From ‘Russian Disinformation’ To ‘We Don’t Comment On The Laptop’: White House’s Messaging On Hunter Biden’s Laptop Quietly Shifts

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Shelby Talcott Senior White House Correspondent
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On October 19, 2020, current White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted out an article published by Politico which cited “more than 50 intelligence officers” who signed a letter claiming the Hunter Biden laptop story was Russian disinformation.

“Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officers say,” Psaki tweeted, reiterating Politico’s headline.

Just a few days later, then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden reiterated the story, dismissing the laptop’s authenticity during a presidential debate.

“What he’s accusing me of is a Russian plant,” Biden said at the time. “What he’s saying is a bunch of garbage. Nobody believes it except him and his good friend Rudy Giuliani.”

While the future administration managed to dismiss the laptop at the time, the subject is now front and center once again after a report published by The New York Times in March of 2022 admitted the laptop’s authenticity.

The NYT article, which dove into the Justice Department’s investigation of Hunter Biden’s business dealings and tax affairs, only briefly mentioned the laptop. However, the NYT appeared to verify the laptop’s authenticity:

“People familiar with the investigation said prosecutors had examined emails between Mr. Biden, Mr. Archer and others about Burisma and other foreign business activity,” the NYT wrote. “Those emails were obtained by The New York Times from a cache of files that appears to have come from a laptop abandoned by Mr. Biden in a Delaware repair shop. The email and others in the cache were authenticated by people familiar with them and with the investigation.”

Although the NYT was not the first publication to report on the laptop and its contents – the New York Post broke the story in 2020 and the Daily Caller News Foundation, after obtaining a copy of the laptop, was told its contents were “unquestionably authentic” by a cybersecurity expert – its revelation mid-Biden presidency has shone a light on the president and his son once again.

This time, with the Russian disinformation storyline apparently cast aside, the Biden administration has sought to answer questions on the laptop’s contents in various different ways – each time evolving its response slightly, and each time avoiding its earlier assertion that the news was “Russian disinformation.”

In light of the NYT report, Psaki was pressed March 17 on whether Biden stood by his statement calling the NY Post’s Hunter Biden story “garbage” and a “Russian plant.” The press secretary would not comment, instead pointing to “the Department of Justice and also to Hunter Biden’s representatives.” Psaki added that Hunter Biden “doesn’t work in the government.”

Moments later, when confronted with her own tweet repeating the Russian disinformation claim and asked whether she stands by “that assessment,” Psaki reiterated her earlier response and declined to answer. (RELATED: GOP Probe Into Hunter Biden’s Business Dealings Reportedly Finds Concerns Over Joe Biden’s Brother, 150+ Financial Transactions Flagged)

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield was pressed March 31 on whether the administration stood by Biden’s declaration – made during a 2020 presidential debate – that “nothing was unethical” regarding his son’s overseas business dealings.

“The president said ‘nothing was unethical,'” NBC News’ Kristen Welker said at the time. “He [Biden] went on to say, ‘My son has not made money in terms of this thing about, talking about China.’ Does the White House stand by that comment?”

This time, the administration offered up a more definitive response, with Bedingfield saying that they “absolutely stand by the president’s comment.” Bedingfield continued on to say that there wasn’t “more” she could say on the subject because she does “not speak for Hunter Biden.”

That same day, Bedingfield declined to answer questions about whether Biden was prepping to pardon any family members and whether the president was reading up on the latest troubles plaguing his son.

White House chief of staff Ron Klain reiterated Bedingfield’s vote of confidence on April 3, saying during an interview on ABC News that “the president is confident that his son didn’t break the law.”

“But most importantly, as I said, that’s a matter that’s going to be decided by the Justice Department, by the legal process. It’s something that no one at the White House has involvement in,” Klain said.

This week, the administration has continued to field questions about the laptop, the president and his son. Fox News’ White House correspondent Peter Doocy repeatedly pressed Psaki on the subject April 5, starting with whether Biden would back appointing a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden’s business dealings.

“The president has never had a conversation with the Department of Justice about any investigations into any member of his family,” Psaki responded. “He said that during the campaign, and he will continue to abide by that. So, I’d point you to the Department of Justice for any additional steps they would take. They would make those decisions independently.”

Then, Psaki was confronted with Klain’s comment declaring Biden “confident” that his son broke no laws. The press secretary said “that’s something” Biden “has said and certainly something we would echo.”

“But in the same answer to that question, Peter, during an interview this week on ABC, Ron Klain also said the Justice Department is independent and they will make their own decisions,” Psaki continued, once again relying on the administration’s long-held push to keep the DOJ separate.

Psaki also said Biden’s claim that he has never spoken to Hunter Biden about his overseas business dealings remains valid. (RELATED: Joe Biden Performed Special Favor For Hunter’s Chinese Business Partner: REPORT)

One day later, in response to a Fox News report noting that the president apparently wrote a college recommendation for the son of Hunter Biden’s Chinese business partner, the administration offered up a brand new statement regarding the laptop:

“We don’t comment on the laptop,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates told Fox News Digital.

Later that day, Psaki slightly altered her response and abandoned the administration’s push to have the DOJ respond to inquiries. This time, she noted that the administration has “no confirmation or comment” on the latest report.

The press secretary also claimed that reports from the laptop referring to Hunter Biden and his father as “office mates” were “not accurate.”

Doocy then pointed to reports that the president was office mates with his son and his brother, James Biden, in Washington, D.C.

“So, when Hunter Biden is emailing a landlord, ‘Please have keys made available for new office mates: Joe Biden, Jill Biden, Jim Biden,’ you’re disputing—” Doocy asked before Psaki interrupted to declare that the two “were not office mates.”

While various administration officials have been pressed on multiple aspects of the Hunter Biden laptop, the president himself has yet to address any of the recent reports. Biden has also not been pressed on whether he stands by his assertions dismissing the laptop prior to taking office.