A computer repair shop owner in Delaware has thrust claims about a purported Hunter Biden laptop into the presidential race.
The claims, coming as an October surprise of sorts in the presidential election, have generated heated controversy. Major social media platforms dialed back their reach, provoking criticism from conservatives. Others have criticized the New York Post, which originated the story, and it’s verification methods.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has claimed that he has “never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings.”
The Post claims that the laptop contains emails indicating otherwise, and that its hard drive also contained photos, including a picture of Hunter purportedly smoking crack. He has a well-known drug addiction.
What’s the story of Hunter Biden’s alleged laptop?
Here’s what you need to know:
1. John Paul Mac Isaac, a Trump Supporter, Brought Forward the Laptop Claims
The issue burst into the public eye when The New York Post ran the story that alleged Hunter Biden, Joe’s son, dropped off a damaged MacBook laptop at a Delaware computer store to be repaired, and emails and photos were discovered on it, some involving his father.
The pathway to the public went through President Donald Trump’s key supporter, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The Post alleged that the computer store owner, John Paul Mac Isaac, “made a copy of the hard drive and later gave it to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello.”
Some have raised questions about the Post story’s credibility. The New York Times reported that the Post’s “front-page article about Hunter Biden … was written mostly by a staff reporter who refused to put his name on it … because he had concerns over the article’s credibility.” Unidentified Post employees who spoke to The Times said “many” staff members had concerns about the story’s sources, the timing and “whether the paper had done enough to verify the authenticity of the hard drive’s contents.”
The Post article was headlined, “Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad.”
Conservatives have argued on social media that the news media should focus on trying to prove or disprove the claims.
The Post explained that “Steve Bannon, former adviser to President Trump, told The Post about the existence of the hard drive in late September and Giuliani provided The Post with a copy of it.”
2. The Laptop Contains Emails That People Allege Show Joe Biden Was Involved With an Ukrainian Energy Firm Executive
The Post’s central claim of wrongdoing against the elder Biden derives from alleged emails on the laptop.
The alleged smoking-gun email The Post claims was on the computer in question shows Hunter Biden setting up a meeting between his father and a Ukrainian energy firm executive. Hunter Biden was paid by the firm.
The story alleged, “Hunter Biden introduced his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, to a top executive at a Ukrainian energy firm less than a year before the elder Biden pressured government officials in Ukraine into firing a prosecutor who was investigating the company, according to emails obtained by The Post.” The prosecutor in question was Viktor Shokin, who was planning to investigate Burisma, and Biden put pressure on Ukraine to fire him or U.S. aid to the country would be withheld, The Post reported.
“Dear Hunter, thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent some time together. It’s realty an honor and pleasure,” the email, purportedly from Vadym Pozharskyi and found on the mysterious laptop in question, reads. The Post also alleged the laptop contained sexually explicit photos. An FBI spokesperson told the Post: “My office can neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.” Pozharskyi advised the Burisma board which paid Hunter $50,000 a month.
The Biden campaign has denied there was a meeting between Joe Biden and the energy executive.
Hunter Biden’s lawyer told NBC News the meeting did not happen but stopped short of saying the computer did not belong to Hunter, saying, “We have no idea where this came from, and certainly cannot credit anything that Rudy Giuliani provided to the New York Post, but what I do know for certain is that this purported meeting never happened.”
The Biden campaign trashed Giuliani’s credibility and denied the meeting but also did not dispute the laptop was Hunter’s, telling NBC News, “The New York Post never asked the Biden campaign about the critical elements of this story. They certainly never raised that Rudy Giuliani — whose discredited conspiracy theories and alliance with figures connected to Russian intelligence have been widely reported — claimed to have such materials. We have reviewed Joe Biden’s official schedules from the time and no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place.”
According to NPR, which wrote a story raising questions about the Post’s reporting: “To start, the emails have not been verified as authentic. They were said to have been extracted from a computer assumed — but not proven — to have belonged to the younger Biden.” NPR reported that there’s no documentation that the meeting occurred and added that “the lead reporter was a former producer for Sean Hannity,” who is a Trump supporter. Rupert Murdoch, who owns the Post, has been a Trump supporter at times, although he’s raised questions about whether Trump will win and has had falling outs with the president.
According to Fox News, President Trump is planning to bring Tony Bobulinski, a retired Navy lieutenant and “former Hunter Biden associate” to the debate on October 22 as his guest. Bobulinski was the CEO of Sinohawk Holdings, which “was a partnership between the Chinese operating through CEFC/Chairman Ye and the Biden family.”
The Hill reported that Bobulinski’s “emails were a key part of a story published recently by the New York Post, alleging that Hunter Biden used his influence to connect a Ukrainian businessman and fellow board member at the gas company Burisma with his father when he was vice president.”
That email alleged “a business arrangement involving a Chinese company and members of the Biden family,” including a note reading “Hunter has some office expectations he will elaborate,” Fox News reported, adding that there was a “proposed equity split” referencing “20” for “H” and “10 held by H for the big guy?”
“The reference to ‘the Big Guy’ in the much publicized May 13, 2017 email is in fact a reference to Joe Biden,” Bobulinski said in a statement to Fox News.
Bobulinski told Fox News that “he does not believe Joe Biden’s past claim that he did not discuss his son Hunter’s business affairs with him,” alleging that Hunter “frequently referenced asking him for his sign-off or advice on various potential deals.”
“The Biden family aggressively leveraged the Biden family name to make millions of dollars from foreign entities even though some were from communist-controlled China,” he told Fox News, adding, “Hunter wanted to use the company as his personal piggy bank by just taking money out of it as soon as it came from the Chinese.”
The Hill also published this purported texting exchange between Bobulinski and Hunter Biden on May 2, 2017:
“Mrng plse let me knw if we will do early dinner w your Uncle & dad and where, also for document translation do you want it simple Chinese or traditional?” – Bobulinski to Hunter Biden.
“Not sure on dinner yet and whatever is the most common for a Chinese legal DOC” – Hunter replied.
“Chinese legal docs can be both, i’ll make it traditional,” Bobulinski said.
You can read Heavy’s story on Bobulinski here.
3. An FBI Agent’s Signature May Appear on a Subpoena That Could Relate to the Laptop
One angle that has emerged about the purported Hunter Biden laptop: The name of an FBI agent, Joshua Wilson, may appear on a subpoena produced by the Delaware computer store owner. He says the subpoena related to a 2019 grand jury appearance about the laptop.
However, Fox News is now reporting that the laptop was subpoenaed as part of a “money laundering” probe.
Who is Joshua Wilson? There is an FBI agent named Joshua Wilson who has been assigned to child pornography and abduction cases over the years. A sitting senator, Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), went on Fox News and speculated about what that mean for Hunter Biden. To be clear, though, it hasn’t been definitively proven that the laptop belonged to Hunter Biden; it also hasn’t been definitively proven that the subpoena relates to that laptop.
Business Insider reported that the name on the back page of the subpoena appears to say Joshua Wilson and refer to the Wilmington Office.
Although the Joshua Wilson who works for the FBI has worked on child pornography cases over the years, Mac Isaac stated he “did not see child pornography” on the laptop in question, according to Business Insider.
You can judge for yourself. The signature of Joshua Wilson, FBI agent, appeared in this 2012 complaint, which you can read here.
This is how the signature appears through the page provided by the computer store owner.
Here it is flipped.
The Post alleged, “Photos of a Delaware federal subpoena given to The Post show that both the computer and hard drive were seized by the FBI in December after the shop’s owner says he alerted the feds to their existence.”
4. Some Have Accused the Computer Repair Shop Owner of Contradictions & Others Claim Photoshop Might Have Been Used on the Photos; Yet Others Think It’s a Double Standard
The computer repair shop owner has granted interviews that raised more questions.
He says he didn’t actually see Hunter Biden drop off the laptop, which had a Beau Biden Foundation sticker on it. The Daily Beast reported that Mac Isaac gave conflicting statements about the laptop, including about the FBI contact with him, saying that the FBI contacted him but saying another time that he contacted the FBI.
According to the Daily Beast, which conducted an extensive interview with Mac Isaac, he “appeared not to have a grasp on the timeline of the laptop arriving at his shop and its disappearance from it.” A Trump supporter who voted for the president in 2016, he referred to the impeachment as a “sham,” Daily Beast reported. He blamed an undefined medical condition for not seeing who actually dropped off the laptop. He seemed nervous and expressed fears for his life, Daily Beast reported.
The Post story also contained photos purportedly of Hunter Biden.
Some people claim a Photoshop clone tool was used on at least one picture.
I will share hilariously bad bits and research, both mine and others, debunking Giuliani's pet disinfo campaign throughout the day. pic.twitter.com/krMsTMnYEN
— Chris Eargle (@chriseargle) October 14, 2020
They’re really sloppy. They needed to hide something in that photo and used the clone tool to fill it in. Then they added the glare effect to hide it.
But they didn’t get all of it. Do you see it? pic.twitter.com/QLRKVdeOzL
— Chris Eargle (@chriseargle) October 14, 2020
On Fox Across America with Jimmy Failla, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) said he believed the media are showing a double standard with how they’re reporting on the laptop.
“I want you to just imagine if the shoe was on the other foot, if somehow there was a Trump kid who had left their laptop somewhere that was full of incriminating evidence and their former business partner, like Biden’s former business partner, is standing out there saying we were making money hand over fist, this was designed to get into the Biden family,” he said. “The ‘big guy’ that’s supposed to get $10M, that is Joe Biden. I mean, when you have all this kind of evidence, they went through an impeachment here when they couldn’t even decide if there was a crime, a high crime to misdemeanor. And they just dismantles and created this discord in this country, and they won’t even cover this story.”
National Public Radio’s public editor, Kelly McBride, explained NPR’s coverage of the Hunter Biden laptop claims by sharing this quote:
“We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don’t want to waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions,” NPR Managing Editor for News Terence Samuel said. “And quite frankly, that’s where we ended up, this was … a politically driven event and we decided to treat it that way.”
Kelly McBride wrote, “There are many, many red flags in that New York Post investigation. NPR Media Correspondent David Folkenflik detailed most of them here. Intelligence officials warn that Russia has been working overtime to keep the story of Hunter Biden in the spotlight. Even if Russia can’t be positively connected to this information, the story of how Trump associates Steve Bannon and Rudy Giuliani came into a copy of this computer hard drive has not been verified and seems suspect. And if that story could be verified, the NY Post did no forensic work to convince consumers that the emails and photos that are the basis for their report have not been altered.”
McBride added: “The handful of stories that NPR has produced about the NY Post investigation have been limited to how Facebook and Twitter are restricting distribution of the story or how families of those seeking treatment for addiction are impacted by the portrayal of Hunter Biden’s struggle.”
5. Some Say the Laptop Might Be a Russian Disinformation Campaign But the Director of National Intelligence Disputes That Claim
Complicating matters further, USA Today has reported that the FBI is investigating whether the Post story on the laptop is a disinformation campaign by Russia.
However, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said there was “no intelligence to support” claims that the laptop involves a Russian disinformation campaign, according to CNN, which added that an FBI official wrote Congress, “we have nothing to add at this time to the October 19th public statement by the Director of National Intelligence about the available actionable intelligence.”
According to The Hill, Biden campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said that Trump would be “amplifying Russian disinformation” if he brings it up the laptop during the presidential debate.
“If we see tonight from Donald Trump these attacks on Vice President Biden’s family, I think we need to be very, very clear that what he’s doing here is amplifying Russia disinformation,” Bedingfield said to the publication.
NBC News reported that the FBI is now investigating whether the laptop emails “are linked to a foreign intelligence operation.” NBC reported that it had confirmed that the FBI had seized the laptop and held a grand jury relating to it.