WASHINGTON — Federal investigators are examining whether emails
allegedly describing activities by Joe Biden and his son Hunter
and found on a laptop at a Delaware repair shop are linked to a
foreign intelligence operation, two people familiar with the
matter told NBC News.
The FBI seized the laptop and a hard drive through a grand jury
subpoena. The subpoena was later published by the New York Post.
The bureau has declined to comment.
The Post has published a series of stories based on emails the
conservative tabloid said it obtained from President Donald
Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani. The first story highlighted
what it called a “smoking gun email” that suggested a meeting
between Biden and a representative of a Ukrainian company that
once paid Hunter Biden. The Biden campaign says there is no
evidence the meeting happened, and the story was greeted with
George Mesires, attorney for Hunter Biden, said in a statement,
“We have no idea where this came from, and certainly cannot
credit anything that Rudy Giuliani provided to the New York
Post, but what I do know for certain is that this purported
meeting never happened.”
“The New York Post never asked the Biden campaign about the
critical elements of this story,” Biden campaign spokesman
Andrew Bates said. “They certainly never raised that Rudy
Giuliani — whose discredited conspiracy theories and alliance
with figures connected to Russian intelligence have been widely
reported — claimed to have such materials.”
Bates added, “We have reviewed Joe Biden's official schedules
from the time and no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post,
ever took place."
Questions have swirled around the Post’s account of how it
obtained the emails and other materials. The newspaper said they
were found on a laptop left in a Delaware repair shop in April
2019 and never claimed. The repair shop owner then took it upon
himself to access the private material, the Post said.
The Post said the shop owner, who has been identified as Mac
Isaac, called the FBI, and also called a Giuliani associate. The
shop owner said he believed the laptop was among equipment left
by Hunter Biden, because a sticker on the laptop bore the name
of the Beau Biden Foundation, a charity named after his late
“Before turning over the gear, the shop owner says, he made a
copy of the hard drive and later gave it to former Mayor Rudy
Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello,” the Post said. “Steve
Bannon, former adviser to President Trump, told The Post about
the existence of the hard drive in late September and Giuliani
provided The Post with a copy of it on Sunday.”
It remains unclear whether the emails cited by the Post are
authentic or have been doctored.
Giuliani, who acknowledged helping bring the material to light,
has in the past sought to unearth information damaging to Biden
with the help of a man identified by the U.S. government as a
Russian intelligence officer.
Questions about the provenance of the emails have led Facebook
and Twitter to limit sharing of the story, prompting fierce
criticism from Republicans.
In an interview published by the Daily Beast, Issac, the repair
shop owner, did not answer key questions.
“Throughout the interview, Mac Isaac switched back and forth
from saying he reached out to law enforcement after viewing the
files in the laptop to saying that it was actually the FBI that
contacted him,” the Beast wrote. NBC News has reached out to
Isaac but has not heard back.
The Post published a grand jury subpoena for the laptop and hard
drive. The subpoena had been issued by a federal prosecutor who
already had the serial numbers of the devices when they were
ordered to be handed over in early December 2019, indicating
federal law enforcement was aware of the specific devices they
want to examine.
“Other material extracted from the computer,” the Post said,
“includes a raunchy, 12-minute video that appears to show
Hunter, who’s admitted struggling with addiction problems,
smoking crack while engaged in a sex act with an unidentified
woman, as well as numerous other sexually explicit images.”
Many commentators have said it is hard to believe that Hunter
Biden would abandon a Mac laptop full of incriminating
information at a repair shop.
Some have speculated that the material could have been hacked
from Hunter Biden’s accounts and put on the laptop as a cover
story to offer a plausible explanation of how the material
In January, it was reported that Burisma’s networks had been
breached by Russian hackers.