Hunter Becomes the Hunted: Timeline of the Biden Laptop Saga as GOP Announces Criminal Probe
12:39 GMT 18.11.2022 (Updated: 05:37 GMT 30.04.2023)
On Thursday, GOP lawmakers from the House Oversight Committee announced a criminal investigation into the Biden family’s business dealings in the next Congress, citing suspected criminal activity ranging from money laundering and tax evasion to association with human traffickers. How did the Biden saga get started? Here’s a timeline.
On April 12, 2019, Hunter Biden brought a water-damaged 13-inch MacBook Pro to a computer repair shop in Wilmington, Delaware, asking shop owner John Paul Mac Isaac to recover data from the waterlogged laptop. After finishing the job, the business owner contacted Biden repeatedly, asking him to pick up his property. Biden failed to do so.
While working on the computer, the repairman found over 200 gigabytes of data, including nearly 130,000 emails, plus thousands of text messages from Biden’s iPhone, photos and videos, and other files.
In the summer of 2019
, after Joe Biden had announced his candidacy for the presidency, and after a scandal related to then-President Donald Trump’s attempts to pressure the Ukrainian government into reopening a probe into suspected money laundering activities by a Ukrainian energy company on which Hunter Biden was a board member, Mac Isaac approached the FBI. The agency “didn’t seem interested”
in the computer at first, advising him to get a lawyer and clam up on the matter. According to the repair technician’s recollection, while copying and verifying files, he spotted pornographic materials featuring Biden, as well as potentially “geopolitically sensitive” information on suspected dealings with foreign businessmen.
In December 2019, a pair of FBI agents finally came to Mac Isaac’s shop to retrieve the computer, with an attempt by the business owner to break the ice and “defuse the awkward situation with humor” by quipping “I’ll remember to change your names when I write the book” being met with the cool reply from an agent that “It is our experience that nothing ever happens to people that don’t talk about these things.”
In addition to the FBI, Mac Isaac also passed the computer’s files on to Rudy Giuliani, the Trump lawyer who was investigating the Biden family’s business activities in Ukraine at the time. Legally speaking and in accordance with store policy, the laptop had become Mac Isaac’s property 90 days after Biden failed to pick it up.
Months passed. Trump was impeached by the Democratic Party-controlled House of Representatives on "abuse of power" and "obstruction of Congress" charges in January 2020 over his attempt to pressure Kiev into reopening the Biden probe. The Senate acquitted him. On October 14, 2020
, less than three weeks before the November 3 presidential vote, the New York Post dropped a pre-election "October Surprise" bombshell into the race, with the exclusive story
entitled “Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad” offering the first inklings of an alleged pay-to-play corruption scheme involving Hunter selling access his father while the latter was serving as Barack Obama’s vice president.
In the run-up to the November 3 vote, the Post published several additional reports, referencing a mysterious “Big Guy” and “Pops” in the emails who was to receive a cut of the money, and uncovering what appeared to be similar pay-to-play schemes with businessmen and women from a host of foreign entities, including countries like China and Russia.
Facebook* and Twitter immediately began a campaign to censor reporting on the laptop using their services, characterizing it as suspected “Russian disinformation.” In August 2022, Meta* CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed to podcaster Joe Rogan that the FBI had privately asked Facebook to be on the lookout for Russian attempts to meddle in the 2020 election, and said the company had concluded that the Post’s laptop reporting “fit the pattern” of such potential interference.
16 November 2022, 17:23 GMT
The election came and went, Joe Biden won (although not without allegations of fraud made by Trump). Attorney General William Barr refused
to appoint a special counsel to probe the information gleaned from Hunter’s laptop. However, in December 2020
, the president-elect’s son announced that his tax returns were being investigated by the US attorney in Delaware.
Gradually, the laptop story faded from the news cycle, popping up now and again whenever more details were released, whether about the younger Biden’s appreciation for high-priced prostitutes
, his debilitating addiction to crack cocaine, his campaign of virtual abuse
of his ex-wife, his fondness for burner phone apps
Details gradually also leaked out about Hunter’s alleged associations with foreign business interests, including a Chinese energy company
, Russian businesswoman Elena Baturina, wife of the late ex-Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, who was reportedly wined and dined
by Joe Biden at the White House
, and others.
In April 2021, UK media commissioned a cyber forensics report on the laptop, discovering that its hard drive “appears to be authentic.” One year later, in the spring of 2022, prominent US media outlets carried out their own analyses of the laptop, similarly confirming the files’ apparent authenticity and breaking over a year of silence on the story.
In April 2022
, a cursory analysis of information on the laptop revealed that “Big Guy,” the moniker apparently referring to Joe Biden mentioned in some of Hunter’s correspondence, revealed that the name had appeared at least 41 times
in the lost laptop, undermining the elder Biden’s oft-repeated claim that he was not involved in his son’s business activities. Former Hunter business partner Tony Bobulinski had previously revealed that “Big Guy” was a reference to the elder Biden, and said that Hunter had often asked his father to “sign off” on or advise him in various business deals.
18 October 2022, 08:52 GMT
The Bidens’ wheeling and dealing has also been revealed to have included contracts with defense entities, with a March 2022
report by the Russian Defense Ministry tying Hunter-connected investment fund Rosemont Seneca to the financing of Ukrainian biolab activities. This information was initially dismissed by officials and media as yet more “Russian disinformation,” but an analysis of the computer’s files
confirmed that the president’s son did in fact “help secure millions in funding for a US contractor in Ukraine specializing in deadly pathogen research.”
Republicans in the House Oversight Committee began to express interest
in the Bidens’ business dealings abroad the same month
, promising to kick off a formal probe after forming a majority in the next Congress. Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson released
their own probe into the Biden family in the Senate, accusing the president and his son of weaving a “vast web of foreign entanglements” with potentially dangerous implications for national security and foreign policy.
House lawmakers spent the next months collecting evidence, ranging from whistleblower testimony, to data from the laptop, to information gleaned from media reporting.
On November 4
, four days before the November 8 midterm elections, House Judiciary Committee Republicans released a 1,050-page tome
outlining the alleged politicization of the FBI and the Department of Justice, including evidence to suggest that Hunter Biden “received preferential treatment from federal law enforcement, who seem to have turned a blind eye to the potential national security threats presented by his business dealings” with foreign nationals. The committee also charged the FBI with “collusion” with tech giants ahead of the 2020 race to suppress the laptop story.
Finally, on Thursday
, just a day after squeaking to victory in the battle for control of the House, Republicans from the chamber’s Committee on Oversight and Reform announced
that a formal probe into the Biden family’s business activities would be conducted once the next Congress is sworn in in January 2023. In their presentation, Republicans previewed an array of suspected Biden business dealings with partners across the globe.
17 November 2022, 15:12 GMT
“Committee Republicans have uncovered evidence of federal crimes committed by and to the benefit of members of the president’s family. These include: conspiracy or defrauding the United States, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act [an anti-foreign lobbying law], violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering,” Committee Ranking Member James Comer said during Thursday’s presentation.
The White House immediately dismissed the significance of the probe, with a spokesman accusing Republicans of “going after” the president “with politically motivated attacks full of long-debunked conspiracy theories” instead of focusing on the day-to-day issues affecting ordinary Americans. The spokesman did not clarify
which of the materials outlined in the House Republicans’ presentation constituted “long-debunked conspiracy theories.”
* Meta (Facebook and Instagram) is banned in Russia over extremist activities.