the Steele Dossier, which was responsible for this Russia Mania that has lasted the better part of three years, was actually disinformation linked to a Russian agent. Nobody had a problem at these tech companies when the take-down was aimed towards Trump, even when the claims lacked evidential content. They did not bother to restrict its proliferation pending review; They let it saturate public opinion.

Trump’s son has faced intense slander related to yet more allegations that never fabricated on social media sites that, not surprisingly at all, never bothered to lift a finger. The belly of the beast has been exposed: Big Tech has shown us their favorite and their strategies to see him through. Can the damages exposed by this act of censorship be addressed before the election, or will these powerful forces award Biden the Presidency?

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