It was just before closing time on a drizzly Friday evening, April 12, 2019, when a disheveled man smelling of booze and cigarettes entered John Paul Mac Isaac’s computer repair shop in Wilmington, Delaware. He had three liquid-damaged laptop computers he wanted fixed.
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Mac Isaac, a vision-impaired albino man, owned The Mac Shop in the strip mall near Janssen’s grocery store. He was a whiz at diagnosing computer problems, and all his Google reviews were five-star. He had no idea what was about to hit him.
One of the laptops his taciturn customer presented was beyond repair. Another had a fried keyboard, so he rummaged around under his counter and found a spare.
The last laptop was salvageable but needed attention. He made out a work order, number 7469, and asked the man his name.
“First name?” he asked.
“Hunter,” said the man, irritation in his voice.
Hunter Biden signed the work order with his trademark loopy scrawl and provided a phone number and email address. His signature later would be confirmed as a match with his signatures on other documents.
That night Mac Isaac, forty-four, began the process of recovering the contents of the waterlogged laptop. He called Hunter the next day and asked him to bring in an external hard drive.
Hunter brought the hard drive, and Isaac told him he would extract the contents of his laptop and call him when it was ready.
But Hunter never set foot in the store again.
Mac Isaac made a number of attempts to contact him to pick up his property and pay the $85 bill. No reply.
After ninety days, as per the work order signed by Hunter, the laptop and its contents were deemed “abandoned” and became Mac Isaac’s legal property.
In August, Mac Isaac, a Republican voter, heard news reports about a leaked phone call in which President Donald Trump had asked Ukraine’s president to investigate Hunter and Joe Biden’s involvement with the energy company Burisma. This was the call that sparked Trump’s impeachment.
The name “Burisma” rang a bell with Mac Isaac, who had spent hours extracting the contents of the laptop. The hardware was so damaged it needed constant rebooting, and as a result he’d kept a close eye on the data stream.
He did a word search for “Burisma.” Bingo. He began to read the emails and documents that popped up.
He sought advice from his father, Steve Mac Isaac, a retired US Air Force colonel. They decided his dad should take a copy of the hard drive to an FBI field office in Albuquerque, New Mexico. But he was turned away without handing over the material.
In mid-October, the FBI phoned Colonel Mac Isaac to ask about Hunter’s laptop, and then an agent visited his son in Delaware, to discuss the concerns he had.
On December 9, 2019, Delaware FBI agents Joshua Williams and Mike Dzielak arrived at The Mac Shop with a subpoena and took away the laptop and hard drive. Mac Isaac kept a copy of the material to protect himself.
In January 2020, the impeachment trial against Trump began in the Senate, while a new virus from China quietly bubbled though the country.
The more Mac Isaac watched the trial, the more he believed the Burisma material on the laptop was relevant. He wondered why the FBI was sitting on it. In February he started trying to contact Republican members of Congress, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Jim Jordan, but no one responded.
In August, he saw Rudy Giuliani on TV speaking about Burisma, so as a last resort, he reached out via an email address he found online.
This is the email Mac Isaac wrote, with the subject line “Hunter Biden, on August 27, 2020: “I own and operate The Mac Shop in Wilmington Delaware. Hunter came into my shop on April 12th 2019 and commissioned me to recover data from his MacBook pro.
“I recovered the contents of his Mac to my store server and he dropped off an external drive to transfer everything back.
“He never stepped foot in the shop again.
“After repeated attempt to collect payment and to return his property I waited until the 90 day abandonment time period expired and started to go thru the drive and see what was on it….
“As I read deeper into the drive I started to realize what I was sitting on and who was involved and at what level. I figured the safest thing to do was to reach out to the FBI and have them collect the drive and the mac so I could wash my hands of it and they might be able to offer me some level of protection should someone come looking for it and come after me because I knew what was on it.
“The FBI did show up and…over the next few days they contacted me for help in accessing the drive and cable related questions because their tech guy didn’t know macs.
“That kinda threw up a flag….
“They also said that nothing ever happens to people that don’t talk about this stuff.
“So that got me a little concerned…. There is some very incriminating videos on the drive….
“I live and work in Wilmington, Delaware, and my life here, as well as my business, would be destroyed if people found out what I was involved in.
“I have been trying to keep things quiet…but I feel time has been running out.”
Giuliani’s attorney, Bob Costello, who used to vet the large volume of messages that flooded the former mayor’s inbox, found Mac Isaac’s email intriguing.
A blunt character with a mind like a steel trap, Costello was Giuliani’s first student assistant in the Southern District of New York in the summer of 1971 and became deputy chief of the Criminal Division.
He could spot authenticity a mile off.
Within two days, he had the hard drive Fedexed to his home in Long Island and, with the assistance of his tech-savvy son Bobby, started accessing the data.
(In this book, the words “laptop” and “hard drive” are used interchangeably. A hard drive is a data storage device inside a laptop computer that stores all its digital content. Hard drives also are portable external devices that can be plugged into a computer for use as extra storage or to back up the contents. Mac Isaac made an exact replica of the contents of Hunter’s damaged laptop and transferred it onto an external hard drive about the size of a cigarette packet. This was a full image backup of Hunter’s laptop—the operating system, boot information, apps, hidden files, preferences, settings, photos, videos, music, emails, calendar, desktop, and so on. In other words, when that hard drive is plugged into another laptop, it is exactly the same as if you are looking at Hunter’s laptop. It is like a brain transplant.)
For more than three weeks, Costello performed a forensic deep dive of the hard drive and began the process of verifying the material. He and Giuliani used their law enforcement knowledge to identify multiple alleged crimes in the data they uncovered.
In late September, they consulted Steve Bannon, Trump’s 2016 campaign strategist, whose knowledge of CCP power dynamics helped identify Hunter’s China connections.
It was Yom Kippur, September 25, 2020, the Day of Atonement. According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into a book.
Emma-Jo Morris, the New York Post’s twenty-seven-year-old deputy political editor, was at home fasting, in observation of her Jewish faith, when a text came through from an old friend, Vish Burra, producer of Bannon’s influential War Room podcast.
“Bannon is going to call you. You have to pick up the phone.”
A shambolic naval officer turned investment banker, Bannon, sixty-six, was the intellectual leader of the populist nationalist movement that had propelled Trump to victory in 2016. He always turned up at the center of intrigues.
“I have a story that’s going to change your life forever,” Bannon told her when he called a few minutes later. “I have Hunter Biden’s computer.”
It was five weeks to the presidential election, in the middle of the pandemic that had upended Trump’s cruise to victory.
The first presidential debate was in two nights. Bannon pressed Morris, a former Hannity producer, to promise the front page for debate day.
“You need to chill,” she laughed. “There are many more steps we have to take before we would even think about going to print.”
Over the course of the next few days, it became evident that Bannon did not have the laptop.
Morris told her editor she smelled a rat. Why would the son of a presidential candidate abandon a laptop with incriminating material on it?
“If you guys are fucking with me I’m going to kill you,” she told Burra.
“Look, it’s simple,” he said. “You grew up in a nice neighborhood. I grew up in Queens with crackheads. This is a crackhead move. He left his laptop and we have it. Just go look at it.”
The only person with the hard drive at that stage was Costello, and he was keeping it tight. On September 30, Morris took a one-hour Uber ride to Long Island, where he showed her the incriminating emails and documents he had identified in a month of forensic digging. He allowed her to download some of the most significant material onto a thumb drive.
The Post began the painstaking work of independently verifying the material and checking dates of messages with Hunter and Joe Biden’s schedules.
There was no doubt it was a bombshell, but the decision about publishing such a strange and explosive story, days before the election, now headed toward the lawyers.
Costello and Giuliani were impatient. The second presidential debate was slated for October 15, and they wanted the story to run beforehand.
Then Trump contracted COVID and was admitted to hospital. Time was running out. They resolved to give the story to another media outlet.
But before they did, Giuliani told Costello: “Call Miranda.”
That was how I came to receive Costello’s text messages late Friday night, October 9.
After several revelatory conversations the next day with Costello and Giuliani about the evidence they had of Biden family corruption, I texted three images to the Post’s senior editorial advisor, Col Allan, the former editor in chief who had brought me to the paper the previous year.
“Huge. Hard drive. 20k emails and pix.”
“Call you shortly,” he replied.
The lion-hearted, Australian-born Allan, Rupert Murdoch’s longest-serving editor, knew a good story when he saw one.
The next day the Post was all in. Reporters were hitting the phones and knocking on doors. A photographer headed to The Mac Shop in Delaware for pictures of the FBI subpoena and Hunter’s signature on the work order.
The editors insisted the Post must have the entire hard drive before publication. Morris issued an ultimatum to Giuliani: “You wanna give selective bits to the Daily Mail or Breitbart and get a sloppy job done, be my guest, but we’re not doing this unless it’s done right.”
That afternoon, she was sitting in Giuliani’s Upper East Side apartment waiting for a copy of the hard drive. A young woman ushered her into the study, where Giuliani offered her a whiskey. Bannon walked in a few minutes later. “Welcome to the seventh circle of hell,” he said as he sat down.
On Wednesday, October 14, the New York Post published the first of a series of exclusive stories from the laptop—a 2015 email from Burisma executive Vadym Pozharskyi thanking Hunter for introducing him to the vice president. The email put the lie to Joe’s claim he did not know about his son’s overseas business dealings.
“BIDEN SECRET E-MAILS. Revealed: Ukrainian exec thanked Hunter Biden for ‘opportunity to meet’ veep dad,” read the front page.
The online exclusive was posted at 5:00 a.m. and was trending all morning on social media platforms.
Six hours later, Facebook pulled the plug. Communications manager Andy Stone, a former Democratic Party operative, issued a statement via Twitter at 11:10 a.m.: “While I will intentionally not link to the New York Post, I want be [sic] clear that this story is eligible to be fact checked by Facebook’s third-party fact checking partners. In the meantime, we are reducing its distribution on our platform.”
Twitter followed suit, preventing the story being shared on its platform, on the pretext that it violated rules against “distribution of hacked material.” The Post’s Twitter account remained locked for two weeks, until election eve.
This was unprecedented, coordinated censorship by two of the largest multinational companies in the world.
After the election, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted the censorship was a “mistake” and acknowledged the laptop was not “hacked material.” Facebook never even bothered to reveal the results of its supposed fact-check.
But the social media suppression had done its job. It had a chilling effect on other media outlets, which dismissed the evidence as “debunked” or “hacked” or just ignored it.
At his morning news meeting on the day the Post story broke, CNN boss Jeff Zucker and political director David Chalian instructed staff to disparage it, according to a leaked recording released by undercover news outlet Project Veritas.
“Obviously, we’re not going with the New York Post story right now on Hunter Biden,” said Chalian. “We’ll just continue to report out this is the very stuff that the president was impeached over…that Senate committees looked at and found nothing wrong in Joe Biden’s interactions with Ukrainians.”
At a news meeting two days later Zucker dismissed the story as “the Breitbart, New York Post, Fox News rabbit hole of Hunter Biden.”
The killer blow came five days after the Post’s exposé, from fifty former senior intelligence officials led by the former Obama administration’s CIA director, John Brennan, and director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.
Using the institutional weight of their powerful former roles, they signed an open letter—delivered to Politico by former Brennan aide Nick Shapiro—which claimed the material on the hard drive, “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation,” although not one of them had seen it.
“We want to emphasize that we do not know if the emails, provided to The New York Post by President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, are genuine or not and that we do not have evidence of Russian involvement,” the October 19 letter reads. But “there are a number of factors that make us suspicious of Russian involvement.
“Such an operation would be consistent with Russian objectives, as outlined publicly and recently by the Intelligence Community, to create political chaos in the United States and to deepen political divisions here but also to undermine the candidacy of former Vice President Biden and thereby help the candidacy of President Trump….
“A ‘laptop op’ fits the bill, as the publication of the emails are clearly designed to discredit Biden.”
Based as it was on zero evidence, the letter can only be seen as partisan political propaganda designed to disparage the Post’s reporting and dissuade the media from looking deeper into the laptop.
It was a curious intervention, considering that the intelligence agencies must have known all about Hunter’s international exploits, but their knowledge—and complicity—was a strong motive to suppress the Post story.
The Secret Service traveled everywhere with Hunter in the early days. He had the sort of access to the inner sanctums of power in China and Russia any spy would kill for.
Here was someone for whom life had no boundaries. No indulgence was too gross, no perversion was taboo, there was no risk he wouldn’t take, no rule he couldn’t break with impunity. He recorded every sordid, banal moment of his life as if he were afraid that he would not exist otherwise.
Yet Hunter always seemed to reach the edge without falling into the abyss, as if he had an invisible guardian angel watching over him, even after he declined Secret Service protection from mid-2014.
The drug-addled son of the vice president surely was monitored by US agencies, in ways that few people will ever fully know, if only to protect him from himself.
In any case, the Brennan letter was a lifeline to Joe Biden, coming as it did three days before his final debate on October 22, against a fired-up President Trump.
“If this stuff is true about Russia, Ukraine, China…then he’s a corrupt politician,” growled Trump. “Joe, they’re calling you a corrupt politician. Take a look at the laptop from hell.”
Joe relied entirely on the Brennan letter to deflect Trump’s attack.
“There are 50 former national intelligence folks who said that what he’s accusing me of is a Russian plan. They have said this is, has all the—four, five former heads of the CIA, both parties, say what he’s saying is a bunch of garbage. Nobody believes it except him and his good friend Rudy Giuliani.”
Trump retorted: “This is where he’s going. The laptop is ‘Russia, Russia, Russia’? You have to be kidding. Here we go again with Russia.”
“You know who he is,” Joe told the audience. “You know his character. You know my character. You know my reputation is for honor and telling the truth….
“The character of the country is on the ballot.”
In the hands of Biden campaign operatives, the Brennan letter was a lethal weapon against the Post’s reporting, enabling them to dismiss the damning material on the laptop as a Kremlin smear, while never addressing it directly.
They fanned out across the media until Election Day, whenever the laptop was mentioned, always hammering the same message.
Democrat House chairman, Adam Schiff, declared the Post’s stories were a smear “from the Kremlin.”
Brennan spoke to the favorite mouthpiece of anonymous CIA leakers, the Washington Post’s David Ignatius: “There are a lot of issues related to this New York Post story that reportedly referenced the Hunter Biden emails, and as I and several of my former colleagues have pointed out publicly, it does bear the hallmarks of Russian disinformation.”
Clapper told CNN the laptop was “textbook Soviet Russian tradecraft.”
The Brennan letter, in all the glory of its ersatz authority, was the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card for the Bidens at a time of peril.
Hunter was still leaning on it, months later, while promoting his book on a Daily Beast podcast.
Host Molly Jong-Fast asked him the sharpest questions of his book tour, quoting from incriminating emails on the laptop.
His defense was the Brennan letter: “I don’t spend a lot of time on it but there is an intelligence report from all of our intelligence agencies that has come to the conclusion that this was a Russian operation from the get-go.”
The letter gave the rest of the media an excuse not to treat the evidence on the laptop seriously.
“We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories,” declared National Public Radio managing editor Terence Samuel. “We don’t want to waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions.”
Meanwhile, Joe went to ground for three days after the Post’s bombshell. He emerged to fly to Detroit for a closed campaign event and, that evening, briefly stopped for media questions at the airport.
“Mr. Biden, what is your response to the New York Post’s story about your son, sir,” asked CBS reporter Bo Erickson.
“I know you’d ask it. I have no response. It’s another smear campaign. Right up your alley,” Biden snarled.
The Biden campaign did not deny the emails were genuine, but backgrounded reporters to say there was no meeting with any Burisma executive listed in Joe’s “official” VP diary.
In the days after the Post’s exposé, Google searches for “change my vote” spiked, since an unprecedented number of Americans had voted early due to the pandemic. But it is not possible to change a vote once it has been recorded.
We know from polls that, if the full story of the Biden family’s foreign influence-peddling scheme had been allowed to be told before the election, it likely would have changed votes.
Almost 50 percent of Biden voters polled after the election knew nothing about Hunter’s laptop, according to polling by the Media Research Center, and almost 10 percent said they would not have voted for Joe had they known.
The difference in the battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin might have swung the election.
With fewer than 45,000 votes in three states deciding the outcome, it’s not unreasonable to say that suppression of the Post’s Hunter Biden story amounted to election interference.
After he discovered what was on the laptop, Mac Isaac feared for his life, he confided in Bob Costello. He worried when he walked home at night that his poor vision made him more vulnerable to attack.
Wilmington was a Biden town, and he knew it was only a matter of time before people found out what he had done.
It took enormous courage to come forward with evidence of the corruption he had found, but it tore his life apart.
Violent threats forced him to close his thriving business and move to another state. He sued Twitter for defamation, claiming that its “specific intent” in locking down the Post’s account was to “communicate to its users…that [Mac Isaac] is a hacker and/or hacked the published materials.”
Hunter’s former psychiatrist Keith Ablow’s life also was thrown into turmoil when the Drug Enforcement Administration raided his Newburyport, Massachusetts, office in February 2020.
Ablow was never charged over the raid, but agents seized a second laptop belonging to Hunter that they found locked in a safe in the basement.
Hunter had left it behind the previous February, and just as he had done in Delaware, he ignored repeated messages to pick it up.
A third laptop belonging to Hunter went missing during a debauched two-week bender in Las Vegas, in August 2018, the year he frittered away as much of his Chinese earnings as he could.
He claimed the computer was stolen by Russian drug dealers and thought they might use it to blackmail him. At the time, he was staying in a $10,000-a-night penthouse suite at the Palms Casino Resort with a pool that jutted out over the edge of the building.
While partying with the Russians, he overdosed and almost drowned.
This, at least, is the story he told six months later to a different Russian, a prostitute, after a sex session filmed on another MacBook in a hotel room.
“I spent fucking crazy amounts of money [when] I went to Las Vegas,” he tells her.
“And so literally, after 18 days going round from penthouse suite to penthouse suite [at] four different hotels, and thousands of dollars, I didn’t even know [the Russian] had my credit card. He said we got half off. I was like, great. Then I found out it was $10,000 a night. I’m like, what?”
Hunter suggested that he had been drugged because, uncharacteristically, he had passed out, and ended up floating unconscious in the elevated glass pool, high above the lights of Vegas. The anecdote is just one example of the jeopardy in which Hunter placed himself, time and again.
“I went out to the hot tub by myself, which hangs over the edge of the fucking top floor, with glass, it’s ridiculous. I’m sitting there and that’s the last I remember. And I don’t ever pass out, ever.
“I wake up and the only people that are there are Miguel, the guy frantically running round gathering things up, ok…and Pierce, this guy, his friend….
“They had kicked everybody out and they had cleaned up the entire place, and they were getting ready to leave, and I woke up.
“And there was this Russian 35-year-old, really nice…brunette…. She refused to leave…. And they wouldn’t call an ambulance, and they didn’t know whether I was dead or not, at first. At first I wasn’t breathing. I was in the fucking pool face down. They dont know how long…
“Anyway, my computer…. It was fucking crazy shit. And somebody stole it during that period of time. He did all this kind of like pretend search and shit.
“I think he’s the one that stole my computer. I think the three of them…the dealer and his two guys. I took them everywhere. Fucking everywhere, crazy out of your mind shit. They have videos of me doing crazy fucking sex.”
The prostitute reassures him that, if the videos were going to be leaked, it would have happened already.
But Hunter says: “No, no, no, because my dad [is] running for president. He is, he is, he is. I talk about it all the time…. [The Russians] also know I make like a gazillion dollars.’”
She asks: “They’d try to blackmail you?”
Hunter: “Yeah in some way yeah.”
The photo on the cover of this book was taken on that trip to Vegas the previous summer. It was his second day at the Palm, August 3, 2018.
He drove there from Los Angeles in his Porsche the previous day. A photo of the dashboard shows he was speeding at 175 mph on the Las Vegas Freeway in Jean, Nevada, at 12:19 a.m.
By 2:00 p.m. he was ensconced at the Palms and had ordered an enormous room service feast with waffles, soup, and pizza into which he flopped his penis and photographed it.
The same day, he emailed his Wells Fargo wealth adviser and told him to transfer $96,000 to Uncle Jim.
Later that night he texted with a prostitute listed as “Cheryl Vegas” on his phone.
“Honestly babe the problem is you have too many girls there,” she writes. “Understand you like a lot of girls but that’s fine. Do one at a time—at the tops two, which is fine but just hire the second girl for like an hour…. Sorry I’m not trying to tell you what to do here. But I like you…and you’re right, people taking advantage.”
He replied: “I do want you to come over but with me it’s not an either/or for who stays and who goes. This is not some game of ‘Survivor.’”
Not long after he dropped off his laptop at Mac Isaac’s store, Hunter flew back to L.A. and booked into Petit Ermitage, a boutique hotel in West Hollywood. There he continued his debauched ways until he found himself on a blind date with beautiful South African filmmaker Melissa Cohen, thirty-two.
They fell instantly in love. She took him home, tossed out his drugs, confiscated his laptop, and “nursed me back to life,” he wrote in his memoir. Seven days later, they were married.
Later they moved to Malibu with their baby boy, Beau Jr., in a $20,000-a-month rental with an art studio where Hunter cooked up a new grift. He blew blobs of paint through a straw onto white canvases and put them up for sale to anonymous buyers in a New York art gallery for as much as $500,000.
Behind the scenes, federal authorities hadn’t been entirely inactive. The securities fraud unit in the Southern District of New York started scrutinizing Hunter’s finances in 2019, in the wake of Devon Archer’s legal shenanigans, Politico reported.
In Delaware and Washington, DC, investigators also were quietly looking into Hunter over allegations of money laundering and problematic financial ties to foreigners. Uncle Jim was under federal criminal investigation in the Western District of Pennsylvania.
Not that anyone is holding their breath.
When his father won the presidential election in November 2020, Hunter felt enormous relief.
“A Trump victory was not only a threat to democracy [but] it also seemed a threat to my personal freedom,” he wrote in his memoir. “If Dad hadn’t won, I’m certain Trump would have continued to pursue me.”
He was “100 percent certain” that the Department of Justice investigation into his finances would clear him of wrongdoing. And if not, there was always Dad’s pardon power.
Four days after the election, Hunter strolled on stage with Joe to declare victory at a socially distanced “car rally” in Wilmington. He gave his father a proprietorial man-hug before surveying the scene with satisfaction, as if it were evidence of his invincibility.
He was back in the bosom of his family, soon to be princeling again in the White House, the president’s most trusted adviser, jetting around on Air Force One, the world at his feet.
Just like the old days, only better.