WASHINGTON — "60 Minutes" host Lesley Stahl probably figured her sit-down with President Donald Trump last week would be the usual fare. She would ask "tough questions," as she told Trump. He would push back. She'd push back, too. "60 Minutes" would have another feather in its cap and Trump would weather the moment with angry tweets about "fake news."
There was one little problem. Trump had spent a week watching big news organizations ignore a New York Post story about Hunter Biden after they had spent his first years in office hyperventilating over Russian disinformation and fictional coordination between Moscow and his 2016 campaign.
The Post story undercut former Vice President Joe Biden's claim that he never spoke with his son Hunter about Burisma, the Ukrainian energy firm that paid Hunter Biden some $50,000 per month even as his father was tasked with fighting corruption in Ukraine by President Barack Obama.
According to the Post, an adviser to Burisma sent Hunter Biden an email thanking for "giving me an opportunity to meet your father" and "spend some time together." The email came from a laptop left at a computer repair shop in Delaware.
Other stories generated from the laptop tied Biden family members to a Chinese energy firm.
Ahead of the final presidential debate in Nashville, a Navy veteran and former business partner of Hunter Biden's in a venture with CEFC China Energy, told a small press gathering: "I've heard Joe Biden say that he's never discussed this with Hunter. That is false."
The Biden campaign responded that it has no record of an official meeting and generally has dismissed the story as "Russian misinformation."
Beltway journalists responded with a resounding yawn and stories on potential holes in the laptop stories.
I share their wariness about October surprises especially if they're hand-wrapped by the judgment-impaired former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Thing is, the Burisma story isn't new, and we already pretty much know what we need to know. An unqualified Hunter Biden — as The New York Times reported, he "lacked any experience in Ukraine and just months earlier had been discharged from the Navy Reserve for testing positive for cocaine" — was on a Ukrainian payroll as his father was supposed to be fighting corruption in Ukraine.
While the former veep continuously argues that Hunter "did nothing wrong" — that's just not true. It was wrong for Hunter Biden to sell his name to foreign interests, and it was wrong of his father not to put a stop his son's money-grubbing pursuits.
Diplomatic officials voiced their concerns about the arrangement but the vice president did nothing.
Yet, somehow, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace never asked Biden about Burisma during the first debate. USA Today's Susan Page didn't ask Sen. Kamala Harris if the former California attorney general saw anything wrong with Hunter Biden trading the Biden name with foreign adventurists.
NBC White House Correspondent Kristen Welker didn't bring it up either, although that could be because Trump beat her to the punch.
The same news organizations that breathlessly reported on a phony Russian dossier which was not substantiated now have issues with the New York tabloid's standards.
What kills me is the utter lack of curiosity on Stahl's part. When Trump mentioned the laptop, Stahl responded, "There's no evidence of that."
The interview was irritating to watch — after Trump posted it on Facebook — because Stahl had an opportunity to get inside Trump's head and she squandered it. She could have asked Trump when he first learned about the laptop. That's a story. What else is in the laptop?
Instead Stahl argued with the president and viewers will learn absolutely nothing, well, except about "60 Minutes," where if a story doesn't fit the narrative, it's not a story.
Contact Debra J. Saunders at [email protected] or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.
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