Hunter Biden laptop mystery hints at a Russian disinformation operation, source tells Insider

Mitch Prothero
·6 min read
Biden New York Post
The New York Post protested decisions by Facebook and Twitter to suppress coverage of the Biden laptop, after the social media platforms concluded the data was unverified and of questionable origin. The New York Post
  • The appearance of Hunter Biden's laptop — full of juicy emails and embarrassing images — in the hands of President Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani and the New York Post is "too perfect," a professional East European spy chaser tells Insider. 

  • Rudy Giuliani — Trump's lawyer — has repeatedly met with alleged Russian intelligence assets in his hunt for dirt on the Bidens.

  • Counterintelligence operatives have known since January that emails hacked by the Russians from the Burisma gas company that employed Hunter Biden would surface eventually. It was merely a question of when.

  • "I can't imagine the Russians aren't involved in some way," the source told Insider. "On the small chance they're not, I'm sure they're going to consider it a missed opportunity."

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The laptop might be real and contain images and emails embarrassing to White House front runner Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Perhaps the computer once really belonged to Hunter Biden. And maybe the emails published October 15 by Rudy Giuliani and The New York Post include real documents. Even the Biden foundation sticker on the outside of the laptop might be the real thing.

But no matter how the laptop, and whatever is on the hard drive, came to exist, the situation looks a lot like a classic Russian intelligence operation, according to an Estonian intelligence official with extensive experience in combating Russian spies. In a typical Russian disinformation operation, real documents are salted with forged or manipulated information and then presented in a way that news media — and social media — cannot resist.

Take the complex but clumsy way the laptop came to the Post, via a partially-sighted computer repair shop owner.

"It's just too perfect. A laptop is dropped off to a blind computer repairman in the name of Hunter Biden — in the middle of a presidential election — that happens to be filled with extensive documents along with videos of sex and drug use, and it ends up in the hands of the president's lawyer, who publicly admits to working closely with a Ukrainian official that the Trump administration itself has sanctioned as a Russian intelligence asset attempting to interfere in the presidential campaign," said the official, who cannot be named for security reasons.  

Giuliani has repeatedly met with an accused Russian intelligence asset

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani claims he received the computer from the computer shop in Delaware after it was abandoned in April 2019. The shop owner, who is legally blind but claims Hunter Biden personally gave him the laptop for repair, told the Washington Post that he had repeatedly tried to contact Biden to return the computer. Eventually, he searched its contents, became concerned, and contacted members of Congress, Giuliani, and, apparently, the FBI.

Giuliani has repeatedly met with Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach looking for information about Hunter Biden's role on the board of Burisma, a natural gas firm, from 2014 to 2019. Derkach was sanctioned by the US government in September after he was accused of being a Russian intelligence asset intent on interfering in the November elections.  

The New York Post said it was first told of the laptop's existence in September by former Trump advisor Steve Bannon. It later received the actual information from Giuliani, who is now Trump's personal lawyer. The Post would likely give the laptop a sympathetic examination because the paper is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the vehemently pro-Trump Fox News network.

Bannon was arrested in August on fraud and money laundering charges. And Giuliani has seen two close Ukrainian associates — Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman  — arrested on unrelated fraud and money laundering charges.

'The Russians will think it so perfect that they won't care if he believes the shit or not because they know he will pass it along either way'

A crew of unofficial American presidential surrogates, on a search for incriminating documents in Ukraine against a political opponent, would be an attractive target for Russian intelligence, the Estonian official said.

"Of course they're sending Giuliani nonsense just to see if it gets noticed," said the official. "It's exactly what an operative would be looking for: You don't need to convince the FBI or CIA or reporters at The New York Times. You just have to convince Giuliani. And he very much wants to be convinced, or maybe he doesn't need to believe the information is true, I don't know. But I do know the Russians will think it so perfect that they won't care if he believes the shit or not because they know he will pass it along either way."

The New York Times reported that Burisma had been hacked in January. Burisma emails were believed to have been taken by hackers working for Russian intelligence at that time.

Security officials have known for months the hacked emails would show up

"So we have known these emails would eventually show up — again, I don't know if the laptop started as real or not — so someone would have all the emails they need to put on a laptop to make it look like Biden's," the official said. " Now, if this is really a Russian disinformation operation, they will seed fake emails or videos that will be considered incriminating into a dump of what seems legitimate and might be verified. This is what they tried to do to [French President Emmanuel] Macron in 2017."

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trump biden New York Post
How the Post played it on Day One. The New York Post

"Now, if this is really a Russian disinformation operation, they will seed fake emails or videos that will be considering incriminating into a dump of what seems legitimate and might be verified," the official added. "We know hackers close to [Russian military intelligence] stole the Burisma emails, we know that Giuliani works with a Russian intelligence asset, we know the laptop has, to put it mildly, suspicious origins. And what little technical data they have provided about the emails and the hard drive itself doesn't make a lot of sense if this was all real."

The official concluded: "I can't imagine the Russians aren't involved in some way. On the small chance they're not, I'm sure they're going to consider it a missed opportunity."

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