Anatomy Of A Smear: Questions Surrounding The New York Post’s Hunter Biden Story
Just 20 days before the presidential election, the New York Post published a "smoking gun e-mail" on a front page accusing Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of high-level political corruption. Within hours of its publication, the viral story was dominating the news cycle, with aggressive advertising from President Donald Trump's campaign.
Trumpworld seems to believe it found an October bomb that will damage Biden's dominant standing in the polls. However, critical elements of the story are dubious, contradicting, or completely wrong.
The Post reported that Biden's son Hunter left his damaged laptop - which the story claims contained footage of sex smoking crack - at a Delaware repair shop last spring but never returned. The unnamed shopkeeper, unaware that the laptop was Hunter Biden, noticed a sticker from the Beau Biden Foundation, made a copy of the hard drive, and gave it to Robert Costello - an attorney for Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani - who later did it gave it to the post office. The hard drive contained a 2015 email from a top manager at Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, who thanked Hunter for inviting me to DC and giving me the opportunity to meet your father and spend some time together.
The Post concludes that this is evidence of Joe Biden's wrongdoing for Hunter Biden "introducing" his father to the Burisma executive "less than a year before the senior Biden pressured government officials in Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who is investigating the company ". (Biden's campaign says the alleged meeting with the Burisma executive never took place.)
It is a highly suspicious narrative that is riddled with inconsistencies and other red flags. The premise and the very first sentence of the story contain a blatant, long-debunked lie: Viktor Shokin, the Ukrainian prosecutor in question, did not investigate Burisma, the Washington Post reported more than a year ago in response to Trump's similar false claims. In fact, Biden and other Western officials had urged Shokin's overthrow precisely because he hadn't investigated the company. The Obama-Biden administration actually considered launching a US investigation into alleged money laundering in Burisma.
This is one of several inconsistencies in the version of the events of the story. Here are some of the biggest questions about it.
How did the laptop get into the workshop?
John Paul MacIsaac, identified as the owner of the laptop repair facility after the Post's story was published, told reporters Wednesday that Hunter Biden actually turned in three laptops at his store last April. MacIsaac initially suggested he didn't recognize the younger Biden when he walked into the store because he was legally blind, and only later found out that the laptop was his after noticing the sticker, the Post reported.
But MacIsaac later changed his story, claiming Hunter Biden actually introduced himself by name at the time.
Throughout the interview, MacIssac appeared nervous and, without going into detail, claimed that his life was in danger. Describing Trump's impeachment as a "fraud", he vaguely implied that the FBI was involved in a cover-up of the alleged scandal and repeatedly declined to reply on whether he is collaborating or collaborating with Giuliani.
On Thursday, Giuliani, who was not present at the laptop repair facility at the time of the alleged drop-off, told SiriusXM that Hunter Biden was definitely the person dropping off the computer and that he was "in a drunk, very drunk state" Time.
How did the emails get to the FBI?
MacIsaac claims he made several unsuccessful attempts to get in touch with Hunter Biden and his deal's contract allows him to take possession of equipment if it is not retrieved after 90 days. After the 90-day period expired, MacIsaac said he became curious about the contents of the computer. According to the Post, MacIsaac then made a copy of the hard drive and handed the hardware over to the FBI.
In conversations with reporters, MacIsaac evaded the question of how he came into contact with federal agents. He first told reporters that the FBI had reached out to him, although it was unclear how the office knew about the existence and location of the laptops. He later told reporters that he had reached out to trusted individuals who put him through contacts within the FBI. "And then they showed up," claimed MacIsaac.
How did Giuliani get involved?
MacIsaac told reporters he was frustrated that the material on the laptop hadn't been published and gave Costello, Giuliani's lawyer, a copy of the hard drive. He refused to say whether he turned to the lawyer or whether the lawyer went to see him. Nor would he say whether he was in direct contact with Giuliani himself.
Giuliani is a notoriously unreliable source of information. As Trump's personal attorney, he has long been a political actor targeting Biden for the Trump campaign, including traveling to Ukraine with far-right media company One America News to spread conspiracy theories about Biden. During the course of the election campaign, Giuliani repeatedly made savage claims without evidence to support them and bizarre theories to create the perception that Biden was involved in corruption.
Giuliani is now promising a slow release of supposedly damned information about the Bidens. On his personal website, he posted a 2019 text message from Hunter Biden to his sister Naomi that was not included in the Post's story. There is no context for the alleged screenshot, no verification that it is real, and no explanation as to why the post didn't cover it.
How did the story get in the New York Post?
The origins of the Post's story and the newspaper's acquisition of the alleged copy of Biden's hard drive are vague and raise numerous questions. The report says that far-right media influencer and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon told the Post about the hard drive's existence in late September, before Giuliani gave the outlet a copy on Sunday.
Both Giuliani and Bannon have advanced conspiracy theories and are closely associated with Trump. The post-story lead reporter Emma-Jo Morris was a former producer for Fox News host and Trump ally Sean Hannity and a former contributor to the Conservative Political Action Conference. The Hunter Biden stories were her first bylines for The Post, despite having been working there since April, according to her LinkedIn profile. On her Instagram account, Morris has posted numerous photos of himself posing with Trump employees like Bannon and Roger Stone.
Pro-Trump media has already started heavily promoting and expanding the story. Fox News host Tucker Carlson announced that he would post more of Biden's emails during his prime-time show Thursday night.
Are the emails authentic?
There is no evidence that Swiss Post conducted forensic analysis to confirm the authenticity of the emails and photos. The Post says it received the material on Sunday, just three days before its report was released.
The metadata in the PDF files published by the Post, which allegedly contain Biden's emails, show the files were created in September and October 2019 - months after MacIsaac said the laptops were abandoned and a full year before the Post -Story was published.
Hunter Biden's attorney George Mesires said in a statement, "We have no idea where this is coming from and we certainly cannot credit anything Rudy Giuliani provided to the NY Post."
Disinformation experts warned that the timing of emails, the manner in which they were published, and the lack of forensic evidence are all signs that the material could be the result of forgery, a hack, or a combination of both . The Russian GRU unit responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee in 2016 hacked Burisma, the New York Times reported earlier this year, leading to fears that material from the hack might have leaked near the elections to Biden Hurt election campaign.
Mitt Romney slams Ron Johnson's probe against Hunter Biden
FBI director confirms Russia is currently meddling in the 2020 elections
Republican-led Senate committees report on Hunter Biden, Ukraine
Twitter blocks New York Post articles related to Russia's disinformation campaign
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