FBI whistleblowers claim that agents opened a sham investigation into Hunter Biden to brand reliable and verifiable derogatory evidence as “disinformation,” according to an explosive news release issued yesterday by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
If true, beyond exposing the FBI’s role in running cover for the Biden family, the whistleblowers’ claims prove significant for a second reason: By failing to thoroughly vet the evidence in its possession related to Hunter Biden — which included the hard drive for the MacBook Hunter had abandoned at a repair shop — the intelligence community ignored a momentous national security threat, namely that the Russians potentially possessed a second Hunter Biden laptop.
Late Monday, Grassley issued a news release citing “multiple FBI whistleblowers, including those in senior positions,” who raised “the alarm about tampering by senior FBI and Justice Department officials in politically sensitive investigations,” including “investigative activity involving derogatory information on Hunter Biden’s financial and foreign business activities.” According to the Iowa Republican, the whistleblowers alleged that Washington Field Office Assistant Special Agent in Charge Timothy “Thibault and other FBI officials sought to falsely portray as disinformation evidence acquired from multiple sources that provided the FBI derogatory information related to Hunter Biden’s financial and foreign business activities, even though some of that information had already been or could be verified.”
The news release added that “in August of 2020, FBI supervisory intelligence analyst Brian Auten opened an assessment, which was used by a team of agents at FBI headquarters to improperly discredit and falsely claim that derogatory information about Biden’s activities was disinformation, causing investigative activity and sourcing to be shut down.” “The FBI headquarters team allegedly placed their assessment findings in a restricted access subfolder, effectively flagging sources and derogatory evidence related to Hunter Biden as disinformation while shielding the justification for such findings from scrutiny,” according to Grassley.
The Iowa senator claimed that “Thibault also reportedly ordered the closure of a stream of information related to Hunter Biden and sought to improperly mark the matter within FBI systems in a way that would prevent it from being re-opened in the future.” “The FBI headquarters team allegedly claimed that reporting from the stream was at risk of disinformation,” but the whistleblowers told Grassley, “that all of the information obtained through that stream was already verified or verifiable.”
The FBI whistleblowers’ charges, if accurate, are devastating and mean that at a time that Hunter Biden was already reportedly under investigation by the Delaware U.S. Attorney’s Office, rather than work with the agents already investigating then-candidate Joe Biden’s son, FBI headquarters initiated its own “assessment.” Then, according to the whistleblowers, agents improperly shut down sources, falsely framed evidence as disinformation, and hid the reasoning for that determination from other FBI agents behind restricted areas.
The press release also suggests that the FBI’s “assessment” served to frame the investigation Grassley and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., were conducting into Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealing as tainted by Russian disinformation. As part of that investigation, in May 2020, “Senate Republicans issued a subpoena seeking documents from the younger Biden and asked for information related to more than two dozen entities, including Burisma,” which was the Ukrainian energy company that paid Hunter nearly $1 million a year to sit on its board.
With the Trump-Biden presidential contest in full force, Grassley and Johnson’s investigation into Hunter prompted pushback from Democrats, with Democrat members of the Gang of Eight sending a letter and classified addendum in July 2020 to FBI Director Christopher Wray “specifically citing the Johnson-Grassley probe into Hunter Biden as reason for an urgent briefing for Congress about foreign ‘disinformation.’”
The following month, Democrat Sens. Gary Peters of Michigan and Ron Wyden of Oregon wrote Grassley and Johnson and requested that members of the Senate Homeland Security and Finance committees, which they chaired, “receive a briefing from the FBI’s foreign influence task force related to their ongoing Biden investigations.”
According to an August 5, 2020, Washington Post article, “the Democrats have requested the member briefing for months, and the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies have previously briefed committee staff on possible foreign disinformation.” The FBI later briefed both Grassley and Johnson on August 6, 2020, but according to the senators, that briefing was both “unsolicited and unnecessary” and failed to provide any new information to the senators or any specific allegations that they had received “disinformation” as part of their Hunter Biden investigation.
Given that FBI supervisory intelligence analyst Brian Auten, according to whistleblowers, opened his assessment into Hunter in August, the whistleblowers’ allegations raise serious questions concerning whether Democrats pressured the FBI into launching an investigation into Hunter as a pretext to provide the desired “disinformation briefing.”
Further, in April of 2021, someone leaked the fact that the FBI had briefed Grassley and Johnson on August 6, 2020, with the Washington Post running a story painting the senators as reckless in their investigation into Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings by suggesting they “ignored FBI warnings and thus may have been manipulated by the Kremlin.” As the Wall Street Journal reported at the time, it seems possible that “the FBI set up two Members of Congress for political attack under the guise of a ‘defensive briefing.’”
The whistleblowers’ accusations then, when coupled with the media coverage, suggest that an agent from FBI headquarters opened an assessment to provide cover to Hunter Biden, to eliminate source trails for the investigation into then-candidate Joe Biden’s son, and to taint the legitimate inquiry into Hunter Biden’s business dealings. That scandal, however, represents but half the issue because the whistleblowers’ statements, if true, suggest the assessment of Hunter was a sham. And as a sham, the agents would not vet the evidence available to them, which would have included the MacBook laptop Hunter had abandoned at a repair shop in Delaware.
The FBI seized that laptop in December of 2019, after being alerted to its existence in October. At that time, FBI agents were reportedly told that in addition to pornography, the computer had information “dealing with foreign interests, a pay-for-play scheme linked to the former administration, [and] lots of foreign money.”
What the FBI did after seizing the laptop in December of 2019 is unknown. However, given that the FBI was reportedly told it contained “a pay-for-play scheme linked to the former administration, [and] lots of foreign money,” any legitimate investigation would have involved reviewing the laptop for information relevant to Grassley and Johnson’s investigations. And had the FBI reviewed the laptop, agents would have discovered a video recording capturing Hunter Biden saying that in 2018, another laptop went missing when he was “partying in Las Vegas,” and that Hunter believed it was stolen by a group of Russians.
The video then showed a prostitute asking Hunter if he worried the Russian thieves would try to “blackmail” him. “Yeah, in some way, yeah,” Hunter replied, noting his father is “running for president,” and that “I talk about it all the time.” Hunter had also noted that the computer had “tons” of compromising videos on it.
But it was not just the compromising videos of Hunter of concern, but the financial information likely on that laptop that could implicate his father in the pay-to-play scandal. If that information were in the hands of “the Russians,” as Hunter believed, the national security risk was huge and demanded the intelligence community conduct a defensive briefing of Joe Biden.
Instead, it appears from the whistleblowers’ comments that a non-investigation took place, with legitimate sources and evidence falsely categorized as disinformation, and then rather than provide Biden a defensive briefing, the senators received one.
This scandal is no longer just about the Biden family; it is about every member of the law enforcement and intelligence communities who put our country at risk by failing to do their jobs.
Margot Cleveland is The Federalist’s senior legal correspondent. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and Townhall.com, and has been published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
Cleveland is a lawyer and a graduate of the Notre Dame Law School, where she earned the Hoynes Prize—the law school’s highest honor. She later served for nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk for a federal appellate judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Cleveland is a former full-time university faculty member and now teaches as an adjunct from time to time.
As a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of a young son with cystic fibrosis, Cleveland frequently writes on cultural issues related to parenting and special-needs children. Cleveland is on Twitter at @ProfMJCleveland. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.