NY Post’s Hunter Biden story lacks credibility, smacks of Russian disinformation

This article contains news and commentary.

You either believe it, or you don’t. It isn’t very believable; it’s most likely Russian disinformation.

But rightwing tabloids like NY Post and Daily Mail seized on it, and Trump is miffed that mainstream media haven’t. Reputable journalists are, however, taking notice — although not in the way Trump wants.

USA Today, in their Oct. 19, 2020, edition, took a hard look at the evidence. Here’s what they said (edited with comments; read the unabridged article here):

“When the New York Post published the alleged contents of a computer hard drive purporting to document the Ukrainian and Chinese business activities of Hunter Biden, the newspaper cast the information as a ‘smoking gun.’ … [F]ederal authorities are investigating whether the material supplied to the Post by Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, is part of a smoke bomb of disinformation pushed by Russia.”

[Rudy Giuliani isn’t a disinterested source; he’s a Trump pal and GOP operative, which immediately makes the whole thing suspect.]

“The gauzy details of the newspaper’s account trace the hard drive to a computer repair shop in Delaware, where a laptop had been left for service last year but was never reclaimed by the customer. Exactly how the material moved to Giuliani, who with Trump has long pushed debunked conspiracy theories about the Bidens, has raised as many questions as the authenticity of the laptop data the president’s lawyer provided to the newspaper.”

[Huh. Consider the source, motive, and timing.]

“After months of investigation, two Republican-led Senate committees … found no evidence of wrongdoing or corrupt actions by the former vice president in connection with his son Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine. But Trump and Giuliani have continued to lob allegations at the Democratic nominee, despite multiple investigations … that had found no basis for the claims.”

[Even partisan Republicans couldn’t find a pony in the straw.]

“Giuliani, through his lawyer, declined to provide the material to USA TODAY for examination.”

[Red flag.]

“Trump and Giuliani have accused Joe Biden of seeking the ouster of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin to thwart an investigation of Burisma – a claim that independent fact checkers and investigators have debunked. Shokin was widely and publicly viewed … as an impediment to reforming the country’s culture of graft. Biden helped to oust Shokin because the prosecutor was not aggressively pursuing corruption cases.”

[And also in a capacity of officially representing U.S. policy in the matter.]

“There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden.”

[Which instantly makes this “story” look part and parcel of Trump’s long-running efforts to pin a Ukraine smear on Biden, with assistance from Russia, which has tried to blame its own 2016 election interference on Ukraine. Did I mention that Russia and Ukraine are at war?]

“The New York Post reported on unverified documents that were based on what it called a ‘massive trove’ of data from a laptop computer. The newspaper said the data were provided by Giuliani and former White House adviser Steve Bannon.”

[Bannon, like Giuliani, is a GOP dirty trickster, and exactly the sort of person who would be involve in fabricating a smear.]

“Facebook and Twitter flagged the New York Post story as spreading disinformation. Misinformation experts have noted that the story has many hallmarks of a disinformation campaign, with questionable assertions at its core.”

[If it’s too smelly even for Facebook, it’s really smelly.]

“The laptop was allegedly dropped off at the Delaware repair shop but never retrieved. The Post said the store owner then copied the documents on the device’s hard drive and sent them to Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello. The article does not explain the connection between Giuliani and the Delaware store owner.”

[We can, however, infer that any computer shop owner who does this is going to have a relationship with a lawyer when the customer finds out.]

“Former White House aide Bannonlater told the New York Post about the existence of the documents. Giuliani provided the documents to the tabloid.”

[Two GOP operatives famous for their dishonesty feed allegedly damaging material to a rightwing tabloid in the closing days of a presidential campaign; how convenient is that?]

“John Paul Mac Isaac, a computer repairman based in Wilmington, Delaware, identified himself as the store owner who gave a copy of the laptop hard drive to Costello, Giuliani’s attorney. In a meandering session with reporters …, Mac Isaac said a man brought three liquid-damaged laptops to his repair shop in April 2019 …. Only one was left for repair, he said. No one returned to retrieve it, he said. Mac Isaac said the laptop had a Beau Biden Foundation sticker on it … that led him to believe it belonged to Hunter Biden. He also said he has an unspecified medical condition that made it difficult for him to tell who had dropped off the laptop at his store.”

[What are the chances Hunter Biden would drop off a laptop at a computer shop miles from his home, with a guy like this, that contained damning information that could sink his father’s presidential campaign? The story would be more plausible if Mac Isaac claimed the “man” who dropped it off told him he broke into a parked car and stole it.]

“Mac Isaac said he began hearing about Burisma and Ukraine shortly after the laptop was left at the repair shop. When a customer doesn’t return after 90 days, Mac Isaac says he typically will reach out to them by phone. Asked if he called Hunter Biden, Mac Isaac said, ‘No comment.'”

[Meaning he didn’t.]

“Mac Isaac said he had been in contact with the FBI over the contents of the laptop but did not say if the agency contacted him first or if he initiated the contact.”

[Meaning he did.]

“He was vague about the timeline of the communications and suggested he was disappointed in the FBI’s follow-up.

[Meaning he doesn’t like the way things went when the FBI got involved.]

“‘I thought the FBI was going to help and then I got the overwhelming sense that they weren’t going to help me,’ the shop owner said.”

[Meaning he’s now under investigation.]

“Mac Isaac dodged multiple questions about his intentions and his connections to Giuliani, repeatedly expressing fear ‘about saying the wrong things and getting in more trouble than I already am.'”

[This is a little opaque, but suggests he’s in trouble, and doesn’t wish to talk about what potential charges he’s facing.]

“Mac Isaac, 44, is registered as a Republican, according to Delaware voter registration records. He said hevoted for Trump in 2016 and remains an ardent supporter, calling Trump’s impeachment a sham.”

[Who would’ve guessed? Well, every journalist who looked into his background, that’s who.]

[Wise move, given his choices are admit being (a) a liar, or (b) a tool of Russian intelligence operatives, neither of which will improve his standing in the community.]

“After the Post story published, posts promoting it on Twitter and Facebook were flagged as potential disinformation. Twitter and Facebook both said they were actively suppressing the story’s visibility while independent fact-checkers investigated the story’s claims. …

“Twitter went further, stopping users from posting links to the Post story while also cautioning users against retweeting posts that were already on the site. The company cited its policy against allowing potentially hacked materials as a reason for its decision.”

[Anyone want to argue Facebook and Twitter don’t know what hacking looks like?]

“Some experts say the story has many hallmarks of a disinformation campaign.”

[Another big red flag.]

“‘It is also an old Cold War disinformation tactic to pass information, especially but not exclusively when forged, to low-brow newspapers that have high circulation and low standards of investigation. Ideal for surfacing and amplification,’ Thomas Rid, a political scientist who focuses on disinformation and information warfare at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said in a tweet. Russian operatives worked to sow partisan divisions in the U.S. and spread disinformation during the 2016 presidential election cycle …. Trump’s own intelligence officials have warned Moscow is interfering again in the 2020 election.”

[About as good an explanation as you’re likely to get of where and how the New York Post story originated.]

In September, the Treasury Department sanctioned Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Derkach, who met with Giuliani in December, for being an ‘active Russian agent for over a decade.'”

[This doesn’t help Giuliani’s credibility, either, does it?]

“Bannon was indicted for fraud in August ….”

[Or Bannon’s, eh?]

“In the case of Giuliani associate Derkach, the Treasury Department’s move was aimed at ‘exposing Russian malign influence campaigns and protecting our upcoming elections from foreign interference.’ It also made clear that Giuliani has engaged with Russian agents in his campaign against the Bidens.”

[Speaks for itself.]

“Former Biden aides have also suggested that Russians are behind the story. ‘This is a Russian disinformation operation,’ Michael Carpenter, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense with a specialization in Eastern Europe who now heads the Penn Biden Center, said to Politico. ‘I’m very comfortable saying that.'”

The bottom line is that USA Today has shredded the NY Post story. Mainstream media won’t run with it because it’s crap, and doing so would damage their reputations. NY Post and Daily Mail have no reputations to damage.

This is a free country, and people can believe whatever they like, but a person has to be stupid to believe this. I see it as a Hail Mary pass by a desperate-to-win-at-any-cost candidate who’s about to get his butt handed to him — a thoroughly dishonest candidate, surrounded by dishonest sycophants and enablers, who’s done exactly this sort of thing before.

The remaining question is, why does Russia so badly want Trump to win? I have my own theory about that: He owes them $471 million.

Update (10/21/20): “The FBI said in a letter Tuesday night that it had ‘nothing to add’ to comments this week by the Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, who said there was ‘no intelligence to support’ that Russian disinformation efforts were connected to recently surfaced emails that have been behind stories critical of Hunter Biden and his father Joe Biden,” and “the FBI declined to provide any additional information and said it could not confirm or deny any investigation, a similar response it has given to stories about the purported Hunter Biden emails,” CNN reported on Wednesday, October 21, 2020.

This, of course, is saying nothing; CNN noted that former FBI director James Comey came under fire for releasing investigative information right before the 2016, and FBI officials probably are being skittish because of that. Also keep in mind that Ratcliffe speaks for Trump, and is saying what you’d expect him to say if the alleged emails are a concocted smear.

Photos: Four of the most dishonest people in America, none of whose names end in “Biden.”

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0 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Mark Adams #

    You are an attorney or so you claim. What does it mean when Hunter Biden lawyer has asked for the laptop back? That means the lap top is real and what is on it is Hunter Biden’s. No Russian collusion unless Hunter is in bed with them. And if the Russians have access to the laptop that means something other than disinformation.

  2. Roger Rabbit #

    I’ve seen no reliable reporting that Biden’s attorney “asked for the laptop back.” His attorney did say, “We have no idea where this [story] came from.”

    But let’s play a law school game here. Assume, arguendo, “the laptop” belongs to Hunter Biden. Would that prove everything on the hard drive was put there by him? It would not, because if the computer shop had the laptop for several months, as alleged, then someone else could have put it there. In other words, the chain of custody was broken, therefore the provenance of the computer files can’t be traced to Hunter Biden based only upon his (assumed) ownership of the computer. Thus, your argument would fail to satisfy a preponderance burden of proof due to the insufficiency of your evidence as to the origin of the computer files.

  3. Mark Adams #

    If only reporters would spend some time on Julian Assange extradition. No censorship going on in that affair. No need to look here as no censorship is happening on this issue either. No journalists need be concerned. Big brother will take care of them and they will have a trusted place in the ministry of truth.

    Hard drive and Russian disinformation sounds like a job for the NSA. You know No Such Agency, but then again unless the NSA is doing the investigation and looking at the hard drive the investigation is a sham. Of course the NSA and CIA could be trying to cover methods and hacks of their own if they really know this is Russian disinformation. Do they know the mysterious man dropping off the hard drive works at the embassy or is a disgruntled Biden employee, partner, creditor, or bookkeeper.
    If it does turn out to the Hunter’s hard drive then there will be proof that one should pick up ones hard drive and pay for the repairs or risk embarrassment.
    If it is Russian disinformation wow aren’t they unbelievable talented. Why did they not win the cold war?

  4. Roger Rabbit #

    You really want this smear to be true, don’t you? It has “fabricated” all over it. The evidence offered is laughable, the partisan motive blatant and overt. Joe Biden’s role in firing the corrupt Ukraine prosecutor was legitimate, has been investigated to death, and even partisan Republicans found no evidence of wrongdoing. Removing that individual was the official policy of the U.S. government and Biden was carrying it out, and multiple European governments also participated in that effort. But even if Hunter Biden did something wrong, that doesn’t mean his father did; and, in any case, the Bidens couldn’t possibly be as corrupt as the Trump family is. So if honesty and ethics are your litmus test, vote for Biden, because he is by far the least dishonest of the two candidates.

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