The FBI task force that interacted with social media companies before the 2020 election knew that Hunter Biden’s laptop was legitimate but withheld those details from social media companies that censored stories about the first son’s computer.
Laura Dehmlow, the head of the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force, told the House Judiciary Committee this week that her unit, which tracks foreign disinformation, knew that Biden’s computer was real when the New York Post published stories about it on Oct. 14, 2020. She said she was "pretty certain" that two other officials on the task force were aware that FBI analysts had authenticated Biden’s laptop in late 2019.
But according to Republicans, task force officials refused to share that information during meetings with Facebook, which limited circulation of the Post story out of concerns that Biden’s emails were hacked. Republicans say FBI leaders directed Dehmlow and others to tell social media companies "no comment" when asked about the laptop. According to Dehmlow, an FBI employee told Twitter in an earlier meeting that Biden’s laptop was real but that an FBI attorney interjected to say "no further comment."
"The refusal of FBI officials—the very officials who knew the laptop was real—to verify the authenticity of the laptop allowed widespread censorship about an otherwise accurate news story," said House Judiciary chairman Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) in a letter to FBI director Christopher Wray.
While Facebook limited the sharing of the Post story, Twitter prevented users from sharing it at all. That prompted debate over whether Biden’s laptop was authentic or whether hackers had hacked the computer—or manipulated its emails—and leaked the contents as part of an "October surprise."
The Joe Biden campaign and its allies pushed that unsubstantiated theory days after the Post report. Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell recruited 50 former intelligence officials to sign a letter that said the laptop was likely a Russian disinformation campaign. Morell drafted the letter after a conversation with Biden campaign adviser Antony Blinken, who now serves as Secretary of State. Joe Biden cited that assessment during a debate with former president Donald Trump on Oct. 22, 2020.
IRS whistleblower Gary Shapley, who led a tax fraud investigation into Hunter Biden, testified in May that FBI analysts authenticated Biden’s laptop in December 2019. John Paul Mac Isaac, a computer repair shop owner, provided the laptop to the FBI in November 2019. Mac Isaac said Hunter Biden left the laptop for repairs in April 2019 but never retrieved it. Shapley testified that the FBI obtained electronic evidence that placed Biden near Isaac’s computer shop.
Republicans assert that the FBI "conditioned" social media companies to expect the release of hacked materials prior to the Post’s report. According to Republicans, the FBI task force discussed "Hack/Leak Concerns" during meetings with social media companies on Oct. 7, 2020.
Jordan criticized the FBI in his letter for going silent about the origins of the laptop, "allowing social media companies to conclude that the New York Post story was Russian disinformation."
Dehmlow conducted the social media company meetings with Elvis Chan, who conducted the FBI’s cyber investigations out of the San Francisco field office. The Washington Free Beacon reported that Dehmlow and Chan contributed to Democrats in the 2020 cycle.