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Shades of Clinton: Joe Biden used private email to send government information to Hunter

Emails on laptop seized by FBI show State Department information flowing from VP to son regarding release of American prisoner.

Updated: July 20, 2021 - 7:14pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

In a communications backdoor reminiscent of Hillary Clinton's infamous private server, President Biden used a personal email account during the Obama years to send information he was getting from the State Department as vice president to his globetrotting, foreign-deal-making son Hunter Biden.

Messages, sometimes signed "Dad," from the email account robinware456@gmail.com were found on a Hunter Biden laptop seized by the FBI in December 2019 from a Delaware computer shop owner.

Some of the messages from the vice president to his son obtained by Just the News were deeply personal, others were political in nature, and still others clearly addressed business matters, often forwarding information coming from senior officials in the White House, the State Department and other government agencies.

For instance, in late November 2014 the U.S. embassy in Istanbul sent an email to the State Department that was then forwarded to senior advisers to Joe Biden, including national security expert Michael Carpenter, providing an early alert that an American named Martin O'Connor was about to be released from detention in Turkey.

"The lead attorney for Mr. O'Connor reports that the court granted the detention appeal and he expected Mr. O'Connor to be released from jail today, barring any unforeseen problems," the U.S. embassy in Instanbul wrote in an email that got forwarded to top Obama administration security and diplomacy officials, including current Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland. "Mr. O'Connor will not be allowed to leave the country until his next hearing which is set for December 11, 2014. The lawyer expressed confidence that he will be able to leave after that hearing. The attorney is handling his release arrangements, pick up and temporary housing near his law firm's office. Istanbul consular plans to speak with Mr. O'Connor after his release."

State Department officials forwarded the information to the vice president's office, where Biden aide Colin Kahl (now President Biden's Undersecretrary of Defense for Policy) sent it to Joe Biden's private email. The vice president then sent it to his son Hunter Biden with the subject line "Fwd: Mr. O'Connor Being Released from Detention today."

A former senior Obama administration official confirmed to Just the News that some administration officials knew of the robinware456@gmail.com email address for Joe Biden and used it from time to time. "I saw it used to communicate with his family and friends or to pass information to them," the official told Just the News, speaking only on condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisal.

The emails obtained by Just the News show numerous Obama administration officials communicated or were aware of the private email address or had their information sent to it, including current Secretary of State Tony Blinken.

In January 2013, Blinken emailed Joe Biden at his private email recounting a colleague's conversation about the Pulitzer-winning journalist, author and screenwriter Richard Ben Cramer's last minutes before dying. At the time, Blinken was Joe Biden's national security adviser.

"Called to say that he was with Richard Ben Cramer in the hospital before the latter passed and they were talking about you till the end," Blinken wrote the vice president and his family, including Hunter Biden. "Richard apparently said he was gratified the country is finally finding out what he knew about your leadership and talents many years ago."

Beyond establishing that Joe Biden sent government information to his son, the existence of the private email address also raises questions of federal law, as Hillary Clinton's email server showed. Biden had an obligation to preserve any emails involving his government work under federal records law, even if he used a private email address.

"The Presidential Records Act required Joe Biden to make sure that any of his gmail account emails, including these emails to Hunter Biden, were forwarded to a government account so they could properly be handled by the National Archives," said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch. "No wonder the Obama White House wanted to protect Hillary Clinton from the consequences of [her] email shell game!"

"We might know more beginning next year," added the veteran public records watchdog, "when Judicial Watch and the public can begin filing FOIAs for Obama White House emails."

The White House press office did not respond to a call and email from Just the News seeking comment Tuesday. George Mesires, a lawyer for Hunter Biden, also did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Hunter Biden on a few occasions reached out directly to his father on the private email address to ask for help, the memos from the laptop show. In January 2012, for instance, Hunter Biden forwarded a request to have the vice president prepare a video message for an event honoring Texas Democratic activist Ben Barnes.

"We are working on it," the vice president wrote his son in reply.

On another occasion in June 2014, Hunter Biden suggested someone he wanted to see appointed as a detailee to the Treasury Department. "Before you fill the positions, pls talk to me," Hunter Biden wrote his father.

The vice president responded, "Call me right away, Dad."  

Politics, including the potential for Biden to run for president in 2016, were sometimes the subject of emails coming to and from the RobinWare456@gmail.com account.

Former U.S. Sen. Ted Kaufman, who succeeded Biden as a Delaware senator after serving decades as his chief of staff, sent an email Nov. 3, 2014 that included a Wall Street Journal article negative to Hillary Clinton, a potential 2016 challenger to Biden before the vice president declined to run that year. The article was entitled "Hillary Clinton's Wall Street problem."

"In case you missed it," Kaufman wrote Joe Biden, Hunter Biden and Joe Biden's late son Beau. The subject line read, "Excellent."

When a poll came out showing Beau Biden was still popular as attorney general in Delaware, the vice president used his private email to applaud.

"Strong," he wrote, signing it with his name "Joe."

Sometimes, Vice President Biden's messages to his son took a more personal note, like the day the Wall Street Journal broke the story in October 2014 that Hunter Biden had been discharged from the Navy over a positive cocaine test.

"Good as it could be," Joe Biden wrote in an email chain that included the article forwarded to the vice president's email address by White House staff. "Time to move on, Love Dad."

The vice president also flashed some of his trademark self-deprecating humor, once forwarding an astronomy story suggesting a planet be named for him. From his private email, Joe Biden wrote his family, "Only time in history." The subject line was: "Why I deserve more respect."