A senior FBI official told Twitter that Hunter Biden’s laptop was legitimate on the same day The Post published the first in its bombshell reporting series on documents linking President Biden to his son’s foreign business deals, according to stunning new deposition testimony released Thursday by the House Judiciary Committee.
That confirmation was not shared with voters ahead of the 2020 election as dozens of former intelligence officials and then-presidential candidate Joe Biden falsely suggested that the incriminating documents were Russian disinformation.
“Somebody from Twitter essentially asked whether the laptop was real. And one of the FBI folks who was on the call did confirm that, ‘yes, it was,’ before another participant jumped in and said, ‘no further comment,’” Laura Dehmlow, section chief of the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force, recollected in a closed-door deposition Monday, according to a release from the Republican-led committee.
The FBI’s non-public verification of the laptop occurred on Oct. 14, 2020, hours after The Post published a story detailing how an email showed Joe Biden met while vice president with an executive at Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings — contradicting his claims that he “never” discussed foreign business dealings with his relatives.
Dehmlow’s deposition was released during a hearing on social media censorship featuring journalist Emma-Jo Morris, who authored the initial laptop stories while a deputy politics editor at The Post. Among them was the revelation that Joe Biden — referred to as the “big guy” — was penciled in for a 10% cut of proceeds from son Hunter and brother James Biden’s partnership with Chinese government-linked CEFC China Energy.
Twitter banned distribution of The Post’s initial article for two days for potentially violating its hacked materials policy — despite no evidence the material was hacked and transparency in The Post’s reporting about how the laptop was acquired from a Delaware repairman after it was legally abandoned by Hunter.
Although The Post also published an FBI form describing the bureau as taking possession of the laptop in December 2019, there remained broad public uncertainty about the authenticity of the laptop until well after the election, in large part due to warnings of possible disinformation from senior retired intelligence agency officials.
The Washington Post and New York Times verified the contents of the laptop in March 2022 — more than 17 months after The Post’s initial reports and more than 16 months after Joe Biden narrowly won the 2020 election.
Twitter’s ban on sharing links to the initial laptop article remained in effect until around 10 p.m. Oct. 15, 2020, and Twitter continued to bar The Post from accessing its accounts for another two weeks for refusing to delete initial links to the story.
Then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden claimed at the final presidential debate on Oct. 22, 2020 — more than a week after The Post broke the story — that the laptop was a “Russian plant,” citing a letter from 51 former intelligence agency leaders that said the incriminating documents bore “all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”
The letter casting doubt on the laptop was signed by five former directors or acting directors of the CIA and many of their high-ranking former subordinates. Recent testimony indicates that Antony Blinken, who was advising Biden’s campaign, inspired former CIA acting director Michael Morell to draft the document. After he won the election, Biden tapped Blinken to be secretary of state.
“No one denies that the laptop is real, that the origin story is exactly what I told you it was in the first place,” Morris said at the hearing Thursday. “This elaborate censorship conspiracy wasn’t because the information being reported on was false. It was because it was true. And it was a threat to the power centers in this country.”
The fact that the FBI knew the laptop was real but allowed the public debate to rage has gradually surfaced in recent months.
The FBI “verified” the authenticity of the laptop in November 2019 and a federal computer expert assessed “it was not manipulated in any way,” IRS supervisory agent Gary Shapley told the House Ways and Means Committee on May 26.
“In October 2019, the FBI became aware that a repair shop had a laptop allegedly belonging to Hunter Biden and that the laptop might contain evidence of a crime. The FBI verified its authenticity in November of 2019 by matching the device number against Hunter Biden’s Apple iCloud ID,” said Shapley, who oversaw the tax fraud investigation of Hunter Biden for more than three years and whose testimony was made public June 22.