Joe Biden says laptop story is ‘Russian plan’ despite lack of evidence
During Thursday’s presidential debate, Joe Biden dismissed purported emails from a laptop belonging to his son, Hunter Biden, as part of a “Russian plan” as he inaccurately cited a letter that a number of former intelligence officials had signed and as he contradicted the nation’s spy chief who said there is “no intelligence” that it is part of a Russian disinformation operation.
“If this stuff is true about Russia, Ukraine, China, other countries, Iraq, if this is true, then he’s a corrupt politician … Joe, they’re calling you a corrupt politician,” Trump said, adding, “take a look at the laptop from hell.”
Biden responded by claiming, “There are 50 former national intelligence folks who said that what he’s accusing me of is a Russian plan. They have said this is, has all the — four, five former heads of the CIA, both parties say what he’s saying is a bunch of garbage. Nobody believes it except him and his good friend Rudy Giuliani.”
Trump retorted, “You mean the laptop is now another Russia, Russia, Russia hoax?” Biden claimed that “that’s exactly what I was told.”
Trump dismissively said, “This is where he’s going. The laptop is Russia Russia Russia? You have to be kidding. Here we go again with Russia.”
Earlier in the debate, Biden had claimed that “his buddy, Rudy Giuliani, he’s being used as a Russian pawn, he’s being fed information that is Russian — that is not true.”
Politico reported on Monday that over 50 more than ex-intelligence officials, including former CIA Director John Brennan, had signed onto a letter related to the Hunter Biden laptop saga in an article titled “Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say.” But the news article title is misleading, because in their letter the former officials never call the Hunter Biden laptop “Russian disinformation” themselves, instead citing a another news article claiming that “federal authorities are investigating whether the material … is part of a smoke bomb of disinformation pushed by Russia” but making it clear that “we do not know whether these press reports are accurate.” The officials also claim that the purported Hunter Biden laptop “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation” but admit that “we do not have evidence of Russian involvement.”
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said on Monday that he didn’t believe the news related to the laptop and emails are connected to the Kremlin.
“Let me be clear: The intelligence community doesn’t believe that because there is no intelligence that supports that, and we have shared no intelligence with Chairman Schiff or any other member of Congress that Hunter Biden’s laptop is part of some Russian disinformation campaign. It is simply not true,” Ratcliffe said Monday, adding, “Apparently Chairman Schiff wants anything against his preferred political candidate deemed as not real and is using or attempting to use the intelligence community to say there’s nothing to see here. Don’t drag the intelligence community into this. Hunter Biden’s laptop is not part of some Russian disinformation campaign.”
John Paul Mac Isaac, the computer repair shop owner who allegedly came into possession of the younger Biden’s computer and hard drive, told the New York Post that he made a copy of the hard drive and provided it to a lawyer for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as well as to federal investigators.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff repeatedly declared to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Friday that the Hunter Biden laptop issue was a Russian disinformation plot, though he provided no evidence, saying that “we know that this whole smear on Joe Biden comes from the Kremlin” while lamenting that “there it is in the Oval Office, another wonderful propaganda coup for Vladimir Putin, seeing the president of the United States holding up a newspaper promoting Kremlin propaganda.”
But a federal law enforcement official told the Washington Examiner on Tuesday that the FBI and Justice Department concur with Ratcliffe that the laptop and emails in question aren’t part of a Russian disinformation campaign.
The emails obtained by the New York Post from Hunter Biden, if authentic, shed further light on his time on the board of Ukrainian energy giant Burisma and on his pursuit of lucrative deals connected to Chinese businessmen. Joe Biden’s campaign has not directly disputed the veracity of the emails, and Hunter Biden’s lawyer has not responded to requests for comment and has not said the emails are inauthentic.
“The IC and DOJ are in lock-step on this: there is absolutely zero evidence or intel that the laptop or the information contained therein is a Russian op. Schiff and the former officials making unfounded statements or signing their names to open letters are proving themselves to be the gang who couldn’t shoot straight,” a senior intelligence official told the Washington Examiner. An intelligence official also said that “there has been no intelligence community assessment or information that the IC has gotten to suggest in any way that the Hunter Biden laptop story is a Russian disinformation operation.”
Giuliani, who was repeatedly criticized by Biden during the debate, was a staunch defender of Trump throughout the impeachment process and worked with numerous sources inside the United States and abroad, including Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach, to push allegations that Biden had abused his power in Ukraine.
Bill Evanina, who leads the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, released an intelligence assessment in early August warning that Russia is “using a range of measures to primarily denigrate” Joe Biden, and that Derkach “is spreading claims about corruption — including through publicizing leaked phone calls — to undermine” the former vice president. The same statement also said China “prefers” that Trump not win reelection and is “expanding its influence efforts ahead of November 2020.” The counterintelligence official also said Iran “seeks to undermine” Trump’s presidency.
The Treasury Department announced sanctions against Derkach this summer, but there is no evidence that the leaked emails from Hunter Biden were connected to Derkach or Russia, and the nation’s spy chief and a federal law enforcement official have both denied that it is Kremlin disinformation.
Newly released texts from Hunter Biden’s business partner Tony Bobulinski suggest that Joe Biden met with the duo, along with his brother James Biden, as Hunter and his associates pursued a potentially lucrative deal with a Chinese tycoon, complicating claims from the 2020 Democratic nominee that he never discussed business dealings with his son. Bobulinski spoke during a brief press conference before Thursday’s debate, saying, “I have heard Joe Biden say that he has never discussed business with Hunter. That is false.”
“Joe Biden has never even considered being involved in business with his family, nor in any overseas business whatsoever,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates told the Washington Examiner.