Incredible revelations hit the news this week in a series of New York Post reports based on data from a water-damaged laptop that Hunter Biden reportedly abandoned last year at a Delaware Mac repair store. The story is still developing but there is enough out there for us to draw some conclusions.
First, maybe most importantly, is the insight we have gained into how children of powerful politicians can use their access and influence to get rich. The expression “influence peddling” seems somehow insufficient when talking about the kind of multi-million-dollar deals Hunter Biden was reportedly arranging.
And there are tantalizing hints that Joe Biden, former vice president and current Democratic presidential nominee, was in on the action. A May 13, 2017, email reportedly sent to Hunter with the subject line “Expectations” discussed a venture with the former Shanghai-based conglomerate CEFC China Energy Co. Hunter, as Chair or Vice Chair, was expected to earn a salary of “850,” probably $850,000 a year. The details of the “remuneration packages” for six people involved in the deal include a breakdown of the equity percentages, including 20% for H (Hunter) and “10 held by H for the big guy.” Was the “big guy” his father? It is unclear, but in an alleged text to his daughter Naomi, Hunter complains about how he gets no respect and says, “I hope you all can do what I did and pay for everything for this entire family for 30 years. It’s really hard, but don’t worry, unlike Pop [Joe Biden] I won’t make you give me half your salary.”
We are also learning much more about the alleged 2016 quid pro quo deal between then-Vice President Joe Biden and Ukraine. Before it was supposition – we had evidence of Hunter Biden’s ties to the Ukrainian energy concern Burisma, his $50,000/month salary as a board member despite no particular knowledge of the energy business or of Ukraine. We had Joe Biden bragging about getting Ukrainian state prosecutor Viktor Shokin fired; he was the official who was looking into allegations of corruption at Burisma. Though Joe denied he ever talked to Hunter about his foreign business dealings, Hunter told the New Yorker that he did. Yet, until this week, mainstream media Biden defenders concluded there was no proof of quid pro quo, no evidence of a connection between the vice president demanding Shokin’s ouster and Hunter’s gravy train.
The new information fills in the blanks. There is an alleged April 17, 2015, email in which Burisma adviser Vadym Pozharskyi thanks Hunter Biden for the “opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together” in Washington, D.C. Fox News’ Tucker Carlson revealed a subsequent alleged November 2015 email from Pozharskyi asking Hunter to arrange for “highly-recognized and influential US policy makers” to travel to Ukraine to “close down any pursuits against the head of the firm” Mykola Zlochevsky. Biden visited in March and gave then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko the ultimatum; fire Shokin or lose over a billion dollars in U.S. aid. Shokin was fired shortly before he was set to interview Hunter Biden as part of his investigation. Nice timing.
A related issue was the reaction of Big Tech to the revelations. Both Twitter and Facebook overtly limited or banned distribution of the New York Post articles. Twitter locked out White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s personal account, and put a warning on a tweet from the Republican House Judiciary Committee. New York Post editor Sohrab Ahmari called it a “Big Tech information coup” and “digital civil war.”
But the Tech Lords went too far. Critics called their actions domestic election interference, or an in-kind campaign contribution to Joe Biden. The White House said it is “very much looking into” some form of executive action by the Justice Department or Department of Commerce. Senate Republicans called for hearings next week in which heads of social media companies would be forced to testify under oath about the suppression of the Post stories. There was also renewed interest in reviewing the special immunity claimed by social media companies under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects the companies from liability for material posted by users. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai tweeted “I intend to move forward with an FCC rulemaking to clarify the meaning of Section 230,” with a view towards shutting down this special statue. Great job tech wizards, maybe you aren’t as smart as your hype suggests.
The revelations also raise new questions about the role of the FBI. The Trump era has put the once-respected Bureau in a new and unflattering light. We have seen high-level complicity in the Russian collusion witch hunt, lying to courts to obtain FISA warrants to spy on political campaigns, conspiring to enforce an “insurance policy” against the Trump presidency and other nefarious activities by a cabal of crooked cops and unelected swamp creatures.
Now we learn that the FBI reportedly seized the abandoned computer on December 17, 2019, the day before the House voted on articles of impeachment. This means the Bureau reportedly sat on potentially exculpatory evidence during the Senate’s impeachment trial. It is unclear what happened to Hunter’s laptop or if it even still exists, but computer store owner John Paul Mac Isaac had the presence of mind to allegedly make a copy of the contents of the computer, which became his legal property after being abandoned at his shop for over three months with a balance due. He reportedly gave the copy to Robert Costello, an attorney for Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. And good thing too or we might never have heard about any of this. As FBI agents allegedly told Mac Issac, “nothing ever happens to people who don’t talk,” which he took as a veiled threat.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee began investigating the emails even before the New York Post articles. There is more to come – whether it will make a difference remains to be seen. It appears that the Biden campaign will try to ignore the allegations and run out the clock to November. Americans could elect a man president whose family was allegedly in the pay of a foreign power, whose son is potentially a national security risk open to blackmail, who allegedly made a quid pro quo deal with Ukraine – all the things Donald Trump was falsely accused of, but the Bidens did for real.
Chris Farrell is director of investigations and research at Judicial Watch, a nonprofit government watchdog. He is a former military intelligence officer.