Hunter Biden/ABC News

The Jolt: Hunter Biden confesses to ‘poor judgment,’ but nothing ‘improper’

Twelve candidates will cram themselves onto an Ohio stage at 8 p.m. this evening as the Democratic presidential campaign absorbs two seismic developments:

-- A U.S. House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump for his alleged attempt to hold out American military assistance and a White House visit in exchange for information to sabotage the prospects of Joe Biden, who will be at center stage tonight.

-- A sudden invasion of northern Syria by Turkey, made possible by Trump’s decision to abandon Kurdish allies in the region and withdraw 1,000 troops from an area filled with Islamic State prisoners.

The debate will be carried by CNN. The New York Times is a co-host. More details here.

According to Morning Consult, Biden currently holds an 11-point lead over U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and a 13-point lead over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. But Warren is the only candidate in the field who has expanded her share of support since June.

One clear sign of Biden’s defensive position was his campaign’s decision to make his son Hunter Biden available to ABC News for an interview aired this morning, refuting the aspersions Trump has cast on his activities for a Ukrainian natural gas company and a Chinese hedge fund. Hunter Biden said his Ukraine venture was the result of “poor judgment,” but was not unethical. From a Washington Post summary:

“In retrospect, look, I think that it was poor judgment on my part,” Biden told ABC News’s Amy Robach in the interview broadcast Tuesday morning.He said he “did nothing wrong at all,” but added: “Was it poor judgment to be in the middle of something that is . . . a swamp in many ways? Yeah.”

“I gave a hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father. That’s where I made the mistake,” Biden said in the exclusive interview. “So I take full responsibility for that. Did I do anything improper? No, not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever.”ABC: When asked if he would have gotten the board position on Burisma, a Ukrainian oil company, if his last name was not Biden, he conceded that "probably not."

"I don't know. I don't know. Probably not, in retrospect," he said. "But that's — you know — I don't think that there's a lot of things that would have happened in my life if my last name wasn't Biden."

The question is whether Biden’s rivals will use the above information tonight – perhaps opening themselves to criticism for taking up a Trumpian line of attack.

***

Another Ohio angle: As in Georgia, Republican officials in Ohio have been aggressive when it comes to purging from its roles voters who have been defined as “inactive.”

Rulings in Ohio court cases have been cited here for conducting similar “use it or lose it” purges, most notably by Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Proponents say the cullings are necessary to remove voters who have died or moved. Opponents criticize the purges as overly broad – affecting voters who often don’t know of their unregistered status until Election Day.

And so this is happening in Ohio, according to the New York Times:

This year, a group of elected officials in the state, mostly all moderate Republicans, tried to answer the concerns with an experiment of their own: Rather than purge the voter rolls behind closed doors as had been done in the past, the government released the full list of those to be removed this summer, and gave the list to advocacy groups. The groups said they found the list was riddled with errors.

The result: Around 40,000 people, nearly one in five names on the list, shouldn’t have been on it, the state determined. And it only found out before anyone was actually turned away at a polling place largely because of volunteer sleuthing.

It sounds like something that should be tried here.

***

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will be in Moultrie this afternoon, no doubt looking for a little love and affection. The former Georgia governor has been taking much heat from Midwestern dairy farmers for publicly theorizing that small farms might be doomed:

"Now what we see, obviously, is economies of scale having happened in America — big get bigger and small go out. ... It's very difficult on economies of scale with the capital needs and all the environmental regulations and everything else today to survive milking 40, 50, 60 or even 100 cows, and that's what we've seen."

The Moultrie event is a Farmer of the Year Luncheon, and will be held in the Dairy Pavilion at the Sunbelt Ag Expo.

***

We are late to this, but for the record: Last Friday, President Donald Trump took aim at one of his favorite targets at a rally in Louisiana: Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams.

The president repeated a string of inaccuracies he often brings up when he talks about Abrams, the former state House minority leader who lost a close race for governor to Republican Brian Kemp. Let’s go one by one. 

First, Trump said Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards supported “far left candidates like Stacey Abrams.” As far as we can tell, the Democratic governor never endorsed Abrams.

Second, he claimed that Michelle Obama campaigned for Abrams. Her husband, former President Barack Obama, headlined a rally for Abrams but Michelle never stumped for her.

Third, he claimed that while Abrams had “every star” Democrat rally to her side, “all Brian Kemp had was Donald Trump.” Nope. Kemp welcomed support from a number of big-name Republicans, including the entire state GOP establishment and Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence.

Fourth, he said he attracted “55,000 people at that rally” at an airport outside of Macon the Sunday before the election. Kemp’s campaign pegged the attendance closer to 10,000 people. 

And fifth, Trump said Kemp won the race by 2.5 percentage points. In fact, Kemp won by less than 1.5% in the closest race for Georgia governor in decades.

***

In endorsement news, civil rights activist Joe Beasley endorsed U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Teresa Tomlinson. The former Columbus mayor is one of four Democrats competing to challenge Republican Sen. David Perdue.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X