FBI suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story

In the fall of 2020, just months before the presidential election, the Federal Bureau of Investigation lied to the news media and social media platforms in order to trick them into suppressing truthful information about one of the candidates.

Are you outraged? Are you waiting to find out which candidate the FBI protected before you decide how outraged you’re going to be?

If you’re following the steady release of the Twitter Files, the archive of internal company communications that owner Elon Musk has opened to a team of independent journalists, then you already know which candidate federal law enforcement officials lied to protect. If you rely for news on one of the organizations that was tricked, you’ll have to wait for them to decide they’re ready to talk about it.

The FBI has reacted to the disclosures in the sketchiest way possible, by calling them “misinformation.” Connoisseurs of government scandals will recognize this as a particularly fine specimen of the non-denial denial.

As journalist and author Michael Shellenberger wrote Thursday, “FBI calls Twitter Files ‘misinfo’ but doesn’t deny that it had Hunter Biden’s laptop since December 2019; told Twitter a hack-and-leak involving Hunter may occur in Oct 2020; was spying on Giuliani when he gave a copy of laptop hard drive to NY Post.”

To fill in the details, a laptop computer belonging to then-candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter was dropped off for repair at a computer shop and abandoned. The owner of the shop took possession of it, observed evidence of criminal activity on the hard drive and contacted the FBI. The Delaware office of the FBI issued a subpoena for the laptop and the hard drive and took possession of them in December 2019.

Having heard nothing from the FBI by the following August, the computer shop owner gave a copy of the hard drive to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was President Donald Trump’s personal attorney. Giuliani gave a copy of the hard drive to the New York Post, and the FBI knew this because the bureau had Giuliani under surveillance.

What was on the laptop? Emails that showed evidence of then Vice President Joe Biden’s awareness and involvement in business dealings his son had with entities tied to foreign governments, including China. A lot of money changed hands, a lot of hand-shaking meetings took place in U.S. government buildings, a lot of thank-you notes were sent. Hunter Biden’s business deals appear to have been based entirely on influence peddling, since he had no prior experience or involvement in the types of businesses that were paying him while his dad was vice president.

The New York Post published its blockbuster story on Oct. 14, 2020. Some Americans already had ballots and were voting by mail.

But the story was shot down nearly everywhere. An Oct. 17 “analysis” from NPR was typical, calling the story “questionable” and asserting that the emails “have not been verified as authentic.” NPR’s David Folkenflik wrote that the story was “marked more by red flags than investigative rigor.”

Now we know that the FBI aggressively sought to discredit the story both before and after it ran.

“The FBI basically came to us, was like, ‘Hey … you should be on high alert. We thought that there was a lot of Russian propaganda in the 2016 election. There’s about to be some kind of dump similar to that,’” Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said earlier this year.

Much more is revealed in the Twitter Files, dug out by Shellenberger and others. The FBI ran a full-blown influence operation to convince U.S. news and social media outlets that the scoop they were about to read about the Biden family was merely Russian propaganda.

As just one example, in September 2020, NPR’s former CEO, Vivian Schiller, organized an event at the Aspen Institute that was billed as a “tabletop exercise” on how to handle a potential “Hack-and-Dump” operation related to then-candidate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. The exercise was named “The Burisma Leak,” referencing the Ukrainian energy company that paid Hunter to serve on its board.

The “confidential” document, now published from Twitter’s internal communications, describes the day-by-day news reporting and commentary that would hypothetically follow from the leak of the “hacked” material, leading up to “Day Eleven: Thursday, October 15th, The second presidential debate.”

Shellenberger reported that the exercise was attended by Meta/Facebook’s head of security policy and the top national security reporters for The New York Times, the Washington Post and others. “The goal was to shape how the media covered it — and how social media carried it,” he wrote.

The New York Post published its blockbuster story on Oct. 14, 2020. Sure enough, Twitter locked the newspaper’s account and blocked users from sharing the link, even in direct messages. Facebook also took action to suppress the reach of the story. Major news organizations threw shade at the story and at the Post. When Trump brought up the story during a presidential debate, Biden called him a liar and said intelligence professionals had stated it was Russian propaganda.

Since then, the formerly skeptical news organizations, most recently CBS News, have verified and admitted that the laptop and the emails were authentic and not hacked.

The FBI knew that the whole time, and continues to mislead the American people about its role in the suppression of truthful information immediately before a presidential election.

Congress has to do something about this. Soon.

Write and follow her on Twitter @Susan_Shelley

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