Imagine if DOJ Used the Hunter Biden Inquiry to Get Testimony against Rudy Giuliani…

I’m going to return to my argument that The Laptop is functionally equivalent to the Steele dossier. But until I do, I want to return to the parallels between the Ukrainian influence peddling investigation of Hunter Biden and that of Rudy Giuliani.

First, take a look at this passage from the Ken Vogel-bylined NYT story that inflated new life in The Laptop story.

People familiar with the investigation said prosecutors had examined emails between Mr. Biden, Mr. Archer and others about Burisma and other foreign business activity. 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.

Elsewhere, the NYT story reports that the investigation into Hunter Biden turned to his influence peddling in 2018, well before the laptops in question were purportedly dropped off at a blind computer repairman’s shop.

The investigation, which began as a tax inquiry under the Obama administration, widened in 2018 to include possible criminal violations of tax laws, as well as foreign lobbying and money laundering rules, according to the people familiar with the inquiry.

The contents on The Laptop were iCloud content, which the FBI could have and would have preferred to obtain with a warrant. We know the emails in question weren’t deleted by all parties because sources for stories describe still having them.

In other words, it’s unlikely that The Laptop played a critical role in the FBI investigation into the President’s son, because the FBI had other, better ways to obtain the same content and because the FBI had already turned to these matters well before the laptop got shared with the FBI on December 9, 2019.

So let’s go back to the way that Vogel-bylined NYT article reflated The Laptop story. The passage I quoted says three things:

  1. Prosecutors have looked at emails in question.
  2. NYT had obtained emails from what it credulously calls The Laptop.
  3. The “Laptop” emails were authenticated by “people familiar with them and with the investigation.”

The source for the first claim is likely someone who was a witness in the DE investigation (and we know that witnesses who have offered up their testimony have been part of the recent Murdoch-driven campaign to reflate it). The second claim is simply NYT’s ham-handed effort to make it clear the emails they received were part of the same campaign as the original NY Post story.

The third claim, however, is interesting. Written as it is, it suggests there are people who are familiar with both the investigation and the email cache. That would seem to suggest that some of the very limited universe of people involved with The Laptop — Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon, Robert Costello, and Mac Isaac — believe they know something about the Hunter Biden investigation.

Let’s focus on Robert Costello for the moment: He loves to be a cut-out. And when Billy Barr set up a special back channel to ingest Ukrainian-provided Russian dirt on Hunter Biden, Costello was that back channel. In other words, the lawyer that Rudy and Steve Bannon share is one possible source for that third claim, but if he were, it would suggest investigators in Delaware had spoken with him as a witness because he knew of the process by which he came to be in possession of a sketchy laptop.

Whatever testimony the source of that third claim offered could be shared with SDNY, which is investigating Rudy’s own influence-peddling scandal with Ukraine.

With all that mind, take a look at this passage of Philip Bump’s excellent summary of all the ways that laptop story is sketchy.

Giuliani was central to that effort. In late 2018, he began exploring the idea that Biden, as vice president several years before, had improperly tried to influence Ukraine to block an investigation of Burisma, a company for which Hunter Biden served as a board member. This story, promoted by an investigator targeted for termination by the U.S. government, was later debunked, but it seemed a promising line of attack. On April 1, 2019, a writer linked to Giuliani named John Solomon wrote the first of several stories about the allegations.

On April 12, the laptops were dropped off at Mac Isaac’s repair shop. Mac Isaac is legally blind and was not able to identify Hunter Biden by sight. One of the laptops, though, bore a sticker for the Beau Biden Foundation, an organization dedicated to Hunter’s late brother.

At some point in the middle of this month, Hunter Biden left Burisma’s board. Presumably he was by that point aware that questions were being asked about his role. If not, it became very clear on May 1, when the Times elevated the Burisma question in its coverage.

In the meantime, Volodymyr Zelensky had been elected president of Ukraine, and efforts to pressure him to announce an investigation into Biden began. In early May 2019, Giuliani planned a trip to Ukraine to dig up information that might damage Biden — a plan that was covered in the press. After broad outcry, he scrapped the trip. But the signal was sent: Giuliani was seeking information deleterious to Biden.

Later that month, someone in Kyiv was approached about buying Hunter Biden’s emails. This was not reported until Oct. 21, 2020, a week after the Post’s story about the laptop.

This time period — December 2018 until May 2019 — is precisely the time period that prosecutors asked Special Master Barbara Jones to prioritize for her privilege review of the last set of Rudy’s phones (as well as the one phone from Victoria Toensing).

In the initial incarnation of this investigation — the one charged in 2019, before Lev Parnas started running his mouth — the focus of this investigation was exclusively on how Rudy got Marie Yovanovitch fired.  But in September 2020, that part of the investigation was put on hold to await Rudy.

Yovanovitch’s name doesn’t appear in Bump’s summary at all. Yet it happened in the same month — May 2019, the culmination of this effort — when Rudy was going to go to Kyiv to dig up dirt on Hunter Biden, and when someone was wandering around Kyiv offering to sell what looks like what ended up packaged as The Laptop.

Whether or not Rudy’s effort to solicit what ended up being dirt that looked just like The Laptop was originally the focus of the investigation, DOJ has now obtained a privilege review of Rudy’s comms from that time period when he was soliciting it.

47 replies
  1. John Paul Jones says:

    Just wanted to leave a quick comment to say how much I appreciate Doc Wheeler’s highlighting the old skill of simply reading with due care and attention, a skill especially useful when dealing with reporters who are convinced that the last shiny object dangled in front of them really really was precious metal and not simply tinfoil that fell off their hat. Thanks again for doing work that outlets like the Times ought to be doing (“paper of record”, anyone?) but which they in fact don’t do often enough.

  2. TooLoose LeTruck says:

    And right on cue, the laptop story arises from the grave and lurches back to life… a true zombie story…

    Mac Isaac is blind and can’t identify Hunter Biden… but… there’s a sticker on the lap top that proves it was Hunter Biden’s… so there!

    And of course the ever trustworthy and credible John Solomon is somehow attached to this mess.

    And since the emails were ‘authenticated by people familiar with them and with the investigation’ that constitutes irrefutable proof! So there, again!

    • Alan Charbonneau says:

      On the one hand, the Russians showed some skill at spy craft — some of the emails are authentic and the RWNJ are claiming there’s a signature on the repair receipt that matches Hunter Biden’s. On the other hand, the story is more than sketchy, it is preposterous. This is the best the vaunted intelligence service could come up with? Yeah, it’s enough for the Fox News crowd, but seriously, it doesn’t pass the smell test for anyone not down a rabbit hole of conspiracy thinking.

      • TooLoose LeTruck says:

        Not only is the story itself preposterous on the face of it, the timing of its original appearance in the Post – Oct 14, 2020, a mere three weeks before the election – is equally ridiculous and incredible…

        And here we are, a year and half later, with this nonsense still staggering around, causing an uproar in some quarters.

        • pcpablo says:

          The timing suspiciously resembles the “but, her e-mails” and both seem to involve the “suspicious” New York Times”.
          Hmm…very interesting.

      • P J Evans says:

        There’s a scrawl on the repair slip that looks like Hunter Biden’s, but it doesn’t match that well. They also still haven’t come up with a plausible reason for it being in an obscure Delaware shop when he was in California.

        • TooLoose LeTruck says:

          Oh screw plausibility, man!

          We’re talking headlines in BOLD and breathless news anchors breathlessly reporting the latest scandal here!

          Next you’ll want ‘facts’ and ‘proof’…

          Some people are never satisfied.

          • TooLoose LeTruck says:


            Big headline at the NY Post: “Republicans demand new probe into Hunter Biden laptop, coverup!”

            WSJ: “Hunter Biden’s Laptop Is Finally News Fit to Print
            The press that ignored the story in 2020 admits that it’s real!”

            Back from the grave… stalking the living… frightening small children and animals…

        • bacchys says:

          One of the dumber parts of this whole tale is Mac Isaac claims he couldn’t recognize Hunter because he’s blind, but he figured out who it was because of a Beau Biden Foundation sticker on the laptop…and not the name “Hunter Biden” on the receipt.

          • P J Evans says:

            The photos of the “receipt” that I saw didn’t actually have a name – they had a scrawled signature.
            If the guy is legally blind, he might be so nearsighted (worse than 20/200 in the good eye, not correctable) that he couldn’t recognize someone, but he could get close enough to the machine to work on it. (He wouldn’t be allowed to drive, obv.).

          • Bugboy says:

            I’m still trying to figure out how a legally blind guy can be in any way effective in repairing computers, to say nothing of profitable. Hell, I ruined a motherboard once, just because I needed new eyeglasses…

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Bump accurately describes John Solomon as a “writer,” not a reporter or journalist. More colloquially, he’s a hack and a cut-out for the stories his right wing patrons want him to write.

      • TooLoose LeTruck says:

        Any time I see the name ‘John Solomon’ associated with a story, I immediately flinch then start grinding my teeth…

        Describing him as a ‘hack and a cut-out’ is being too kind…

        He’s more of an out-and-out writer of bad fiction and a hitman…

      • Thomas says:

        As I noted in my lengthy reply below, Solomon is not an original hack.
        The entire fake narrative about Joe/Hunter/ Burisma / Shokin was invented and published by Peter Schweizer, the professional LIAR in his September 2018 book, “Secret Empires”
        THAT is the origin of all of Guiliani’s fraudulent efforts.
        The fact that Guiliani went around claiming that he was uncovering “facts” to corroborate lies invented by Schweizer proves that he is a liar and a criminal.

    • Leoghann says:

      It’s especially obscene that people are focusing so much attention on The Laptop, while the Victims of Benghazi still cry out for vengeance! closure!

    • Super Nintendo Chalmers says:

      The emails are authentic….because we know the Ruskies did hack Hunter Biden’s iPhone.

    • Thomas says:

      To my knowledge, the ONLY corroboration of any material on The Laptop is from Tony Bobolinski, who says that he sent Hunter an email with the “10 for the big guy” comment.
      First, if Bobo sent this email, then there is no reply from Hunter confirming any such deal.
      Second, the deal Bobo references in the email didn’t happen.
      Third, the Chinese energy company Bobo is referencing went out of business.
      Fourth, there is no evidence of any financial transactions.
      Fifth, Bobo could have sent Hunter this email, but that doesn’t guarantee the authenticity of the rest of the material on The Laptop.
      Sixth, Bobo’s email and the rest of the material could have been hacked.
      Seventh, the hackers or anyone else in custody of the impression of Hunter’s machine could have doctored the contents ( including associates of Giuliani)
      Eighth, the machine in Giuliani’s custody could be a forgery and a hacked/doctored impression of the original machine installed on it.
      I’m not any kind of expert in any of this, but if I found all of these holes in the story, why haven’t professional journalists? And what about forensic experts at the FBI?
      This forgery (IMO) was never meant to be truly scrutinized.

  3. Lawnboy says:


    If all the players, in this game, in the Russian war effort and misinformation, had meaningful jobs. Building, rather than destroying lives. All the money wasted on this war, to say nothing for lives lost or ruined.

    Imagine the cost of rebuilding Ukrainian cities and structures.

    I never imagined after near 70 years on the planet, I would see all this.

    My 40,000 ft view of the world.

    Thanks Doc W and the team,

    • Wajim says:

      70? Wait, I thought you were a “Lawn BOY.” I suppose “Lawn Man,” or “Lawn Elder” was taken. Then again, riding mowers with satellite guidance . . .

    • Bugboy says:

      “Building, rather than destroying lives.”
      I have had the same take on career criminals over my near 60 years. However, in their worldview, they *ARE* building lives…

  4. Marika says:

    All good things come to those who wait…Thanks for all your updates. The Rudy investigation will be very interesting when and if it comes to light.

  5. Lisa Grande says:

    How does a blind man fix computers? Interesting that President Bidens daughters diary was also in the hands of the enemy . I am positive if anyone had stolen a journal from Ivanka Trumps residence they would be in jail right now. I don’t understand our legal system

  6. Eureka says:

    Apropos of Sondland’s then-BS (“IDK Burisma = Biden!”), I investigated the origin of and changes to the Burisma Holdings wiki, which was born as a split from the Hunter Biden wiki on May 14, 2015:

    The comment is written in that frame but there are some dates of interest here:

    ●Hunter Biden is discussed in a section called “Management” now. That section used to be called, for years, “Board of Directors.”

    ●The most interesting feature of this “Board of Directors” section: Hunter Biden was specifically identified as (hyperlinked) Joe Biden’s son on April 9, 2019. The last edit prior to April 9, 2019 was December 8, 2018.

    (emphasis added)

    I didn’t post here the (pre-) December 8, 2018 (etc.) edits and my notes aren’t on hand atm. TL;DR the intervening crickets (among other factors) suggest that no one besides the disinfo plotters or their adjacents — and, at other times, counter-editors — gave any effs for managing this wiki. (More at comment and a later reply re search engine preview snippets featuring Hunter Biden.)

    I wonder who made certain critical-period edits and if any might correspond to non-public information.

    • Eureka says:

      Also at the bottom of that comment is a link to screenshot of David Correia’s tweet reply to then-outgoing VP Joe Biden [“…Serving as your VP was the greatest honor of my life.”]:

      David Correia
      Replying to @VP44

      i assume the day your son took his position in Ukraine was also a great moment? I have a feeling that chapter isn’t closed….

      5:27 AM · 22 Jan 2017

  7. What Constitution? says:

    To coin a phrase: “But her e-mails!”

    Thank you, Dr. Emptywheel (I’d say “Dr. E”, but it’s not entirely clear that John Eastman isn’t trying to coattail that), for once again calling out the relentless efforts to distract attention from the most salient issue facing America and the world today. Which is how important it is that Donald Trump never be allowed to hold office in this country ever again.

    While the NYT may be gullible enough to allow a “Hunter’s laptop mentioned!” piece to ignore the likelihood that any “mention” of that is contextualized around the investigation of contemporaneous Trump-mechanics’ efforts to strongarm Ukraine even before Zelenskyy took office, it’s still worth noting that at the bottom of this Ukrainian war by Russia is all the things Putin was hoping a malleable Trump administration would simply allow to proceed unimpeded.

    In this vein, a comment in Josh Marshall’s TPM and picked up again in Daily Kos this morning flags some prescient words from Finland that bear America’s attention:

    “So, if you really want to do something for the Ukraine, for the Europe and to any other decent country or person, please also Do. Your. Own. Homework! Show to both your home audience and to the rest of the world that also the western flank of Putin’s army, the one located in your country, is kept accountable! No special treatment, just f**king enforce your old existing laws to ultra-rich/influential white dudes, as well! You are just tools, but you are very important tools for Putin also in the European front. Don’t let him use you.”

    I like that better than “But Hunter’s Laptop”.

    There’s a war in the Ukraine. The first black woman jurist nominated to sit on the Supreme Court is about to be despicably tarred by elected Republican senators for being a living paragon of the American system of justice, while the “erstwhile trucker convoy” stragglers are talking about sticking around DC until they can somehow erase/deface the on-street “Black Lives Matter” markings downtown there. Meanwhile, an FEC complaint has been filed against Trump for presently abusing fundraising laws. And the NYT editorializes a bothsiderism that disagreeing with fascist ideology is mean and impolite.

    At least it’s worth noting that if we’re going to have to hear about “Hunter’s Laptop!” again, the fact that what’s on Hunter’s Laptop is at least equally likely to elucidate what Rudy was up to in the hell Ukraine back then makes some good sense.

    Some thanks to Liz Cheney, by the way. And to a lesser and time-constricted degree, thanks to the numerous Rethugs who patriotically acknowledged and criticized Trump’s role and responsibility for January 6 in real time, before being scolded and fading into the woodwork of obsequious allegiance. May those bastards rot in hell. Do not suffer the January 6 investigations to be shelved or back-paged. Keep on this, thank you.

    • P J Evans says:

      yeah, right. The former guy wanted that hotel/condo building more than he wanted anything else.

      • TooLoose LeTruck says:

        Well, if Trump blew up the churches he’d be clearing room for the ‘Fabulous Trump Casino and Resort, in the heart of Downtown Moscow!

        Makes sense… and when was the last time either man actually went to church, for anything serious?

  8. skua says:

    I’m reading comments like,”… he couldn’t recognize Hunter because he’s blind, but he figured out who it was because of a Beau Biden Foundation sticker on the laptop … ” and can’t tell if the zone is deliberately being flooded with shit or if the writers just know very little about vision impairment.

    Plenty of blind people can’t see people’s faces beyond a blur. But give them a magnifier and they can read (fairly slowly from what I’ve seen).

    This doesn’t make “The Laptop” story less hokum though.

    • Ralf Maximus says:

      Seconded. I’ve known visually impaired IT folks who did superb up-close technical work but couldn’t see well enough to legally operate a vehicle.

      Also agree: the Laptop story is laughably stupid.

  9. viget says:

    You know, if one wanted to provide a cover story for more nefarious actions around the Zelensky election time period, like say laying the groundwork for the US Ambassador’s abduction/murder, this Biden laptop story sure is convenient….

    Perhaps a Ukrainian plot to off the US Ambassador and then appear to interfere in the US election would have given Trump enough reason to ignore a Russian invasion.

  10. Thomas says:

    Giuliani went to Ukraine to SELL A FRAUD, not to “dig up dirt.” Giuliani aggressively defrauded the Ukraine government with claims that were invented by Peter Schweizer.
    Schweizer published a book (of lies) in September 2018 called “Secret Empires” and this is the original source of the Joe/Hunter/Burisma/Shokin hoax, not John Solomon.

    Giuliani engaged in numerous fraudulent efforts. He was instrumental in recruiting Derkach, and thus Russian intelligence, to spread this slanderous fraud.

    Derkach, Giuliani and John Stankey were there at the inception of OANN, because Fox News wasn’t sufficiently criminal enough to engage in brazen wire fraud based upon a fictional story.

    Giuliani recruited a movie producer to make a documentary about this same fake story to further engage in wire fraud.

    Giuliani attempted to defraud the Justice Department, The State Department, the FBI, and US Senators (Johnson, Grassley and others) with this fake story.

    “The Laptop” supposedly contained “evidence” that corroborated the fictional story invented by Schweizer (and some sources say Bannon and Mercer were also involved).

    What kind of evidence corroborates fiction? False evidence does. What is The Laptop? Most likely, some form of a forgery.

    If the evidence on The Laptop corroborates Schweizer’s fiction, then the evidence doesn’t corroborate any corruption by Biden, but rather, it corroborates fraud, forgery, and conspiracy by Giuliani and others.

    Three big lies.
    1 No collusion
    2 Giuliani went to Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden
    3 The 2020 election was stolen

  11. Alex Coventry says:

    Written as it is, [the third NYT claim] suggests there are people who are familiar with both the investigation and the email cache.

    Not necessarily. The emails may contain cryptographic signatures from gmail which effectively verify them, independently of wherever the NYT got them.

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