The former spies and Biden campaign aides who smeared Hunter Biden's laptop as Russian "disinformation" have remained silent following revelations that the FBI authenticated the computer nearly a year before it was released.
The veracity of an Oct. 19, 2020, letter claiming the content from Hunter Biden's laptop was Russian disinformation has all but crumbled in the wake of testimony from IRS whistleblower Gary Shapley, raising questions about the judgment and motives of the letter’s signatories. Notably, none of the organizers of the letter have defended their claim or commented on Shapley's testimony. The group includes former CIA deputy director Michael Morell, former CIA chief of staff Nick Shapiro, and White House spokesman Andrew Bates. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who spoke with Morell prior to the letter, has also not weighed in.
The White House has largely ignored Shapley, who provided the House Ways and Means Committee with evidence that federal prosecutors pulled punches in their investigation of Hunter Biden. President Biden on Wednesday disputed a revelation from Shapley’s testimony regarding a July 30, 2017, text message in which Hunter Biden demanded payment from his Chinese business partner while claiming he was sitting with his father. The president angrily denied that he was with his son at the time, though the Washington Free Beacon reported photos that placed Hunter Biden at his father’s home the same day of the text message.
Morell recruited 50 former intelligence officials to sign the now infamous letter, which asserted the release of the younger Biden’s emails days earlier "has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation." The missive, published by Politico, spurred public doubt about the authenticity of the laptop, which contained details of his foreign business dealings and taxes. Joe Biden cited the intel letter in his debate with Donald Trump days later, calling it a "Russian ruse."
But unbeknownst to those operatives, the FBI had authenticated the laptop nearly a year earlier, according to Shapley.
Shapley, who oversaw an IRS investigation into Hunter Biden, told the House Ways and Means Committee that FBI agents authenticated Hunter Biden’s laptop in November 2019 and turned it over to the IRS the following month because it "likely contained evidence of a tax crime." That claim was supported last week after the U.S. attorney in Delaware charged Hunter Biden on charges he failed to pay taxes on more than $3 million in income.
According to Shapley, the FBI obtained electronic evidence that placed Hunter Biden in the vicinity of the repair shop where he allegedly left his computer for repairs in April 2019. Hunter Biden has suggested that he may not have dropped the laptop off for repairs and that it may have been stolen, perhaps by Russians.
Shapley also testified that FBI investigators found no evidence that information on Hunter Biden’s laptop was manipulated or altered. "We have no reason to believe there is anything fabricated nefariously on the computer and or hard drive," Shapley wrote in an Oct. 22, 2020, memo he gave the House Ways and Means Committee.
Morell and Shapiro have yet to weigh in on Shapley’s claims. They did not respond to requests for comment. Bates, who served as the Biden campaign’s rapid response director, did not respond to requests for comment. The State Department did not respond to a request for comment about Blinken’s views of Shapley’s testimony.
Morell organized the letter after a conversation with Blinken on Oct. 17, 2020, about a New York Post story that detailed some emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop. Morell said Blinken sent him a USA Today article that said the FBI was investigating whether the release of Hunter Biden’s emails was part of a Russian disinformation operation. The article, based on anonymous sources, did not reveal that the FBI had authenticated the laptop nearly a year before.
The retired spy chief told the House Judiciary Committee he undertook the initiative in order to provide Joe Biden a "talking point" to use in his upcoming debate with Donald Trump, and because he wanted the Democrat "to win" the election.
According to emails released by the House Judiciary Committee, Shapiro corresponded with Andrew Bates, the Biden aide, about efforts to publish the letter at the Washington Post, Associated Press, and Politico. "Here is what I gave them," Shapiro informed Bates in an Oct. 19, 2020, email about his correspondence with the news outlets. Politico ultimately published the letter under the headline, "Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say."
He circulated the letter among a tight-knit group of former CIA and intelligence community officers asking them to sign the document. Fifty others did, including former CIA Directors John Brennan and Michael Hayden. Jeremy Bash, an MSNBC pundit who serves on Biden’s Intelligence Advisory Board, also signed the letter.