National history quickly centered on the dubious provenance of the material, especially considering that four years prior WikiLeaks had begun releasing material stolen by Russian hackers around the same time as the presidential race. . But for media interested in actually assessing what the New York Post claimed to have, neither the newspaper nor its source for the material, President Donald Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was willing to share. (Giuliani told the New York Times that he hoped avoid have the material checked before publication.) So it seemed wise to treat the New York Post’s claims with some skepticism.
Now a new voice has joined those raising questions about the validity of the material allegedly on Hunter Biden’s laptop: the guy who recovered that data in the first place.
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Last month, the Washington Post was able to publish a report based on a copy of material we obtained from a Republican activist named Jack Maxey who had obtained it from Giuliani. Several experts examined the contents of a hard drive believed to contain the laptop’s contents, validating tens of thousands of emails as legitimate. But a huge amount of material on the drive could not be validated as legit, in part because of the phone play the material had suffered by the time it reached us. (The report notes that efforts to get the hardware in 2020 have been pushed back.)
“Experts found that the data had been repeatedly viewed and copied by people other than Hunter Biden over nearly three years,” our report explained, with those we spoke with unable to “draw definitive conclusions about the content as a whole, including whether all of them came from a single computer or could have been assembled from files from multiple computers and placed on the portable player.
“[An expert] also found records on the drive that indicated someone may have accessed the drive from a West Coast location in October 2020, just over a week after the New York Post first reported on Hunter Biden’s laptop.
“Over the next few days, someone created three additional folders on the drive, titled ‘Mail’, ‘Salacious Pics Package’ and ‘Big Guy File’ – an apparent reference to Joe Biden.”
One expert compared it to a crime scene littered with fast food wrappers thanks to the first police officers to arrive on the scene. It’s supposed to be an indictment, but it’s also generous. The first people on the scene were not police in this case; they were (to extend the analogy) people aiming to get an indictment against a particular person.
There’s still a trash-free crime scene there. The owner of the store where Hunter Biden allegedly dropped off the laptop for repair three years ago turned the computer over to the FBI when he issued a subpoena. In an interview with the right-wing outlet “Real America’s Voice”, the owner, John Paul Mac Isaac, explained how relieved he was when the FBI came to get the laptop.
“I thought it was okay when they took it,” he said, “because that’s what I wanted all the time, it was just get this stuff out of my shop, get the FBI – have a written record that offered me some protection, both physically and legally.
It was a theme of the interview, as it has been in previous interviews with Mac Isaac: his insistence that he thought he was in some way in danger for having the laptop in his possession. If you’re wondering how he was then able to pass the material to Giuliani, the answer is that he nevertheless kept a copy of the laptop material “in case it ever got thrown under the bus as a result of what happened. ‘he knew,'” his lawyer told the Washington Post. In this particular tale, it’s low on the scale of things that don’t quite make sense.
It is important to explain how Mac Isaac created the backup in the first place. The laptop he got shut down several times while he was trying to recover his data. So instead of just copying the entire hard drive to another device, it did it piecemeal, copying individual files and folders one by one. In doing so, he claims to have seen elements that he found alarming.
“I’ve seen some disturbing content and raised some red flags as well,” Mac Isaac told “Real America’s Voice.” When asked later to explain what had alarmed him, he said he had seen “the criminality…related to foreign business dealings, potential money laundering and, most importantly , national security issues and concerns”. It was, he explained, “what made me take a deep dive into the laptop once it became my property.”
Again, the chronology is uncertain. Delaware law says he could assume ownership of the laptop after one year. But he obtained the laptop in April 2019 (just as conservative media was beginning to focus on Hunter Biden’s relationship with a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma) and turned it over to the FBI in December. He said he was alarmed by the laptop’s failure in Trump’s first impeachment inquiry. This effort ended in February 2020, before a year had passed.
What Mac Isaac said next, however, is what was most remarkable. When he did his “deep dive”, he said, he “saw a lot of photos” – but “didn’t see a lot of photos that are flagged to [have been] seen.”
“I know there have been several attempts over the last year and a half to insert questionable material into the laptop, not physically, but passing off that misinformation or misinformation as coming from the laptop” , did he declare. “And that’s a major concern of mine because I’ve fought tooth and nail to protect the integrity of this player and jeopardizing that will mean everything I’ve sacrificed will be for naught.”
In other words, Mac Isaac says he’s seen claims about the contents of the laptop that don’t actually reflect what he saw on the laptop to begin with. Or, presumably, sees now, as one of the few people who might still have a full copy of its contents.
What does it refer to? It’s hard to say. It may include one of the most popular claims circulating on the right, alleging the machine included evidence of criminal sexual activity by Hunter Biden. (It was allegedly on air by Tucker Carlson last year, without proof.) Or it may imply other claims entirely.
This is where the Washington Post’s finding that folders were added becomes more significant. We have proof that the portable hard drive had something added both before and after the original New York Post story – and here is Mac Isaac agreeing that some of what he saw presented as coming from the laptop was never there. This is why provenance is important in journalistic investigations. Just because Rudy Giuliani says the material is from a hard drive doesn’t mean he did – especially when recorded as disparaging the idea that material should be checked before it is reported .
Hunter Biden remains under federal investigation for possible tax law violations. The material on the laptop (assuming the laptop itself belongs to Biden, which is also not fully settled) may play a role in establishing his guilt or innocence. But the mythical laptop content that have been so fascinating on the right over the past 18 months are – at least sometimes – unproven.
If you don’t want to take the mainstream media at their word, take Mac Isaac’s.