After damning details from Hunter Biden‘s recovered laptop surfaced in the month prior to the presidential election, a cabal of media elites and anti-Trump plants in the intelligence community scrambled to bury the story by suggesting that it was disinformation.
To do so, they relied on the cachet of dozens of former intelligence officials, who tried to substantiate the baseless claim in an Oct. 19 letter which suggested that Biden’s laptop origins “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”
However, their claim later proved to be the real disinformation.
After furnishing Trump legal adviser Rudy Giuliani with a backup copy of the data, the owner of the Delaware laptop store where Hunter had abandoned his water-damaged Macbook provided documentation showing that the FBI had taken possession of the laptop.
Adding insult to injury, the FBI subpoenaed the laptop in late 2019—during then-president Donald Trump’s impeachment hearings, for which it might have been used as exculpatory evidence to justify Trump’s calls for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
In addition to the FBI receipts, a former Biden business associate who was named in emails outlining the family’s corrupt foreign deals further corroborated the authenticity of the emails, going public with his account after the the New York Post bombshell broke.
Subsequent forensic examinations seemed to confirm that the materials on the laptop were real, and the Trump administration’s top intel official, then-DNI John Ratcliffe, directly disputed the claims that there was evidence that the Russians were involved.
Moreover, both the Justice Department and Hunter Biden have since acknowledged that the president-to-be’s son was, indeed, under federal investigation for matters such as money laundering.
And Hunter, himself, has pointedly avoided issuing an unequivocal denial that the laptop was his, instead trying to sow doubt about how it came into the Trump campaign’s possession.
Among the contents on the laptop were many graphic depictions of Hunter engaged in illegal and compromising acts, including some that allegedly depicted him with his teenage niece—and later stepdaughter—who was topless.
Nonetheless, even when it appeared clear that conservative media’s reporting on the laptop was accurate, outlets including Twitter used the letter signed by some 60 former intelligence officials (nine of whom signed it anonymously) to cast doubt and to continue justifying their aggressive suppression of the reports.
Although heavily gleaned from the Obama era, some top officials from the Republican administration of George W. Bush—and even that of Trump himself—joined for good measure, further lending it an air of bipartisan consensus.
In additional to the media censorship that resulted, then-candidate Joe Biden cited the dubious letter as proof-positive that there was nothing of substance in the laptop story.
But since Biden’s installment as president, the corrupt domestic-counterintelligence operatives who signed it have been largely mute, refusing to speak on the record except in generic vagaries on the problem of Russian interference.
“[T]he general subject of Russian disinformation is hugely important,” said Russ Travers, former acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, who was one of the few signatories willing to comment for the Examiner‘s investigation.
“As someone who spent 40+ years in intelligence—20 of which on the Soviet/Russian target—I’ve watched their disinformation efforts and I both was/remain very concerned at how successful they’ve been,” Travers told the Examiner in a statement that made no direct reference to Hunter Biden.
Travers suggested that the letter was an exercise in semantic acrobatics—a common craft deployed by the intelligence community and other parts of the federal bureaucracy to plant an idea that it can later deny.
“I’d suggest you do three things: read the letter very closely—the author picked his words carefully; consider the bipartisan conclusions of experts regarding exactly what the Russians were doing at the time; and perhaps talk to some former Intel types that worked Russian disinformation,” he said. “And then draw your own conclusions.”
The letter does “emphasize” that the civilian ex-intel officials didn’t know for certain if the emails were genuine and that they had no evidence to support their conclusions—“just that our experience makes us deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case.”
But the decision to intervene in such a way, to give the Biden campaign and sympathetic media outlets the plausible deniability they needed to censor the story, was itself a form of election-meddling, critics contend.
On that point, too, the intel operatives now seem far more demure than they were in October.
“I can’t comment on how or why the media characterized the letter, as I was only involved in drafting the letter,” signer Marc Polymeropoulos, a former senior operations officer for the CIA, told the Examiner. “I’d also prefer to refrain from comment on how the Biden campaign used the letter, other than point once again to the actual content of the letter as reflecting my professional view.”
While the laptop stories have all but vanished from headlines, leftist media have made a concerted effort to rehabilitate Hunter’s public image. However, a much-hyped memoir released in April sold just 10,638 copies in the first week of its release.
Meanwhile, the Biden Justice Department and others targeted Giuliani, the intermediary source of the laptop leak, with a federal probe into his own foreign entanglements.
After a high-profile raid on his New York apartment, Giuliani said he had repeatedly offered the agents his Hunter Biden material but they had refused to take it.
Concurrently, several leftist publications ran a story that the FBI had warned Giuliani of a potential Russian plot to interfere in the election by circulating disinformation.
But outlets including the New York Times and Washington Post were later obliged to correct the story to reflect that Giuliani disputed ever receiving any such warning.
Neither the media reports nor the intelligence briefings appeared to have directly implicated the laptop in Russia’s attempted “influence” campaign. Nor did they offer any specific information about how Russia intended to interfere.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., who released a damning Senate report that exposed the Biden family’s business dealings prior to the laptop surfacing, acknowledged that he received a follow-up briefing from the FBI.
“I asked the briefers what specific evidence they had regarding this warning, and they could not provide me anything other than the generalized warning,” Johnson told the Washington Post. “Without specific information, I felt the briefing was completely useless and unnecessary (since I was fully aware of the dangers of Russian disinformation).”
But yet again, partisans on the Left, including House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif., floated the innuendo to suggest something more concrete.
Democrats made hay of the FBI’s inconclusive and nondescript suggestions to poke holes in the Senate report and assert that Johnson and fellow Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, had conspired with the Russians—a claim that the top-ranking Republicans have soundly dismissed.
Headline USA reached out via email to some of the signatories and will update with any further response.