GOP sets stage to probe spiking of Hunter Biden laptop story; warnings to preserve evidence sent

Led by Rep. Darrell Issa, lawmakers send preservation letters, setting stage for major probe if GOP retakes majority in November. demand Big Tech, NYT, intel experts

Published: March 22, 2022 6:51pm

Updated: March 25, 2022 1:31pm

A top Republican on Tuesday revealed that GOP lawmakers are sending letters to Twitter, Facebook, the New York Times, and dozens of former U.S. intelligence officials asking that they preserve evidence of their efforts in 2020 to suppress or discredit credible news reports about Hunter Biden's laptop and business dealings.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) told the John Solomon Reports podcast that the preservation letters will set the stage for Republicans to issue subpoenas and open a formal investigation into the matter if they win control of Congress in this year's midterm elections.

Issa, who is expected to play a major role in congressional investigations in the event the GOP retakes the majority in November, would like to spearhead any probe into possible collusion to quash the Hunter Biden story.

"What I can't live with," said Issa, "is the fact that when the New York Post, one of the oldest print newspapers in the country, founded in 1801, comes out with credible evidence, which they can show how they got it, what their sources were — there were no hidden sources on this — they not only got shut down by ... Facebook and Twitter, but they got shut down by the New York Times, by public broadcasting, by virtually everyone.

"And they were shut down by having more than 50 of the most informed people in the intelligence world all saying that they knew that this was false information. That is a conspiracy of monumental size."

Issa explained that some of those involved in this "collusion" were passive participants while others coordinated the effort and knew what they were doing.

"That is where we're asking to have the evidence preserved," he said. "And when we receive the ability to subpoena again ... on the anticipation that the House will return to the [GOP] majority, this is an investigation that has to be done, because shutting down the First Amendment is now a pattern of new media. But it's also becoming a pattern of old media. And there aren't very many older than the New York Times."

In October 2020, the New York Post obtained emails from a laptop that Hunter Biden had abandoned at a repair shop in Delaware. One message showed that he introduced his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, to a top executive at Ukrainian energy firm Burisma less than a year before the vice president pressured Ukrainian officials to drop an investigation into the firm, long shadowed by corruption allegations. The emails also revealed the executive asking Hunter — who received over $80,000 per month as a Burisma board member — for "advice on how you could use your influence" on the company's behalf. 

Neither the elder nor the younger Biden denied the story but instead deflected questions. Politico reported at the time that Biden's 2020 presidential campaign "would not rule out the possibility that the former VP had some kind of informal interaction with [the executive], which wouldn't appear on Biden's official schedule."

Nonetheless, shortly after the story was published, Andy Stone, Facebook's policy communications director, boasted the social media giant was "reducing its distribution on our platform." He added the report would be scrutinized by third-party fact checkers "to reduce the spread of misinformation." 

Stone previously worked for former Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Twitter quickly followed Facebook's lead, blocking users from posting or reading the story. The company even locked the Post's primary Twitter account, apparently because of "the lack of authoritative reporting on the origins of the materials included in the article."

Prominent mainstream media outlets, including the Times, either ignored the Hunter Biden story or cast doubt on its authenticity.

Five days after the Post's story was published, 51 former intelligence officials, including former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, signed a public letter dismissing the report as Russian disinformation. The laptop "has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation," they wrote. 

The intelligence professionals did not provide evidence to support their claims, saying only the emails on the laptop were "suspicious."

The laptop is now in FBI custody and has been reviewed by Just the News and deemed authentic. Only a small handful of media outlets, including Just the News, have consistently reported on the laptop's contents since 2020.

Much of the media has slowly acknowledged the laptop is genuine and not Russian disinformation. Last year, a Politico reporter said its materials were real, and last week the New York Times said it "authenticated" emails from the laptop.

"Who made the decision to shut [the story] down?" asked Issa. "Who [did] that person talk to? What was in their texts and the like? Because there obviously was — and I hate the use of this word, since it was false when it was first used — but collusion at the highest levels" between Big Tech, the media, and former government officials.

Critics allege the initial New York Post story was suppressed because it appeared on the eve of the presidential election and would have made Joe Biden look bad.

When asked on Tuesday who will be sent evidence-preservation letters, Issa specifically mentioned Twitter, Facebook, the New York Times, and all 51 names on the intelligence letter, indicating there might be more.

Issa framed this issue as one of free speech, arguing the Hunter Biden laptop story is an example of the First Amendment being under assault.

"The First Amendment is the one that protects our democracy," he said. "Right now, there is an attack on free speech. Everything else will be washed away in the annals of history if we cannot have ... diversity of opinion that used to be common on college campuses and certainly used to be on the pages of the major newspapers, both left and right."

Issa noted the ultimate purpose of a potential investigation would be to pass legislation to protect free speech and hold Big Tech accountable for undermining the First Amendment.

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