Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Trumpworld figures admit campaign expected Hunter Biden laptop story to help them in 2020 election

Ex-president and former spokesman issue gloating statements over fresh revelations – but none of their claims withstand scrutiny

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Friday 18 March 2022 17:38 GMT
Joe Biden defends son Hunter amid investigation into taxes

Former president Donald Trump and the manager of his failed 2020 re-election bid appear to have admitted that his doomed campaign had pinned its hopes for victory on negative media coverage of the contents of a laptop purportedly owned by President Joe Biden’s youngest and sole living son, Hunter Biden.

In October 2020, the New York Post published emails purportedly from the younger Mr Biden to an executive at Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company he’d once represented as an attorney at the law firm of Boise, Schiller, Flexner before serving as a member of the company’s board of directors.

At the time the Post published documents from the laptop — which it had obtained from Mr Giuliani — most legitimate media outlets questioned the authenticity of the documents, and more than 50 ex-senior US intelligence officials signed on to an open letter which said the Post reporting had “all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation”.

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that they had authenticated some of the emails while reporting a story on the Justice Department’s long-running investigation into Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma.

In response to the Times story, ex-Trump campaign manager Tim Murtaugh took to Twitter to complain that the Post’s unverified reporting had not had a greater impact on the 2020 election.

“Well, what do you know? The New York Times finally admits that the laptop was real … a year and a half after it actually would have mattered in late 2020,” he wrote.

His former boss, Donald Trump, also issued a gloating statement in which he said the Times had “admitted that it participated in an effort to rig the election for Joe Biden”.

Despite the triumphant gloating from Trumpworld figures, neither Mr Murtaugh’s nor Mr Trump’s statements are accurate.

While the Times reported it had authenticated a portion of the emails obtained by the Justice Department by speaking to persons familiar with them, it has not claimed to have authenticated the entirety of the laptop’s contents.

When the Post published its October 2020 story about the emails, it did not claim to have verified whether the contents of the laptop — or any of the individual emails it reported on —were genuine, and Mr Giuliani’s relationship with several Russia-linked figures in Ukraine including Ukrainian MP Andrei Derkach — who US officials have described a conduit for disinformation about Mr Biden from Russian intelligence — raised questions as to whether the emails in question were genuine.

Additionally, the contents of the laptop as described by the Post did not verify any of the myriad claims about Hunter Biden raised by Mr Trump and his allies, namely the contention that Joe Biden had acted improperly to benefit his son’s business interests.

Fiona Hill: 'What we're seeing here as a result of all of these narratives is this is exactly what the Russian government was hoping for'

Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma has long been the focus of GOP conspiracy theories which Mr Trump first attempted to exploit in mid-2019, when he tried blackmailing Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky into announcing sham investigations into both Bidens in exchange for Mr Trump releasing millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine and authorising a White House visit for Mr Zelensky.

Mr Trump and his advisers, including ex-New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, have falsely claimed Joe Biden’s use of US and European loan guarantees for Ukraine as leverage to force Mr Zelensky’s predecessor to fire a prosecutor widely known as corrupt was part of an illicit scheme to protect his son from criminal liability.

The former president’s withholding of aid to Mr Zelensky’s government was reported to Congress by a whistleblower, leading to the first of Mr Trump’s two impeachment trials. Moreover, the withholding of aid appropriated by Congress was found to have violated US law by the Government Accountability Office.

Trump impeachment: Key moments from testimony of Marie Yovanovitch

Despite being impeached over his false claims regarding the Bidens and Ukraine, Mr Trump continued to suggest the elder Mr Biden had acted improperly by using his office to benefit his son in the same way Mr Trump used the presidency to funnel money to his family’s eponymous real estate businesses.

But Mr Biden’s actions as Vice President did not benefit his son and were in line with US and EU policy towards Ukraine’s government.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in