- The New York Post inadvertently revealed details that identified the original source of a dubious story it released on Wednesday via a “smoking gun email” between Hunter Biden and a Ukrainian official while on the board of directors of natural gas company Burisma Holdings .
- Two photos published in the story appear to reference a specific Mac repair shop in the Trolley Square neighborhood of Wilmington, Delaware, owned by a man named John Paul Mac Isaac.
- In an interview with several reporters who tracked him down, Isaac confirmed that he was the source of the story, but failed to clarify his facts when describing his recollection of events described in the Post̵
- The article contained a series of red flags that raised questions about its authenticity and how to obtain it once it was published, and it found little resonance with more reputable outlets.
- You can find more stories on the Business Insider homepage.
The New York Post sent shockwaves through the political arena on Wednesday when it published a dubious story proposing to publish a “smoking gun email” in which Hunter Biden’s communication with a Ukrainian official about meeting with to his father, Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate.
The story immediately caught fire in conservative circles, and President Donald Trump’s allies pointed to it as indisputable evidence that the Bidens had gotten into an argument with the Ukrainian government. Many also said the former vice president was revealed to have used his official government role to shut down an investigation into Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian natural gas company whose director Hunter Biden served until April 2019.
There were a number of red flags and loopholes in the story that raised questions about its authenticity and sourcing, and it gained little resonance from more reputable sources.
The report said that in April 2019, an unidentified individual dropped a water-damaged MacBook Pro containing alleged emails and other compromising material about Hunter Biden at an unidentified repair facility in Delaware, the home state of the Biden family . In the report, the owner of the repair shop was named as the provider of this information, but without giving any details about his identity.
However, two photos posted in the Post appear to reference a specific store in the Trolley Square neighborhood of Wilmington, Delaware.
The photos, which appeared in a related slideshow, show the first and third pages of a subpoena looking for a MacBook laptop and an external hard drive. The metadata on both photos shows that they were taken at or near a local business called The Mac Shop.
The repair shop owner wasn’t sure if the laptop belonged to Hunter Biden, but said the machine was reportedly labeled with a Beau Biden Foundation sticker.
The Post said the person who dropped the water-damaged laptop “never paid for the service or accessed it or a hard drive that stored its contents, according to the store owner, who repeatedly tried to contact the customer.”
The shopkeeper then turned to federal agencies about the laptop and hard drive and handed over the hardware in December after being served a subpoena. Before they were handed over, however, the Post said the shopkeeper had made a copy of the hard drive and given it to an attorney representing former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The Post said it learned of the alleged emails after Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist and CEO of the Trump campaign, informed the outlet of its existence late last month and Giuliani told the Post’s reporters on Sunday Hard drive had given.
The article included a photo of the federal court subpoena showing that the FBI confiscated the computer and hard drive in December. It is unclear why the office subpoenaed or confiscated the hardware after the repair shop owner voluntarily informed authorities of its existence.
However, the first photo in Post’s story showing the subpoena cover provides additional clues. If you look closely, you’ll notice the faint outlines of handwriting between and behind the printed text, suggesting that something was written on the back of the page. This would make sense because the blank subpoena – Form AO 110 – has a second page that must be completed by the agent serving it.
Inverting the image of the first page and overlaying a blank version of the second page of the subpoena clearly shows that the placement of the faint handwriting matches the placement of the various boxes and design elements on the second page. The same handwriting indicates that the subpoena was served on a person or organization with four relatively short names, the third and fourth appearing to begin with an uppercase “M” and an uppercase “I”. The owner of The Mac Shop appears to be a man named John Paul Mac Isaac.
Isaac later confirmed in an interview with several reporters who tracked him down at his shop that he was the source of the Post’s story. His social media posts suggest he is an avid supporter of Trump, and he described the president’s impeachment as a “fraud,” according to The Daily Beast in an interview. Isaac also cited the debunked right-wing conspiracy theory about the murder of Democratic worker Seth Rich.
More importantly, the Daily Beast report said Isaac couldn’t get his facts straight when he set out the timeline of how the laptop got to his store and when it went missing.
“Throughout the interview, Isaac shifted from saying that he reached out to law enforcement after looking at the files on the laptop, to stating that it was actually the Federal Bureau of Investigation that reached out to him,” she says it in the report. “At one point, Isaac claimed he emailed someone from the FBI on the laptop. At another point, he claimed that a special agent from the Baltimore office contacted him after he alerted the FBI to the existence of the device. At another point he said. ” The FBI asked him for help accessing his drive. “
This analysis also suggests that the subpoena was served by an FBI agent from the satellite office of the downtown Wilmington office. The agent’s name appears to be “Joshua Wilson”, although it is not 100% legible. Over the past decade, several news outlets have quoted or described an FBI agent of the same name.
Last year, Star-Ledger described him as “a New Jersey-based FBI agent who worked full-time on child pornography for almost five years.” In 2012 the same Joshua Wilson signed a criminal complaint accusing a New Jersey man of collecting and distributing child pornography. The signature on this complaint clearly matches the irreversible signature on the subpoena published by the New York Post.
It’s unclear whether the FBI employs more than one agent named Joshua Wilson. However, the evidence available seems to show that Joshua Wilson, who signed the subpoena on Hunter Biden’s laptop, and Joshua Wilson, who investigates child pornography for the FBI, are the same person. This opens up the possibility, uninvestigated by the Post, that the FBI may issue the subpoena for reasons unrelated to Hunter Biden’s role in Ukraine and Burisma.
However, Isaac told reporters on Wednesday that he had “not seen any child pornography” on the laptop the Post reported was dropped off at his store and raised additional questions about why the subpoena was from an FBI agent who specializes in investigating the matter.
Isaac did not respond to multiple phone calls and text messages for comment. The FBI also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.