In 2023, the GOP will take a slim majority in the US House of Representatives, and Republican lawmakers have promised to investigate Hunter Biden, the second son of Democrat US President Joe Biden. One item that will almost certainly turn up is the contents of Hunter Biden’s infamous laptop.
When the contents of the laptop first surfaced in October 2020, just before the presidential election, many expressed concern that the device was a plant that should tip the election result in favor of Biden’s opponent, incumbent Donald Trump. But in the months and years after the leak, evidence is mounting that much (but not all) content in the public domain is genuine.
In the most recent development, in late November 2022, CBS News tapped Mark Lanterman, a digital forensics expert, who told CBS he believes the contents of the laptop are authentic and actually belong to the president’s second son.
Here’s the long and storied story of Hunter Biden’s (alleged but likely) laptop.
Why did the laptop end up in the news?
As we previously reported, the laptop first hit the news a little over two weeks before the contentious 2020 presidential election when the New York Post ran a story detailing its contents.
As we discovered in 2020, the Post-Story reportedly confirmed a political attack on then-candidate Biden during the campaign cycle, namely that he used his position as Vice President in the Obama administration to benefit Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company. while Hunter Biden sat on its board. The alleged “Smoking Gun” was an email found on the laptop. Though the email the Post touted didn’t actually prove the allegation, the story sparked a media storm and controversy about the laptop itself and how it was acquired by Biden’s political enemies.
The Post had received the alleged laptop contents from Rudy Giuliani, then-US President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, who was running for re-election.
Where did Giuliani get the laptop?
In April 2019, a man allegedly posing as Hunter Biden brought the water-damaged MacBook Pro in question to a Delaware repair shop. The laptop owner never paid the store for repairs and never picked up the laptop. As a result, it was considered abandoned property and thus became the property of the workshop owner.
According to Robert Costello, Giuliani’s attorney, who spoke to Snopes over the phone in 2020 about the story, a “source” gave him a copy of the laptop’s hard drive with the intention of giving it to Giuliani and making it public. The source, later identified as workshop owner John Paul Mac Isaac, was concerned about the contents he found. The FBI subpoenaed the device and took it away in December 2019 — but not before Mac Isaac made a copy of the computer’s hard drive. He gave it to Costello, who gave it to Giuliani, who gave it to everyone.
Is the hard drive real?
When the story first broke, many suspected the contents of the laptop or even the device itself planted as disinformation in the final days of the election. Then-candidate Biden even called the device a “Russian facility” during a presidential debate. That accusation stemmed from the 2016 presidential election, which US intelligence officials said was littered with Russian disinformation intended to help Trump win.
But in the coming months and years, signs surfaced that suggested the laptop’s contents were genuine and that the device really belonged to Hunter Biden. As we reported in an update to our 2020 story:
On March 16, 2022, a New York Times article about a US Department of Justice in Hunter Biden’s tax affairs, the Times mentioned emails “from a cache of files that appear to be from a laptop used by Mr. Biden at a repair left in Delaware shop. The email and others in the cache have been authenticated by people familiar with them and the investigation.”
Lanterman, the pundit tapped by CBS News, worked as a member of the US Secret Service’s Electronic Crimes Task Force before entering the private sector. He told the network he believes the contents of the laptop are authentic, pointing to a voicemail found on the drive left by Hunter’s father while he was struggling with a drug addiction. In the voicemail, Joe Biden told his son that he loved him and that he needed to seek help for his addiction. Lanterman told CBS unequivocally that he believes the contents of the laptop are genuine and belong to Hunter Biden.
That’s because the device shows files have accumulated over time in a quantity and manner “consistent with normal everyday use of a computer,” said Sean Lanterman, Mark Lanterman’s son, who serves as attorney and incident response for his father’s company, Computer, operates Forensic Services, in the CBS interview.
It would be “difficult, if not impossible, to fabricate this type of everyday use,” reflected in the accumulation of files, such as images of government-issued ID cards and the voicemail described above. The Lantermans said they saw no evidence on the copy of the hard drive they checked fake Data has been added.
Still, the laptop has been the source of hoaxes and misinformation, including a false claim that it contained a photo of Hunter Biden inappropriately lounging shirtless among young girls.
Morris, Emma-Jo and Gabrielle Fonrouge. “Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to Vice President’s father.” New York Post14 Oct 2020, https://nypost.com/2020/10/14/email-reveals-how-hunter-biden-introduced-ukrainian-biz-man-to-dad/.
Replica of Hunter Biden’s laptop data appears to be genuine, independent experts find.” CBS News, Nov. 21, 2022, www.cbsnews.comhttps://www.cbsnews.com/video/copy-of-hunter-biden-laptop-data-appears-genuine-independent-experts-find/.
Bertrand, Natasha. “Hunter Biden story is Russian disinformation, say dozens of former Intel officials.” POLITICS10/19/2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/10/19/hunter-biden-story-russian-disinfo-430276.
Palma, Bethany. “How did Hunter Biden’s laptop supposedly get to the New York Post from a repair shop in Delaware?” snoutOctober 15, 2020, https://www.snopes.com/news/2020/10/15/hunter-biden-laptop-giuliani/.