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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It was Joe Biden’s family that almost kept him from running. Now, it could help drag him down. 

Why it matters: The former vice president is answering questions about family controversies just as Elizabeth Warren is catching him in the polls.

Top Democrats tell us they worry the Ukraine fracas winds up being an albatross for Biden because he'll be associated with an unpopular issue and process, and won't be able to shake questions about Hunter Biden.

  • All the fact checks and "to be sure" paragraphs in the world may not obviate the collateral damage.

A Democratic strategist not affiliated with a campaign said the Hunter Biden problem is not just his work in Ukraine, but all his personal and business issues.

  • They were all detailed in July in a gripping New Yorker article by Adam Entous, who had extensive cooperation from Hunter Biden and the campaign: "Will Hunter Biden Jeopardize His Father’s Campaign? Joe Biden’s son is under scrutiny for his business dealings and tumultuous personal life."

Trump will be "relentless" in exploiting and distorting any dirt on Hunter, the Democratic strategist said.

  • Part of Trump's calculus could be psychological: Trump knows that Biden worries about his son.
  • The possible upside for Biden is that such taunting reinforces the idea that he is the 2020 Democrat most feared by Trump.

The Hillary view: Philippe Reines, a longtime Hillary Clinton confidant, tells Axios he has seen this movie before.

  • "This has nothing to do with the reality of your experience, your life or your past," Reines said. "They’re reimagining you however they want. It’s beyond a case of taking something and exaggerating it."

The Biden campaign's thinking: Biden did nothing wrong.

  • A Biden adviser told me the collateral damage from the Ukraine scandal should be mitigated for the former vice president because people feel they know Biden and find him relatable.
  • The campaign says it has had its best week of fundraising since the second week of the campaign.
  • Biden plans to continue talking about health care, climate change and gun control — although he won't ignore Trump.

The bottom line: The biggest political beneficiary of the impeachment inquiry could be Elizabeth Warren.

Go deeper: Whistleblower alleges Trump abused power to solicit foreign interference

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Go deeper

Cuomo asks New York AG and chief judge to choose "independent" investigator into sexual harassment claims

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at a press conference on Feb. 24. Photo: Seth Wenig/pool/AFP via Getty Images

A special counselor to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement on Sunday asking the state's attorney general and chief judge to jointly pick an "independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation" to investigate claims of sexual harassment against the governor.

The state of play: The statement is an about-face from Cuomo, who had previously selected a former judge close to a top aide to lead the investigation, the New York Times reported, a move that was widely criticized.

Republican Sen. Sasse slams Nebraska GOP for "weird worship" of Trump after state party rebuke

Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Neb.) Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

The Nebraska Republican Party on Saturday formally "rebuked" Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for his vote to impeach former President Trump earlier this year, though it stopped short of a formal censure, CNN reports.

Why it matters: Sasse is the latest among a slate of Republicans who have faced some sort of punishment from their state party apparatus after voting to impeach the former president. The senator responded statement Saturday, per the Omaha World-Herald, saying "most Nebraskans don't think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude."

Cuomo barraged by fellow Dems after second harassment accusation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.