The Hunter Biden Laptop: Two CARTs before the Horse

According to the property receipt that has been posted publicly (but not, as far as I know, been made available as separate PDF), FBI Special Agent Josh Wilson signed the receipt for a hard drive and laptop obtained from John Paul Mac Isaac. The date is obscure, but consistent with receipt on December 9, 2019.

The admittedly inconsistently dark case file on that form, as right wing frothers never tire of pointing out, is a money laundering case file, 272D-BA-3065729.

According to the warrant return I liberated this week, on December 13, 2019, Josh Wilson received the hard drive and laptop again. He received the laptop not from an evidence locker, where it might normally go while an agent gets Office of Enforcement Operations approval and then gets a warrant from a magistrate judge, but from a Computer Analysis Response Team (CART) Computer Analyst named Mike Waski.

The warrant I liberated is not for money laundering. The only crimes listed on Attachment B are tax crimes: 26 USC 7201, 26 USC 7203, and 26 USC 7206(1).

According to the notes Gary Shapley took after it became clear that, after sharing the laptop with the FBI, John Paul Mac Isaac shared a copy with Rudy Giuliani, after Josh Wilson took possession of the hard drive and laptop (a second time), the hard drive, at least, went back to CART — this time, a CART Agent named Eric Overly.

In spite of the fact that Shapley made these notes in order to explain precisely what happened with the laptop, Shapley doesn’t mention where the laptop was between December 9, 2019, when Josh Wilson took possession from JPMI and December 13, 2019, when Josh Wilson took possession again.

Joseph Ziegler returned the warrant on January 30, 2020. But it wasn’t until March before the FBI got an image of the laptop (though this may have been after a filter team review). Josh Wilson got that personally, too.

Putting two carts before the horse is not normal, here. When the FBI accepts a laptop, even if it is being used in multiple investigations, they image it once and then — as ultimately happened here, probably multiple times — they obtain new warrants for the same device, first for the tax investigation, then for a FARA investigation, and finally, 81 days after indicting the President’s son for gun crimes, for a gun investigation.

But this laptop, Hunter Biden’s laptop, went from the blind computer repairman to Josh Wilson to CART to Josh Wilson and then back to CART.

I currently have theories why that happened. But no answers.

I’ve asked David Weiss’ spox for clarification about zscoreUSA’s observation: why the caption for the warrant obtained last month lists a different device serial number for the laptop:

Then the laptop for the actual laptop obtained from JPMI, which is what appears in the Attachments that were only released pursuant to Judge Maryellen Noreika’s orders after I made some follow-up calls.

The serial numbers are just off by two characters:


David Weiss’ spox hasn’t acknowledged that inquiry. This could be a typo or, as was suggested, FBI Agent Boyd Pritchard may have used the serial number for a laptop into which (as Shapley described) FBI dropped the removable hard drive from the laptop obtained from JPMI. In that case, it would normally note that the laptop contained the hard drive liberated from a prior laptop.

Perhaps all this will get sorted if and when Abbe Lowell makes good on his promised suppression motion. But until then, I only have theories, not answers.

118 replies
  1. EW Moderation Team says:

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  2. morganism says:

    OT: (Looks like 45 has lost the Steele case he filed in Britain)

    Former President Donald Trump appears to have spent $250,000 of donor money while losing a lawsuit against Christopher Steele in London.

    On Thursday, a high court dismissed Trump’s request for damages after Steele’s firm compiled a dossier about Trump during the 2016 election. Among other things, the dossier accused Trump of participating in sex parties and hiring prostitutes in Russia.

    [moderator: deleted rest of article]

    • John Paul Jones says:

      Rather than copy and paste, it’s better to briefly summarize and then provide a link or a searchable title for the article. The above includes a bunch of unrelated stuff.

      And as you say, it’s OT.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      You’ve again posted an entire story without using quotation marks or indenting it. You’ve even included the advert between paragraphs three and four. It’s unfair to overworked moderators to ask them to revise or delete your work over such obvious errors.

      As most high school teachers would tell you, citing the source is not adequate. Better usage is to summarize a story in your own words, using only excerpts that are clearly marked as quotes. If you can cut ‘n paste, you can do that.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        RS is often a news aggregator, and only sometimes adds new value. It could be much clearer about whose reporting it uses.

        Regarding that RS article, for example, it links to the Guardian. It often only links to another RS article, making it harder to find the original source. To me, it usage is not a good example of how to reframe and cite other people’s work.

        • Purple Martin says:

          RS doesn’t go out of their way to make it obvious, but the original source link is always there in my experience. In this case they never mentioned The Guardian (beyond the “:Report [says]” in the headline) but the link was in the second paragraph, behind the single highlighted word, “dismissed.”

          And…hmmmm, as the late-night commercials say, But Wait! There’s More! As I went back to confirm the secret word, I scrolled further down and…the RS article cited Marcy too! Specifically, her tweet this morning:

          Wait: So Trump’s donors spent >$250K of campaign funds to [get] bageled suing Christopher Steele in London?

          …and Lisa Rubin’s replies with an image of of last night’s FEC filing listing Trump’s PAC’s payments to the London Law firm:

          Lisa Rubin
          But there are “legal consulting” payments to a London-based firm called Level Law Ltd. all throughout last night’s FEC filing from Trump’s leadership PAC, Save America.

          Lisa Rubin
          Level Law Ltd. represented him in that suit, so that is indeed what it appears happened.


    • Rayne says:

      This is the last time I’m going to tell you this: Stop posting entire articles here. You’ve been cautioned several times in the last 3 months not to post overlong comments which consist of copyright-violating amounts of content. I’ve now gone through all of your comments published as “morganism” and found a bad habit of overlong comments consisting of undemarcated excerpts, beginning two years ago when you were told to knock this off.

      You have also been told to offset excerpts so that readers know you did not write content but are citing another source.

      Further, the story you cited today originated in The Guardian — that’s the original source you should have relied on, not RawStory. The worst part: that RawStory post fucking embedded tweets by Marcy and MSNBC’s Lisa Rubin. Did you even think for a moment to quote the original source whose site on which you left that bastardized regurgitated RawStory post?

      You will not be able to comment here if you don’t straighten up immediately. Use original sources. Offset excerpts with quote marks or blockquote tags. Use less than 100 words where possible. Learn how to write your own summaries of what happened.


      • Rugger_9 says:

        We have open threads for venting about once a week or so. Please use them.

        [This is me side eyeing you –>> o_O /~Rayne]

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Are you responding to morganism or rayne? If the former, it’s not threaded correctly. If the latter, I’ll open the popcorn.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            In the case of morganism’s repeated failure to abide by the simple rules relating to copyright fair use, it’s the same thing.

            • dopefish says:

              Maybe we’re agreeing here.

              All I meant to convey is that Rugger_9’s reply to Rayne seemed like it was implying that Rayne was just venting her spleen on this particular comment by morganism. But posting entire articles is a big no-no.

              When a moderator says “stop doing that”, usually the prudent thing is to stop doing that. Or meet the banhammer.

              [Just a note from your friendly neighborhood moderator: 1) morganism knows they’ve been told more than (4) times to knock off the copyright violating behavior, overlong comments, and inadequately indicating excerpted/cited material and they’re at risk of banning; 2) if community members continue to pile on this I will simply delete morganism’s comment and all the replies will go with it. /~Rayne]

          • Rugger_9 says:

            As for Rayne, she’s in good company for side eyes. My Fierce Creature gives me one every time I commit a sartorial crime.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        A long-form explanation about Trump’s use of Darvo – deny, attack, reverse victim and offender – by Sid Blumenthal, quoting the psych professor who coined the term, something you’ve been pointing out for quite some time:

        “There are two ways it works. One is on the victim, who is attacked. Darvo leads to self-blame, which leads to self-silencing….it increases power over the victim. The other way is that it damages the credibility of the victim. When we introduce Darvo into the experiment, for the participant who doesn’t know about it, blame is reduced on the perpetrator. Darvo hurts the victim more. It tarnishes more the person who is the target of Darvo.”

        It works less well when people have heard about it and expect it from certain actors. “It would make a difference to identify the strategy and call it out. Normalizing Darvo is colluding and harmful.”

        • dopefish says:

          I’ve always struggled to understand why Trump’s supporters think he’s some kind of macho man.

          He’s literally the whiniest, most petulant man-baby of a politician I can remember in my lifetime. No one else even comes close, not even his pale imitators. Even when he’s not projecting his own faults and insecurities onto others, he behaves worse than most 7-year olds.

          Nobody would hire a person with Trump’s attitude to run the cash register in their mom-and-pop business. Nobody would hire a person with Trump’s attitude to teach their kids. So why are so many Americans willing to hire him to run their entire country? Its like they’ve forgotten how bad such a thing could actually turn out.

          …the only thing I can come up with that might explain it is that Trump attacks the same people and ideologies that they don’t like. His racist dogwhistles and constant attempts to put assertive women “in their place” cause his followers to feel like he’s one of them. Even though he has almost nothing in common with them except the racism and misogyny. Its so frustrating that so many Americans continue to treat Trump like he’s some kind of leader who deserves their adulation and support. We’ve already had four years of chaos with him in charge, and he has debased so many norms and broken so many laws and caused so many scandals that ordinary people can’t even remember two thirds of them.

          The republicans are desperate to manufacture any kind of scandal they can blame on Biden, and the media is eager to both-sides the crap out of such things like they’ve forgotten how the Trump presidency generated new scandals about once a week. Trump would say something scandalous just to push his old scandals out of the headlines! He was a thousand times worse than any president since Reagan. Bush Jr. got more done than Trump without being a raging asshole like Trump. Can anyone imagine Nixon or Reagan or Clinton tweeting juvenile insults in all-caps in the middle of the night? America deserves better.

          Trump supporters are seriously failing the decent-human-being test, and they either don’t realize it or just don’t care. I don’t see why the rest of us should ever forgive them at this point.

          • Just Some Guy says:

            “Bush Jr. got more done than Trump without being a raging asshole like Trump.”

            Friendly reminder that during the Bush administration, 2000+ Americans died in NYC/DC/Pennsylvania on 9/11, 1300+ Americans died in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast during Katrina, and an unknown number of Iraqis — possibly numbering in the hundreds of thousands — were killed due to the US invasion, unprovoked, of a sovereign state.

            Let’s not give Dubya a pass.

          • grizebard says:

            Trump may be an exceptional case of duplicity and narcissism taken to the n-th degree, but he is the weed that grew from fertile soil. The GOP was smarting for years from the Nixon near-impeachment, and lusting for revenge, which is why they went for Pres. Clinton when he foolishly gave them the chance. The GOP, having serially funked their congressional duty over Trump, returned to the exact same play over Pres. Biden, both by proxy with his son and directly with this absurd impeachment-going-nowhere.

            Instead of learning from past mistakes, they repeatedly double-down on them, and have now ended up hooked on a false saviour. It may succeed with a scarily large number of the blinkered and disaffected, but OTOH it drives them into a steadily-shrinking corner with everyone else.

            They’re fearful losers in a hole of their own making, but instead of getting a grip and climbing out, all they can bring themselves to do is keep on digging.

          • dopefish says:

            What I meant about “failing the decent-human being test”:

            At this point, no decent human being could still support Trump for president. Therefore, the people who do are, in a word, deplorables.

            Trump has been credibly accused of rape, sexual assault or other gross/deviant/predatory behavior by dozens of women. He bragged on tape about grabbing them by the pussy *and getting away with it*. “When you’re a star, they let you do it.” As pointed out in that Guardian article about Darvo, he consistently puts down any women who he finds threatening (which seems to be basically all of them, unless they fawn over him and also happen to be beautiful).

            He’s also utterly ignorant about foreign policy realities, and about running the U.S. government which is one of the biggest organizations on the planet. As a result, his administration pissed away a lot of soft power and goodwill that previous administrations had spent decades building around the world. He insulted America’s allies, fawned over and gave comfort to the storngmen dictators of America’s primary enemies, and caused tremendous damage to the cause of U.S. national security. He spilled top-secret information to the Russian ambassador *in the oval office*. He stole hundreds of highly classified documents at the end of his term, took them home, refused to acknowledge that he had them and refused to return them for something like a year until the FBI was forced to raid his home to recover them. Then he ran the Darvo playbook on steroids against them.

            This is who Republicans want as president? The supposed party of “Law and Order”? (I guess thats just Republican code for “white cops keeping the boot on black people”, and doesn’t actually mean, you know, respecting and supporting federal law-enforcement agencies. Not when they might turn their attention towards the law-breaker-in-chief).

            I know I’m preaching to the choir, here… But how can so many republicans (and especially so many who *call themselves Christians*) continue to want Trump as their standard bearer. It just defies any rational explanation.

            Edit: sorry for the lengthy outbursts. I think the stress of not knowing if Democrats can win against Trump in November has been making me miserable. I would really like to see him convicted of at least one of many crimes before then. I guess we’ll see.

  3. Savage Librarian says:

    Typo in 3rd graf? 2020 should be 2019 according to paperwork and according to the rest of your analysis in this post:

    “According to the warrant return I liberated this week, on December 13, 2020, Josh Wilson received the hard drive and laptop again.”

  4. derelict says:

    also OT: the home page of the site seems to be showing outdated posts; i had to visit the ‘posts’ page to get anything from the last couple days. i don’t think the issue is on my end as i’m making fresh requests to the server.

  5. Michael Pappas says:

    Good scoop. As a lawyer, one thing that really stands out to me about all these investigations over the past 8 years that I have followed fairly closely is the clear sense of urgency and thoroughness that the rank and file FBI agents have demonstrated in the various Hillary Clinton and Hunter Biden investigations, as well as the Bob Menendez, and the Durham-led cases. I also get the sense that no stone is being unturned in the Biden classified document matter, which likely explains the delay in resolution, compared to Mike Pence’s nearly identical matter. In stark contrast, the various Trump, Jared, Jan 6 cases have been plagued by obvious foot dragging by many FBI field agents. What ever progress has been made was clearly driven by main DOJ and Jack Smith. This “sense of urgency contrast” is palpable and highly consequential.

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the SAME username and email address each time you comment so that community members get to know you. You have commented previously as “Michael Pappas”; I have changed the name used on this comment to match just this once in case you used a RL name unintentionally. Please check your browser’s cache and autofill; future mismatches of username may not clear for publication. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • emptywheel says:

      Given the Baltimore crowd involved (Rod Rosenstein, Gary Shapley, Derek Hines, Leo Wise), I wonder whether Robert Hur hasn’t pitched something to Weiss.

    • JVOJVOJVO says:

      Has the current Admin done anything to prevent those types of things from happening again – deleted SS messages, etc? What is being done to address the known rogues and issues? Shouldn’t Congress want / get an update?

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        Congress?!? Like, as in, the current GOP House, led by insurrection man Mike Johnson on behalf of Donald Trump? Plus a Senate almost half under the sclerotic thumb of Mitch McConnell, the man who could have but didn’t convict Trump at his second impeachment and now fully supports the insurrectionist’s presidential bid?

        That congress?

  6. Mike_16MAY2022_0915h says:

    If you put the first serial number into this webpage:

    It says that it’s not a valid serial number.

    The second one is MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2017, Two Thunderbolt 3 ports) with purchase date October 2018

    [Welcome to emptywheel. SECOND REQUEST: Please choose and use a unique username with a minimum of 8 letters. We are moving to a new minimum standard to support community security. Because your username is far too short and common — which was explained in May 2022 — it will be temporarily changed to match the date/time of your first known comment until you have a new compliant username. Thanks. /~Rayne]

      • Mike_16MAY2022_0915h says:

        Both numbers start with “F” so I think that means they’d both be refurbished. So I would guess that FN/SN difference isn’t the explanation for Apple finding one number, but not the other.

        The description that comes up from the second number is consistent with the photo that CBS ran (though photo doesn’t show the ports) and also the blind computer repairman’s description of what he received and date he received it.

        This sounds to me like a typo in the warrant obtained last month. Though I should be clear, I have no expertise.

        [Moderator’s note: See your comment at 2:02 p.m. /~Rayne]

          • Mike_16MAY2022_0915h says:

            Final comment in this thread sorry!

            I don’t think Apple has a thing called “F/N” that is used for refurbished devices. I think that’s just the FBI calling it a factory number, which is just synonymous with serial number. Maybe they’re refurbished, maybe not, but I don’t think this is related.

            I think maybe the confusion is over the model number. If the MODEL number starts with “F” then I think that’s refurbished.

              • HikaakiH says:

                Especially since the variance is V vs. X and G vs. 9. Those appear, to me, to be easily confusable for someone with imperfect vision.

              • Mike_16MAY2022_0915h says:

                Yes, exactly what I’m implying when I saw that one of these numbers, as far as Apple is concerned, doesn’t exist. I’m suggesting that it’s a typo.

                Others suggested that maybe the reason it doesn’t show up is because it’s refurbished. I doubt that’s the case. I’d imagine it would still show up on that Apple webpage, even if refurbished. Additionally, I cast some doubt on the idea that the serial number even SUGGESTS that it’s refurbished to begin with.

                So yeah, I think it’s a typo.

            • Rugger_9 says:

              I know Apple is extremely protective of their IP, but could this F number be a licensed item or a knockoff? It seems like a lot of trouble to me to place a number when it’s far easier to just remove it.

              • Mike_16MAY2022_0915h says:

                According to the website I cited, it refers to manufacturing location.

                But even if it referred to something else, the first character is the same for both and only one of them comes up as invalid.

      • Shadowalker says:

        That particular model had been discontinued by the time the FBI needed to find a new laptop to boot with the drive. So the only choices they had was find one used, old/new stock or factory refurbished. It doesn’t help to keep costs down the fact it was the only model in that family that had a replaceable SSD which would create a premium price point.

      • algebraist says:

        Apple refurbished devices don’t get unique serial numbers. They’re the same as any other device, and from the release of the Apple Silicon machines they’re 10 character random generation vs the 12 character production order that the one in the document shows.

  7. Time Enough says:

    I had to read this twice, not because of your writing but because that’s what it takes (for me) to fully digest how sloppy this is appearing…. even more then imagined.

    I was not aware the HD went to the FBI before His Esteemed Rudy.

    The fact that the two laptop serial numbers are so close belies the theory that it was a second laptop acting as host to the doesn’t it? Although, the idea that the drive ends up being passed around, like some parasitic organism that needs new hosts to promulgate the misinformation campaign, is quite entertaining. [See Weyland-Yutani v. Facehuggers LLC, 55 U.S. 117, 118 (2059)]

  8. engprof733 says:

    welcome to the hunter biden investigation, where the timeline is made up and neither chain of evidence nor linear time matters.

    I’m far from expert enough to comment as bmaz and Dr. Wheeler do on what courts will do in the context of established precedent. But as a lay person if you look at this I can’t help but ask – if this doesn’t meet N different categories of unacceptably shady prosecutorial conduct then what does?

    To me, the issue isn’t whether it does meet the standards – its that if it doesn’t those standards are facially absurd. We know about this because it is a high profile enough case that people are looking into it. Knowing they are under the watchful eye of…so many people…in a high profile case, if this is the best they can do you gotta wonder what happens in the cases that aren’t covered, what is the median amount of misconduct and at what point is the assumption of prosecutorial misconduct more reasonable than having to prove it.

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      When EW refers to “prosecutorial dickishness,” she is referring to the pro-prosecution bias already deeply embedded in our system. No matter where we live in this country, whether the president is a Democrat or a Republican, we all live in a “law and order” society whose harshness is felt unequally, often simply by those accidents of birth that supply our skin color.

      While anyone can wind up wrongfully prosecuted, convicted, and incarcerated (we see their “it can happen to you” stories on 20/20 and cable), the dickishness typically targets people who can’t afford (or aren’t otherwise able) to mount a vigorous defense. I believe many of those targeting Hunter Biden are cynically hoping that he relapses, thus by shamefully twisted logic vindicating their accusations against his father.

      This looks, and is, heartless. But Hunter has one of the best lawyers in the world working on his behalf. Most defendants, the ones we never hear about, plead out, staining their lives forever because the system is built to use them as grist for its prosecutorial mill.

  9. Badger Robert says:

    Lowell needs acquittals. He needs to eventually go on the offensive. He will probably want to know who set this up, as in which legislators made the calls. Its a political prosecution and its success depends on political events.

  10. HanTran1 says:

    Does it seem unusual that a second laptop used to drop in a removable drive would have such a very similar serial number or whatever kind of number that is.

    • Shadowalker says:

      That particular model was only in production for a little over two years. And while it’s not conclusive, you could expect to see identifying markings being so close in numbering for two computers if they were both purchased at the same location, say a particular Best Buy or Walmart, rather than finding one in California and the other in Delaware.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Now that venting and moderating are sorted out, there’s this little news item from ABC, about whether the FBI’s search of MAL missed an ostentatiously locked closet and…a “hidden” room accessible from DJT’s bedroom.

    I’m a little cornfused. If the Bureau found out about this shortly after its extensive search, WTF didn’t it go back to investigate the apparently missed locations?

    • P J Evans says:

      I’d have expected them to have a floor plan, probably via fire marshals/fire insurance companies, who would want to know about all the exits and safety features.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        An older complex floor plan from what was once the Florida mansion of someone very wealthy might have an “as built” plan different than “as designed.” But you might have to study the plan carefully to catch a single missing room, whatever it is: a panic room, private office, closet, etc.

        • P J Evans says:

          Where I worked, we always wanted “as-builts”, because they could differ, sometimes wildly, from “as-planned”. My favorite is the one where the pipe did 4 90-degree bends because there’s a honking big oak right were it was supposed to go. How big? It takes up literally half the width of the street, which is one-way in that section.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            MAL was built by the wealthiest woman in American in 1927. I suspect modifying plans to show its “as built” character may not then have been common.

            The building has been extensively renovated since then, especially after Trump’s original purchase of the property. He apparently modified it again, after his development plans were frustrated, when he turned it into a private club. Trump had many opportunities to modify the space his personal accommodations take up.

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                My, yes, his hatred of custom, restraint, and regulations suggest he would never ask for permission ahead of time for anything (sex included), unless it meant a big paycheck for doing it. It also means the floor plans are probably out of date.

    • harpie says:


      He Was Accused of Sexual Misconduct. Then Trump Hired Him. Then He Was Indicted in Mar-a-Lago Case. Trump body man Walt Nauta is a critical figure in the Mar-a-Lago documents case. Trump only hired him after Nauta was dismissed from the White House after sexual harassment claims.
      Roger Sollenberger
      Updated Feb. 01, 2024 10:19PM EST
      Published Feb. 01, 2024 10:12PM EST

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Nauta and Trump seem like two peas in a pod, if only Trump had been born in Guam without a gold spoon in his mouth. When Trump hired Nauta, he paid him twice the scale he would have made, had he been able to stay in the Navy. He also paid his lawyer, etc. Typical Trump.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I can understand why Jack Smith has a few questions:

      Agents were also reportedly told that the [MAL] stairwell converted into a closet led nowhere. The source told ABC that despite this disclosure, agents simply decided not to open the closet.

      Unless they lead to Narnia, most closets and wardrobes lead nowhere. That doesn’t explain why “agents simply decided not to open the closet.” Their orders were to look for illegally retained US govt documents of the highest classification. A locked closet would have been a likely place to find them.

  12. zscoreUSA says:

    As far as the device ID’s being off by only 2 digits, the following website beetstech has an explanation to decode Apple’s 12 digit Serial Numbers.

    The 1st 3 characters represent the location of manufacture, so FVF is from Fremont, California.

    The 4 character is which 6 month period it was manufactured.
    FVFV was made 2017 (2nd half)
    FVFX was made 2018 (2nd half)

    The 5th character represents # weeks into the half of year.
    Both devices have a C which indicates 12th week into the half of year ie September 23ish of their respective year.

    The 6-8 characters represent the the uniqueness within a the same factory during the same week, to guarantee a unique ID. Both laptops have 2MM.

    The last 4 characters represent the exact model, and show as the same model on
    HV2G is Apple Model Family Number A1708, MacBookPro14,1
    HV29 is Apple Model Family Number A1708, MacBookPro14,1

    Both are 2017 model 13inch MacBook Pros without a Touch Bar that have a removable hard drive.

    It makes sense that both laptops would be the same model, buuuuttttt seems coincidental that they have the same characters in the 5-6-7-8 spot. So my money is on the new “f/n” being a typo, from the person typing the form not accurately reading handwritten characters. Who knows, maybe we will find out.

    • emptywheel says:

      I think that’s what I’m coming to too.

      Someone with poor eyesight typing in the SN rather than cutting and pasting.


      Now I’m going to have to ask the judge to unseal when they make a correction.

      • zscoreUSA says:

        Ooooh cool, more unsealing would be amazing. That you got this stuff unsealed is already amazing.

        A quick estimate of how unlikely that a second laptop would have C2MM in the serial number 5-6-7-8 spots.

        There are 28 alpha numerical options for each slot, as explained in the beetstech article.

        If those characters are equally randomly distributed, there are 28^4= 614656 possible serial numbers.

        To make a more conservative estimate, maybe the factory produces more devices in certain weeks or certain characters are less likely due to serializing process, assume there are only 14 possible alpha numerical characters per slot
        14^4= 38416 possible codes

        1/38416 = .0026%, very low for a random laptop the FBI would have purchased in the used marketplace to have the same 4 character sequence in the serial number as the Mac Isaac laptop.

        • emptywheel says:

          Oh that might explain it.

          Still, you’d think you’d dot the i’s when getting a warrant for the President’s son.

    • algebraist says:

      Thank you for the additional information @zscoreUSA .

      I agree that it does make it look like sloppy handling of the device details, even though Apple serial numbers you need a magnifying glass to read these days.

      • Shadowalker says:

        The laptop that government is alleging that is Hunter’s did not have a touchbar. That family produced by Apple could only have a touchbar if the SSD was integrated into the motherboard mainly because the electronics for the touchbar took up too much space that they need for a separate drive unit. So it either had a touchbar or it had a replaceable drive not both.

  13. Eschscholzia says:

    I would bet a very good beer (payable to each of the proprietors of this awesome site) that those 2 serial numbers are not both valid, nor a common typo, but are someone misreading a grainy poor image of the device serial number (or someone else’s poor handwritten version of it).

    Most electronics serial numbers and license codes are set up so that only a tiny fraction of random codes are valid, and almost always in ways that very similar codes are not both valid. That way, a true typo when entering the serial number gets flagged immediately as invalid, instead of interpreted as pointing to a different unit. Given a fixed pattern of 5 alpha, 1 numeric, 4 alpha, and 2 numeric, there are 5.4*10^15 possible serial numbers. [Even if 5 alpha characters signify a model, the other 4 alpha and 3 numeric leave 450 million combinations.]

    Those 2 mismatches are not the form of common typos: adjacent keys on a keyboard or transposition of a pair of characters. But, V and X can be hard to distinguish after multiple generations of scanning and printing, especially in small fonts or with low contrast; G and 9 would require more graininess. But both pairs can be hard to decipher on other people’s hand-written field data sheets or scribbled notes, especially if it smudged before being run through the scanner for digital preservation.

    I realize this is obvious to many folks here, but I hope many are blissfully unscarred by such issues.

    • emptywheel says:

      That’s what I’m inclined to think. But the warrant Attachment itself got the serial number right.

      • robert harding says:

        Right? The scene in Fargo, with the deliberately difficult to decipher VINs scribbled out by the car dealer, comes to mind.

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  14. Zinsky123 says:

    Thanks for the update, Ms. Wheeler. Intriguing stuff. What galls me is the way this laptop/hard drive(s) have been handled from the git-go. IANAL – but how common is it to hand a replica of digital data that you just gave to the FBI to someone’s political opponent’s lawyer? Wouldn’t that represent some sort of violation of Rules of Evidence? And simply the chain of control over the copying, validation and reconciliation of this data was compromised at least once, just based on the narrative presented here, not knowing what else was done with the original. uncopied digital files. I would think Abbe Lowell would have any evidence remotely tied to Hunter’s digital life, thrown out of court!

    • emptywheel says:

      The later release would not itself taint the digital evidence of the laptop. While I think the FBI did a lot of non-standard things with this, I assume the laptop was airgapped for the entire time that postdates the secondary release to Rudy and everyone else.

      Where it might pose a problem is if the agents tainted themselves by reviewing public versions of the laptop then looking for evidence in the FBI version, because a significant portion of what is public was illegally obtained and sometimes inserted into the “laptop.”

      But FBI is going to have a hard time proving that JPMI did nothing to the drive, and a hard time. explaining what happened between December 9 and December 13 (JPMI says the FBI was trying to boot the laptop up, and before the known warrant).

      Then, if this withstands a MTS for the laptop itself, there’ll be problems introducing individual pieces of digital evidence bc Hunter’s life was always in a state of half-compromise.

      • Badger Robert says:

        The evidence shows the opportunity and the method existed to add the evidence to the lap top.
        The motive could have been to conceal that they obtained the evidence in an unconstitutional manner, or from an unreliable source, or that they used a technique that they don’t want to admit to with respect to firearm purchase forms.
        What about Mr. Schulte?

  15. WilliamOckham says:

    If I’m recalling this correctly, on December14, 2019, someone sent Bill Barr a text message saying that “the laptop is on it’s way”? If “the laptop” refers to an image of Hunter Biden’s laptop, that would explain the physical laptop remaining with CART while they prepared an image to send off to the big boss.

    This is just a SWAG and yet it is more believable than most of the right-wing conspiracy theories.

    • emptywheel says:

      My operative theory is:
      1) The money laundering legal process supports an impeachment counter-investigation
      2) There were two images, the first one for the Big Boss
      3) Someone reviewed the laptop before it was decided not to call Hunter Biden during impeachment

      • WilliamOckham says:

        [Sarcasm] Surely you are not suggesting that the Trump administration was using the FBI and the DOJ to fight Trump’s impeachment[/sarcasm]
        Your scenario makes a lot of sense. If they really imaged the laptop twice, comparing those images would be interesting. However, there’s no way that’ll ever happen.

        • emptywheel says:

          Keep in mind that Lowell knows what went in, so he knows if there’s a Delta between that and what got imaged by the tax team.

  16. zscoreUSA says:

    A couple of related notes:
    1) the Western Digital Hard Drive Serial number here is the same as we have known since 2020. Here is a Western Digital timeline, which doesn’t make sense to me.

    4/12/19 Hunter drops off the laptop with Mac Isaac
    4/15/19 Mac Isaac calls Hunter, leaves vm to bring an external hard drive
    4/16/19 Hunter brings Western Digital Hard Drive to Mac Isaac
    5/2/19 Hunter, while in California, registers the Western Digital Hard Drive, despite not having physical possession. [this is based on the 3 year Western Digital Warranty expiring on 5/2/22, I am not 100% if is how WD works, but seems logical
    Serial Number: WX21A19ATFF3]

    Sus: Why doesn’t Mac Isaac already have external hard drives in stock at his Mac Shop? And why would Hunter register a device that is not in his physical possession or why would Mac Isaac register it for Hunter?

    2) Mac Isaac has stated that he went to the Apple tracker websites that show the device is a 2017 model with a removable hard drive, but has not explained why he writes in his book that the model is 2016 with a soldered hard drive

    • emptywheel says:

      One thing I may focus on in coming days (unless Abbe Lowell preempts it with the Motion to Suppress) is a closer look at the four devices Weiss got in their July 2020 warrant (and so are largely stuck with on their gun case):

      >iPhone X: he is known to have had at least 4 in 2018, including the one he got as a replacement phone in October 2018
      >iPhone 6s: he had one years earlier, Hallie had one, and while it’s not clear where he got it from, he replaces a 6s with an XR on March 1, 2019
      >iPhone XR: which could be the one he got on March 1, or one he got later in 2019
      >iPad Pro: he had iPad pros in 2016, the latter of which was terminated in REALLY interesting fashion, but the iPad saved to the laptop was also a Pro

      If they got the March iPhone XR, they might have real validation of what happened on April 12-15 2019. If not, then this laptop may never come in.

    • Shadowalker says:

      So I did a little digging and it looks like Apple doesn’t change the S/N once it has been assigned. The only way to tell if it has been refurbished is if Apple or one of its affiliates did the work and check the warranty status. If it was refurbished by someone else, there is no Apple warranty and no way to know. Quite different from how they deal with iPhones, or even other manufacturers who append an “R” to end of the model number or some other designation.

    • Shadowalker says:

      “ 2) Mac Isaac has stated that he went to the Apple tracker websites that show the device is a 2017 model with a removable hard drive, but has not explained why he writes in his book that the model is 2016 with a soldered hard drive”

      Because that’s the only way his story works. 2017 models didn’t have soldered drives. For the models with a touchbar, the drive memory was mounted directly on the motherboard along with the controller which was mounted in another area. The only soldering would be for the connector for the removable drive, but those didn’t have the touchbar. They couldn’t use a touchbar model because repairing that while keeping data integrity on the integrated drive is way beyond his capability.

  17. SB317overthere says:

    For anyone interested , DA Will released her response .

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