Joseph Backholm is senior fellow for Biblical worldview and strategic engagement at the Family Research Council. This article appeared in WORLD Magazine on January 29, 2024.
The Justice Department now admits the Hunter Biden laptop was real
In a time when Americans confidence in their institutions is at an all-time low, a recent admission from the Department of Justice (DOJ) risks doing even more damage. In court filings related to ongoing criminal prosecutions against Hunter Biden, DOJ prosecutors acknowledge that a laptop, long claimed by the Biden administration to be Russian disinformation, was authentic. In fact, the DOJ is so confident the information contained in the laptop is credible that they are now relying on it in their own criminal case against the president’s son.
While the tax case against Hunter Biden is not a matter of public interest, the coordinated effort to convince the nation, in the runup to the 2020 presidential election, that the laptop was Russian propaganda is a matter of public interest.
Hunter Biden’s personal struggles are well documented, and, in some ways, they contributed to the picture of Joe Biden as the affable stateman and loyal father. After all, it’s admirable when people support their children in even the darkest times. However, Hunter Biden the troubled son became a serious problem for Joe Biden the candidate when the president’s son abandoned a laptop in a Wilmington, Del., computer repair store. On that laptop were thousands of emails, some of which linked Joe Biden to Hunter Biden’s overseas “business dealings.”
This was a problem because the elder Biden had long denied even speaking to his son about foreign business dealings. However, correspondence on the laptop indicated not only awareness but reasonable suspicion that Joe Biden benefited financially as vice president by selling U.S. government favors to foreign governments and companies. This is often referred to as bribery.
Of course, the emails were not and are not conclusive proof of anything, but they raised reasonable questions. In December of 2023, the House of Representatives voted to begin an impeachment inquiry to more fully investigate what President Biden did or did not do as vice president. In the days running up to the 2020 election there was no time to prove innocence, even if there is innocence to be proven. President Biden needed to make the accusation go away. Then a miracle happened.
Would the election have turned out differently if the American public had been told the truth? We’ll never know.
Out of nowhere, more than 50 U.S. intelligence officials, including former Obama CIA Director John Brennan, former Obama Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former CIA director Leon Panetta, signed a letter saying that Hunter Biden’s laptop “has all the earmarks of a Russian disinformation operation.” President Biden relied heavily on the letter in the final presidential debate. When Donald Trump raised the issue, Biden scoffed.
Fifty former national intelligence folks who said that what he’s accusing me of is a Russian plant. They have said that this has all the … four … five former heads of the CIA, both parties, say that what he’s saying is a bunch of garbage. This is classic Trump. We have four days left and all the sudden there’s a laptop. There’s overwhelming evidence from the intelligence community that the Russians are engaged.
Of course, Biden knew what he presented was false, but for the average American this had to be persuasive. Fifty intelligence officers can’t all be wrong, can they? Except they were. The laptop belonged to Hunter, not Putin, and the information in it was authentic. In fact, nearly a year prior, in December of 2019, DOJ subpoenaed the laptop from the Wilmington repair shop it had been abandoned in as part of an investigation into Hunter Biden’s failure to pay federal income taxes. DOJ had been in possession of the laptop and gathering information from it for nearly a year when “the experts” were telling voters it was “Russian disinformation.”
The signers of the letter did qualify their statements significantly. “We want to emphasize that we do not know if the emails … are genuine or not and that we do not have evidence of Russian involvement—just that our experience makes us deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case.” In other words, what we are saying here probably isn’t true, but we think it’s helpful, so we’ll say it anyway.
According to congressional testimony from former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morrell, the letter was the brainchild of then senior campaign advisor, now the secretary of state, Antony Blinken. While Blinken has since denied involvement in the letter, his interest in discrediting the content of Hunter’s laptop was shockingly similar to President Biden’s. After all, he was the national security advisor to Vice President Biden during the Obama administration and the laptop showed Hunter had been communicating with Blinken and his wife about overseas business affairs since 2008. Those conversations included discussions about Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company at the center of the bribery accusations. None of this proves Blinken orchestrated the letter, but motive is one element of any crime.
Still, we all know the rest of the story. The content of the laptop was discredited, at least temporarily. Biden became president and Blinken became secretary of state. Mission accomplished. Would the election have turned out differently if the American public had been told the truth? We’ll never know. But at the start of yet another presidential election year, it’s important to remember that, in a desire not to be fooled by Putin, the American voters were fooled by 50 former U.S. intelligence officers. And with that reminder, our trust in our institutions erodes even more.