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Biden braces for Trump’s attacks on Hunter at debate

Yet some allies have been pressing the Biden camp to go harder against Trump’s children considering how aggressively the president is attacking his. When it comes to kids and alleged conflicts of interest, they say, look no further than Ivanka Trump. While serving as a White House official, she won three new trademarks in China on the same day she met China’s president, Xi Jinping.

“It’s a hard call,” Philippe Reines, a former top adviser to Hillary Clinton who assisted her with debate prep, said of whether Biden should try to turn the tables on Trump and his children. “He should defend Hunter, absolutely. I would probably take a turn and say: ‘If you really want to talk about conflicts and family, we can pick any of your three adult children and one of their spouses — and you.’”

Trump has sought to make Hunter Biden the face of the Democratic ticket in the closing weeks of the campaign. The president, his family members, Steve Bannon and Rudy Giuliani are all portraying Hunter Biden — and, by extension Joe Biden — as beholden to the “Chinese Communist Party” because of the son’s past business dealings.

“Why did Biden allow his son Hunter to sell access to him while he was vice president?” Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, said in a statement. “If the media won’t ask Joe Biden these questions, the President will, and there will be no escape for Biden.”

A contingent of Biden allies, including donors who did not want to speak publicly about the matter so they weren’t seen as criticizing Biden’s approach, quietly stewed over the candidate not hitting Trump harder on his own family’s business dealings. They pointed both to Trump’s children, who continue to run private business deals, and to reports that Trump properties reaped rewards of the president’s tenure in office.

Alicia Garza, a cofounder of the Black Lives Matter movement, said Biden has an opening to press Trump on the simpler matter of placing family members in positions of power in the White House, a practice she said is “indicative of an authoritative regime.”

“The thing that concerns me most about the Trump White House, he has reserved positions of power for members of his family. If Biden were to say anything, that’s a point I think he should bring up — what’s the rationale for it?” Garza said. “If I were the Biden campaign I would hit hard on that Trump doesn’t want this to be a democracy anymore.”

Still, other Democrats said Biden should focus on the pandemic, Trump’s biggest vulnerability, and steer clear of Trump’s own kids, however tempting it might be. They point to a slew of polls showing Biden won the last debate despite Trump’s attacks on Hunter Biden.

“Do we really want to have a debate about politicians’ children when people are really struggling to no end? Throw a quick combo and get out,” Democratic strategist James Carville said of how Biden should handle Trump’s attacks.

Carville said Biden should say: “You want to have an election about my son? This is not a conversation that I want to have and I don’t think it’s a conversation the American people are gonna want to have. You can talk all day about that. I’m going to talk about where this country is going.’”

Even some Republicans said Biden would be wise not to engage on Hunter Biden or Trump’s kids. “We have an economic crisis, a genuine pandemic, social unrest on our streets. Nobody cares what’s on Hunter Biden’s computer,” said GOP pollster Frank Luntz.

Trump and his allies have been cranking up the anti-Hunter machine, following a New York Post story last week asserting it obtained a batch of documents that tie the Democratic nominee to his son Hunter’s business dealings. The Post reported it was given a copy of Hunter Biden’s laptop hard drive by Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, who said he got it from a computer shop owner in Delaware who also alerted the FBI.

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said on Monday that the information on Biden’s laptop “is not part of some Russian disinformation campaign,” though the FBI is reportedly conducting an ongoing investigation into whether Russia was involved.

“The same media that set their hair on fire every time a bogus Russia story came out is now ignoring evidence that the Biden crime family has been in bed with the Chinese Communist Party for years,” Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted.

Inside the Trump campaign, the New York Post has boosted morale that was flagging after Trump’s first and widely panned debate performance followed by falling ill with coronavirus two weeks ago.

“There’s more to come,” said a Trump campaign adviser. “The debate won’t be the end of it for Biden answering for Hunter.”

Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates called Trump’s late focus on Hunter Biden a desperate attempt to change the subject.

“When Donald Trump obsesses over right-wing fringe conspiracy theories he merely reinforces what we’ve said the whole time: that he’s forced to run away from his own record because his pandemic response continues to be a train wreck and he’s the worst jobs president since the Great Depression,” Bates said in a statement. “This is why he bailed on the second debate. And if he recycles the same strategy that lost him the first debate, then he will also lose the third.”

As for Trump’s children, conflict-of-interest accusations abound — from Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. keeping up international business dealings even after their father was elected president to Trump’s children visiting Trump properties internationally, forcing taxpayers to pay the president’s company to house the Secret Service.

Ivanka Trump has been accused of myriad violations of ethics rules as a White House official. She notoriously posed with Goya products, campaigned on behalf of her father and delivered a speech at the Republican National Convention, which was held at the White House.

“This tweet was made in her personal capacity voicing her personal support,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said at the time of Ivanka’s Tweet supporting Goya. “This complaint is another politically motivated, baseless attack from an organization with a vendetta against all of the administration.”

Last week, a watchdog group dinged her for violating the Hatch Act eight times in 48 hours.

Yet while she draws the most visible and easy contrast, Ivanka Trump is also viewed by some Democrats as a difficult figure to attack because of her popularity among Republicans.

“If you went after Jared, no one would give a shit. If you were to say, “OK, kids are fair game, let’s talk about Ivanka,’ that would be a very perilous path,” Reines said. “You’d be testing the boundaries with Ivanka.”

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