Essay Glenn Greenwald

There’s Still No Evidence Hunter Biden’s Emails Are ‘Russian Disinformation’

The same factions that constantly claim to abhor Fake News and disinformation continue to be the most aggressive and shameless propagators of it -- especially the media.
Hunter Biden, left, walking with father, president-elect Joe Biden, and Dr. Jill Biden. [Wikimedia Commons]

By Glenn Greenwald / Substack

Congressman Adam Schiff, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and, not coincidentally, the single most shameless pathological liar in the U.S. Congress by a good margin, appeared on CNN with Wolf Blitzer on October 16 to discuss The New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s emails. The CNN host asked him a rhetorical question embedded with baseless assumptions: “does it surprise you at all that this information Rudy Giuliani is peddling very well could be connected to some sort of Russian government disinformation campaign?”

Schiff stated definitively that it is: “we know that this whole smear on Joe Biden comes from the Kremlin,” adding: “clearly, the origins of this whole smear are from the Kremlin, and the President is only too happy to have Kremlin help in amplifying it.” Referencing Trump’s promotion of The New York Post reporting while at his White House desk, Schiff said: “there it is in the Oval Office: another wonderful propaganda coup for Vladimir Putin, seeing the President of the United States holding up a newspaper promoting Kremlin propaganda.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-WA), Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Oct. 16, 2020

Schiff, as he usually does when he moves his mouth, was lying: exploiting CNN’s notorious willingness to allow Democratic officials to spread disinformation over its airwaves without the slightest challenge. Schiff claimed certainty about something for which there was and still is no evidence: that the Russians played a role in the procurement and publication of the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop.

As he also usually does when he publicly lies, Schiff was merely echoing the propaganda of current and former operatives of the CIA and other arms of the intelligence community who abuse their power to interfere in U.S. domestic politics: the very factions over which the Intelligence Committee run by Schiff is supposed to exercise oversight supervision, not serve as their parrot. During the same week as Schiff’s CNN appearance, as Politico reported“more than 50 former senior intelligence officials signed on to a letter outlining their belief that the recent disclosure of emails allegedly belonging to Joe Biden’s son ‘has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.’”

In that letter from intelligence operatives about The New York Post story — signed by Obama’s former CIA chief John Brennan now of MSNBC (repeatedly caught lying), Obama’s former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper now of CNN (who got caught lying to the Senate about NSA domestic spying), Bush’s former NSA and CIA chief Micheal Hayden now of CNN (who served during 9/11 and the Iraq War), and dozens of other similar professional disinformation agents — the intelligence operatives announced “our view that the Russians are involved in the Hunter Biden email issue,” adding “that our experience makes us deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case.”

With these ex-CIA officials and their servant Adam Schiff disseminating this narrative into U.S. public, both the Biden campaign and their captive media outlets began asserting this rank speculation as truth. They did so despite the fact that even the intelligence officials were cautious enough to acknowledge: “We want to emphasize that … we do not have evidence of Russian involvement” — a rather crucial factthat numerous outlets omitted when laundering this CIA propaganda and which the Biden campaign and Adam Schiff completely ignored when treating the claims as proven truth.

Letter from 50 former intelligence officials about The New York Post reporting on Hunter Biden’s laptop, Oct. 19, 2020

The Biden campaign immediately embraced this evidence-free claim about Russia from Schiff and the intelligence community to justify its refusal to answer questions about the revelations from this reporting. “I think we need to be very, very clear that what he’s doing here is amplifying Russian misinformation,” said Biden Deputy Campaign Manager Kate Bedingfield when asked about the possibility that Trump would cite the Hunter emails at the last presidential debate. Biden’s senior advisor Symone Sanders similarly warned on MSNBC: “if the president decides to amplify these latest smears against the vice president and his only living son, that is Russian disinformation.”

Far worse were the numerous media outlets that spread this evidence-free claim of Kremlin involvement in lieu of reporting on the contents of the emails. Just watch how CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell purported to “report” on this story — an emphasis on the Russian origins of the materials, featuring a former “FBI operative” who admitted he had no evidence for the speculation CBS nonetheless aired, all with no mention of the serious questions raised by the revelations themselves:

As I noted when I announced my resignation from The Intercept, a major reason I harbored so much cynicism and scorn for their claim that my story on the Hunter Biden emails had failed to meet their high-minded, rigorous editorial and fact-checking scrutiny was because that same publication was just was one of the many anti-Trump news outlets which, in the name of manipulating the outcome of the election on behalf of the Democratic Party, had mindlessly laundered the CIA/Schiff narrative without the slightest adversarial skepticism or, worse, without a whiff of evidence.

Just one week before they refused to publish my own article, they published this remarkable disinformation, featuring an utterly reckless paragraph that was nothing more than stenographic servitude to the intelligence community and Adam Schiff. Just marvel at what was approved by the fastidious editorial and fact-checking machinery of that “adversarial” publication concerning claims by ex-CIA operatives:

Their latest falsehood once again involves Biden, Ukraine, and a laptop mysteriously discovered in a computer repair shop and passed to the New York Post, thanks to Trump crony Rudy Giuliani. The New York Post story was so rancid that at least one reporter refused to put his byline on it. The U.S. intelligence community had previously warned the White House that Giuliani has been the target of a Russian intelligence operation to disseminate disinformation about Biden, and the FBI has been investigating whether the strange story about the Biden laptop is part of a Russian disinformation campaign. This week, a group of former intelligence officials issued a letter saying that the Giuliani laptop story has the classic trademarks of Russian disinformation.

Numerous other media outlets disseminated the same CIA propaganda — including The Economist (“Marc Polymeropoulos, the CIA’s former acting chief of operations for the Europe and Eurasia Mission Centre…notes that ‘the use of actual material is a hallmark of Russian disinformation campaigns’”) and (needless to say) MSNBC’s Joy Reid program (“Hunter Biden story an ‘obvious Russian plot’ McFaul believes”).

Now that this disinformation campaign has done its job — allowing Biden to get past the election without having to answer any real questions about those emails and his family’s work in Ukraine and China — the truth has emerged that there is not, and never was, any evidence for the disinformation that these materials came from the Kremlin. Some media outlets, though not all, have at least had the integrity to admit this, now that it no longer matters.

“Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said Monday that recently published emails purporting to document the business dealings of Hunter Biden are not connected to a Russian disinformation effort,” USA Today acknowledged. “Hunter Biden’s laptop is not part of some Russian disinformation campaign,” Ratcliffe added.

On October 20, the FBI sent a letter to Sen. Ron Johnson — in response to his request for any information showing Kremlin involvement in the New York Post story — in which they, too, made clear they were not aware of any such evidence:

The FBI is the primary investigative agency responsible for the integrity and security of the 2020 election, and as such, we are focused on an array of threats, including the threat of malign foreign influence operations. Regarding the subject of your letter, we have nothing to add at this time to the October 19th public statement by the Director of National Intelligence about the available actionable intelligence. If actionable intelligence is developed, the FBI in consultation with the Intelligence Community will evaluate the need to provide defensive briefings to you and the Committee pursuant to the established notification framework.

Numerous outlets which had originally noted suspicions of Kremlin involvement and and an FBI investigation to determine possible Russian responsibility ultimately updated their stories or published new articles noting the FBI’s admission (though The Intercept never did: its story about Kremlin involvement stands).

In The Washington Post, Thomas Rid wrote this Hall of Fame sentence: “We must treat the Hunter Biden leaks as if they were a foreign intelligence operation — even if they probably aren’t.” As The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat summarized: “At this point we can posit with some certainty that The Post’s story was not some sort of sweeping Russian disinformation plot but a more normal example of late-dropping opposition research, filtered through a partisan lens and a tabloid sensibility, weaving genuine facts into contestable conclusions.”

The pronouncements of DNI Ratcliffe and the FBI should no more be treated as gospel than the accusations of Kremlin involvement by Adam Schiff, John Brennan and their CIA friends. But that is exactly what the bulk of the U.S. media did with the obvious goal of shielding Joe Biden from questions about the revelations in the emails of his son: they deceived Americans into believing that the whole story was a Kremlin “disinformation” plot and therefore should be ignored.

Whatever else is true about this whole sordid affair, no evidence has emerged — none — that the Russians have played any role in any of this. It is of course possible that one day such evidence may be found of involvement by the Russians — or the Chinese, or the Iranians, or the Venezuelans, or the Saudis, or any other state or non-state actor your imagination might conjure. One cannot prove the negative that this did not happen.

But journalism, in its minimally healthy form, requires evidence before spreading inflammatory accusations about a nuclear-armed power and, even more so, speculation designed to discredit evidence of possible misconduct by the front-running candidate for the U.S. presidency. But here we have yet another case where purported news outlets — knowing that there is no price to pay professionally or reputationally for publishing evidence-free intelligence agency propaganda as long as it benefits the Party and advances the ideology which they all embrace — casually spread disinformation without the slightest evidentiary basis.

Yet again we find that the most prolific propagators of Fake News and disinformation are not the enemies of the mainstream U.S. media. It is the mainstream U.S. media itself that deceives, propagandizes and spreads disinformation on behalf of the coalition of the intelligence community and the Democratic Party far more than any other faction or entity.

Where is the evidence that Russia was involved in this New York Post story? And how can media outlets who endorsed and spread this and now refuse any self-critique expect anything but distrust and scorn from the public when they do this?


  1. I respect fully Glenn Greenwald’s unbiased investigation of this sordid episode, one of many egregious acts by the
    Democratic establishment to get its way by hook or crook.
    I wonder if the citizens of this country will ever be able to
    move beyond this Duopoly ruling us. Time is running out,
    don’t you think? Our one person-one vote is a cruel joke.
    Thank you, Mr. Greenwald, and keep it up!

  2. Chris Hedges suing Obama didn’t turn out. We all know the Bushes, Clinton’s and Obama have committed war crimes and will never be prosecuted. Obama had a chance to change everything and was too stupid or scared to do so.
    As for MSM’s propaganda on Russia, at least we still have great, honest reporters like Greenwald who use facts and can backup their reports.
    But they are in jeopardy and shut down when possible. My TV carrier dropped rt, a good source of news. If we lose all these alternative sources, we’re sunk.

    1. The head of the FEC said the election was illegitimate?

      So maybe you should ask yourself who appointed him to that position… and why?

  3. but there is vast evidence that covid facism, masks and social distancing correlates with the most covid fatalities—the idiot nations that imposed these stupidities record the most deaths per capita—Czech Republic, Spain, Belgium, USA, France, Italy, Peru
    freedom loving socialist states the fewest…..Belarus, Russia, Nicaragua, Uruguay, China, Vietnam, etc

  4. it was the fascist liberals—reinvented Joe McCarthy lovers—including truth dig that promoted Russophobic racism and promoted impeachment of trump….what has changed in amerika, except a more narcissistic, passive nihilistic population? little has changed since Hofstadter’s “the Paranoid Style in amerikan Politics” where he demonstrated that the Spanish amerikan war had zero to do w the US govt–it derived from “the blood thirstiness of the amerikan people”. where amerikans murdered 1 million Filipinos

  5. As I understand it, the New York Post, a newspaper owned by Trump supporter Rupert Murdoch, published a story based on the alleged email content of Joe Biden’s son Hunter’s laptop. The source of this story was Rudy Guiliani, Trump’s attorney, who supposedly turned over the hard drive to the NYP.

    There are questions regarding the appropriateness of how Guiliani obtained the laptop and whether the laptop belonged to Hunter Biden but those issues need to be put aside. Whether they are true or not makes no difference to the main question of whether Russian disinformation is at play.

    What is germane is the content of the emails. As far as I can tell, there are a lot of emails of conduct by Hunter that have nothing to do with Joe, except some exchanges that seem to indicate that Joe was introduced to a top executive at a Ukrainian energy firm. Even though the story did not include any evidence that the meeting took place, and Joe’s representatives deny it, the story alleges that Joe eventually used his position as VP to pressure the Ukrainian President into firing the investigator who was supposedly going to look into dealings of an energy firm that Hunter was a board member. The pressure was the withholding of American aid. (Coincidentally, this is exactly what Trump was accused of doing!)

    So what if all this is true? It would mean that Joe is just as corrupt as Trump. Sounds like a “dog bites man” story. What impact would such truth have on the election? Would more people turn out to vote for Trump? Unlikely, as he got more votes this time than last. Would less people vote for Biden because he’s corrupt? Unlikely, as most people who voted for Biden did so, not because they supported Biden, but because they hated Trump.

    Where does Russian disinformation fit into this? Since this was instigated by Trump supporters and since the liberal media are still stinging from failure to prove that there was any Russian interference in 2016, a reporter raised the question of whether this “October surprise” might be the work of the Russians. Once this genie was let out of the bottle, the press went nuts. Naturally, they interviewed all the top intelligence people who said, without any evidence, that this could be a Russian disinformation operation. These were the same people who have been caught lying to the American public in the past. Nothing these people say should ever be printed but the liberal media printed it as gospel. (And shame on the Intercept and James Risen for repeating the claims.)

    Greenwald’s criticism of the press’s reliance on these liars is valid. Unfortunately, it is a tempest in a tea pot. The real storm is the emails on laptop and what they contain. Even if the most detrimental spin is believed, it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in terms of the election outcome. The overwhelming number of people who voted for Biden did so, not because they supported Biden, but because they opposed Trump.

  6. More important than whether there’s Russian disinformation or not are:
    Why is this influence peddling bad, and Trump’s endemic theft from the government acceptable?
    Did Old Joe benefit in any way from Hunter’s actions while involved with Burma? If so how?
    What is the actual importance of this in the greater scheme of things?
    The only way to turn around the harm done to the nation from a couple of decades of Republican control (aided by complicitDems and the corporate media) is if we act. How does making a big thing out of the Hunter Biden affair and/or defending Russia from false claims help?

  7. In times when all of the Republican elected Congress members line up behind the biggest liar president in US history and his attempted coup-by-lies to reverse the results of his ouster from the presidency, only a particularly morally obtuse and corrupt celebrity blogger and journalist wannabe like Greenwald could regurgitate a nonsensical lie like the following: “Congressman Adam Schiff, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and, not coincidentally, the single most shameless pathological liar in the U.S. Congress by a good margin”.

    Doing it while peddling another Republican lie – that a supposed email implicates the president-elect in a Trump-ed up conspiracy – brought to bear at the pre-election convenient timing, in a certified right-wing propaganda outlet, by none other than the liar-president Trump’s personal lawyer whose integrity is as tarnished as his boss’s, a conspiracy theory which is, by far, much less credible than the one claiming possible Russian interference, backed by 50 experts in the field, is a gall which has become Greenwald’s and his demagogic and propaganda-buff comrades on the radicalized left and right specialty – cover up their lies with ever bigger, outrageous and outlandish lies.

    On an unrelated personal note: Scheer’s new propaganda gig here is, by far, far more natural environment for GG’s type of demagogic, highly-opinionated blogging. Congrats to you both, and for giving The Intercept the opportunity to become a more serious, truth-oriented publication.

    1. “Republican Officials Have Got to Start Telling Their Voters the Truth About the Election

      …Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, said in a speech, from the Senate floor, which referred to “allegations of irregularities.” Senator Rick Scott, of Florida, said, “I think we ought to finish going through the process . . . There’ll be plenty of time.” It’s as if they expect the public to join them in pretending that it is quite normal for elected officials not to accept state returns as real until the Electoral College has actually met. Mike DeWine, the Republican governor of Ohio, had acknowledged, in a CNN interview on Thursday, that Biden should be considered the President-elect, but he went on to defend Trump’s efforts to contest the election, saying, on Sunday, again on CNN, that no one should “begrudge” the President that, raising the question of whether the process they all were talking about was a constitutional or a psychological one. We are at a strange point when soothing a President’s ego is seen as an acceptable reason to sow doubts about our democracy.

      Other Republicans are directly charging fraud. Lindsey Graham has been railing about how the election looks crooked to him and that the President must keep fighting. Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who are both headed for runoff elections in Georgia, said in a joint statement that their secretary of state had “failed to deliver honest and transparent elections.” Senator Rand Paul suggested that a lot of dead people had voted. Ted Cruz has suggested that the election was run in a manner that was not only rife with fraud but unconstitutional—there is no evidence for this—and that the question of who won would end up before the Supreme Court. According to Bloomberg News, when Senator John Kennedy, of Louisiana, was asked whether he really thought that Trump could overturn the results, he said, “That’s why God made judges.” In Trump’s mind, that’s why the Senate confirms his judges.”

    2. 50 experts? LOL…you mean liars like Brennan
      “Obama’s job is to lie to a nation of liars”. Kiese Laymon
      “the amerikans most admire tell them the most extravagant lies; the men they most despise try to tell them the truth”. HL Menkhen

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