Computer repairman in Delaware goes underground, and Hunter Biden laptop saga gets stranger
Weeks before the Nov. 3 presidential election, the world’s political intrigue turned to a Wilmington computer repair shop after the New York Post revealed that its owner gave a copy of a laptop hard drive he believed belonged to Hunter Biden to a lawyer representing Rudy Giuliani.
Ten days after the election, a sign on the repair shop’s door said it had closed. A neighbor said the owner had left town.
A slew of new information has surfaced in the weeks since, including details about the laptop’s journey from the repair shop to Giuliani's office.
Yet with fears of fake news flooding the nation's consciousness and Giuliani's resistance to share the source material, it remains unclear whether the emails purportedly found on the hard drive and that formed the basis of the disputed New York Post story are authentic.
The story claimed Joe Biden, while vice president in 2015, held a meeting with an executive from Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company that employed his son, Hunter Biden. The story also published embarrassing photos of Hunter Biden that the New York Post said were on the hard drive.
Hours after the story’s publication, Biden’s presidential campaign categorically stated, “No meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place.”
Weeks later, the computer repairman, John Paul Mac Isaac, shuttered his Trolley Square shop and a neighbor says he left town.
MEET JOHN PAUL MAC ISSAAC:The computer repairman at the center of New York Post's Hunter Biden laptop story
His Annapolis-based attorney, Brian Della Rocca, said Mac Isaac closed the shop after receiving death threats. He declined to disclose where his client might have gone or even if he had left town.
Della Rocca said he doesn't anticipate Mac Isaac becoming entangled in a potential lawsuit or criminal investigation, but said his office has spoken in recent weeks with Wilmington FBI agents and with Delaware's Assistant United States Attorney Leslie Wolf.
He declined to describe the nature of the conversations.
"I've been in touch with federal law enforcement, yes," Della Rocca said.
Neither the FBI nor the U.S. Attorney's Office in Delaware would comment.
Also declining to comment was Mac Isaac's father, a retired United States Air Force colonel, who helped his son share the hard drive first with the FBI, then reportedly later with conservative media.
Asked last month if he feared being subpoenaed, Mac Isaac said, "It wouldn't be my first subpoena," referencing a warrant the New York Post included as part of the story. That document appeared to be signed by Wolf last year to take possession of the laptop's hard drive.
The story redacted most references to Mac Isaac's shop in the document except for one in fine print.
Della Rocca also said his office is investigating whether computer files Giuliani has publicly claimed to have taken from the hard drive existed on the device when it was handed over by his client in September.
The statements mark the latest turns in Mac Isaac's still shadowy saga of how the self-described screw turner became key to Giuliani’s yearslong international campaign to search for information that could damage Joe Biden prior to his expected 2020 election showdown with President Donald Trump.
Giuliani is Trump's personal attorney.
Since Trump's loss to Joe Biden, Giuliani has shifted to a new campaign on behalf of the president, leading efforts to challenge the election. Trump has alleged widespread fraud in the election but has provided no evidence and his team has suffered a string of setbacks in the courts.
Citing a similar lack of publicly substantiated evidence, Democrats have speculated that the Oct. 14 New York Post story, fed by Giuliani, was the result of Russian actors spreading political disinformation.
Over 50 former intelligence officers signed an open letter stating the emails behind the story bore "all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation." They also noted they do not possess "evidence of Russian involvement."
Meanwhile, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, a Trump appointee, said the emails were not connected to a Russian disinformation plot. He did not elaborate and acknowledged knowing "little" about the material published by the New York Post.
Some Republicans in Congress have pointed to Ratcliffe's statement when calling for new or continued investigations into the Bidens.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., told the Hill earlier this month he will continue an investigation into the Bidens’ business dealings that began in 2019, in part because of new information he said was uncovered by the New York Post.
In September, Johnson's Senate committee published a report that found Hunter Biden's business in Ukraine made the work of State Department official's pushing an anti-corruption agenda "very awkward."
The report did not conclude that Joe Biden acted inappropriately while vice president.
Shortly after Johnson's Senate committee released the report, Mac Isaac contacted the committee office, the Hill reported. Della Rocca called it a whistleblower complaint filed on Johnson's website.
Two days after the Post story, USA Today and the Associated Press reported the FBI was investigating whether the emails published in the article were connected to a potential Russian operation to spread disinformation.
On Oct. 24, Politico reported an account from an indicted former associate to Giuliani, Lev Parnas, who said in early 2019 a Ukrainian oligarch offered to sell to the former New York mayor "salacious photos and other documents” belonging to Hunter Biden.
Parnas declined to comment for this story.
An attorney representing Hunter Biden also declined to comment for this story.
Della Rocca believes the emails, photos and other files found on the laptop were authentic, a certainty he said stems from his own experts' work to "forensically" verify their contents. He didn't know the details of the verification process but said it included an analysis of metadata.
"I have no concern that the information on the laptop is legitimate information," he said. "Now what was released (by Giuliani)? I don't know. I just don't have that level of information yet."
Della Rocca's firm Compass Law Partners is led by managing partner Rob Garagiola, a former Senate majority leader in Maryland's Legislature.
Della Rocca declined to name who referred Mac Isaac to his firm but said the person was not associated with the Trump campaign.
Who told what to the FBI?
Mac Isaac spoke to Delaware Online/The News Journal the day the New York Post story published, recalling then how in April 2019 a man who identified himself as Hunter Biden brought three liquid-damaged laptops to his small repair shop in the Trolley Square shopping center.
Only one was left for repair. No one ever returned to retrieve it, he said.
In the subsequent year and a half, Mac Isaac said several people were involved in the story that ended with Trump circle’s taking possession of a copy of the laptop hard drive.
One was a trusted confidant, whom he approached during the summer of 2019 after growing fearful of possessing a laptop he believed belonged to Hunter Biden.
Mac Isaac described that person as "better at this political spy press thing than I am," who could connect him with FBI agents who "weren't local."
He declined to name the person.
“I still have an interest in protecting those people I care about," he said then.
Della Rocca has since revealed the FBI go-between was Mac Isaac’s father, retired United States Air Force Col. Richard “Steve” Mac Isaac.
After discussing with his son what to do, the elder Mac Isaac took a copy of the hard drive to FBI agents near his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Della Rocca said in a statement.
"The FBI turned John Paul’s father away," Della Rocca said.
Three months later, an FBI agent contacted the retired colonel, according to Della Rocca, and he passed along his son’s contact information.
“The FBI reached out to John Paul and met him at his house (in Wilmington) to discuss John Paul’s concerns. On December 9, 2019, the FBI served a subpoena on John Paul for the computer, the hard drive, and all related paperwork," Della Rocca said.
"He willingly gave it to the FBI and was happy to see it go,” he said.
Mac Isaac said he had believed that giving the FBI the hard drive amounted to “following the chain of command," an idea he failed to describe beyond the vague pronouncement.
At some point during the days after the FBI subpoena, agents called the computer repairman again, asking him to assist them, technically, in viewing the files on the damaged drive, Mac Isaac said in October.
Mac Isaac acknowledged then it was odd for the FBI to make such a request, given they have their own team of experts.
In subsequent months, John Paul Mac Isaac grew frustrated with the FBI after it did not publicly release information that was on the laptop. He believed it could have aided Trump’s defense in what he said was a "sham" U.S. Senate impeachment trial in early 2020.
Della Rocca said Mac Isaac's frustration with the FBI was what led him in September to call Giuliani's office.
The question of what John Paul Mac Isaac saw on the laptop that made him first fearful for his safety, then frustrated with the FBI, remains unanswered.
In October, Mac Isaac said it was photos and emails that concerned him, but did not describe them in any detail.
More recently, Della Rocca said his client never “studied” the files.
Pressed about why he didn't trust the FBI’s apparent determination to not announce the existence of the laptop, Della Rocca said, “Just because he did not study the laptop did not mean he didn’t see anything. He saw things that seemed suspicious."
"Maybe they had determined the information was not pertinent to the case, but he thought it was suspicious that there was no mention of the information," he said.
Steve Mac Isaac also reportedly helped his son link up with former Fox News executive Ken LaCorte, according to a story from the Daily Beast.
LaCorte told the New York publication that John Paul Mac Isaac's "family member" had contacted a friend and former employee of Fox News' parent company, who then linked LaCorte with Mac Isaac.
The Daily Beast cited two people familiar with the situation who claimed that the unnamed family member was Steve Mac Isaac.
LaCorte did not respond to an email requesting comment.
In a tweet, LaCorte said he spoke with Mac Isaac several times before publication of the New York Post story.
"He was worried about losing his business as we talked about potential media outlets. He never once suggested that he go to an outlet that would offer him $$$. He's a patriot," LaCorte said.
While LaCorte appeared to aid the New York Post story's release, four years earlier he had killed a Fox News story weeks before the 2016 election about Trump's affair with the porn star Stephanie Clifford, also known Stormy Daniels. In recent years, LaCorte ran competing news websites ostensibly for conservative and liberal readers that stoked political divides in the country.
Last year, the New York Times reported that stories on the websites were written by "a network of young people living in a Macedonian town that "was home to a collection of writers who churned out disinformation during the 2016 presidential election."
Della Rocca said he doesn't know about any conversations between Mac Isaac and LaCorte.
Others who knew
In the hours and days after its publication, doubts about the New York Post story quickly emerged, fueled in part by months of speculation that Giuliani's team was set to release a bombshell, with origins in Ukraine, about the Bidens.
In addition to the Politico story about alleged Hunter Biden computer files being for sale, claims that Joe Biden had held meetings with his son's foreign business associates also had circulated over the summer in an obscure private intelligence report written by an author who was later revealed to have been invented.
The anonymous conspiracy theory poster, referred to as Q, also appeared to know about the allegations before the Post's story. A day before the story ran, the theorist told followers to be ready for a politically compelling event the next day.
Asked how the Q profile apparently knew of the coming New York Post story, Della Rocca said, "Unfortunately, there are a lot of other people who ended up having this information thanks to Giuliani or Sen. Johnson spreading it around."
The Sunday after the New York Post's story, the New York Times cited two unnamed sources in a report claiming the story's lead author, Bruce Golding, "did not allow his byline to be used because he had concerns over the article’s credibility."
Golding did not reply to a request to comment on this story.
Joe Biden called the story a "smear campaign."
The Times also reported that the Post story first was intended to be published by the Wall Street Journal, after it was fed to that publication by people close to the White House.
Those people had delivered to a reporter "emails detailing Hunter Biden’s business activities." A former business partner of Hunter Biden’s, named Tony Bobulinski, also was to claim in the story that Joe Biden had secretly profited from his son's deals.
Then, reportedly "without warning," Giuliani gave some of the same emails to the New York Post, the Times reported.
Following the publication of the story, the world's political gaze gradually shifted away from Mac Isaac and toward Bobulinski, who released a statement claiming the emails in the story were valid and implicating Joe Biden as a secret beneficiary of his son's businesses.
Giuliani in Delaware
A week after the New York Post story, Giuliani traveled to Delaware with former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik to share the laptop hard drive with local law enforcement at a New Castle County police station.
The police handed the device to the Delaware Attorney General’s Office, which then delivered it to federal agents.
Mat Marshall, a spokesman for Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings, cited news reports that the FBI had opened an investigation into the veracity of claims about the origin of the laptop as the agency’s reason for passing it to their federal counterparts.
“They’ve got a hard drive, or a laptop, or something to that effect. They try to turn it over to New Castle County PD. New Castle County PD calls us,” Marshall said.
Last month, Kerik told The News Journal that Delaware police said they intended to investigate the hard drive. He expressed surprise when learning it was immediately delivered to the FBI.
Kerik also said Giuliani's team was continuing to look through thousands of still-unreviewed files from the hard drive, and he expected more revelations from it.
None have since come out. Still, Kerik said he is 1,000% positive the files found on the hard drive belonged to Hunter Biden and it was he who dropped it off at Mac Isaac's shop.
The News Journal requested from Kerik a copy of the hard drive. Initially, he said he would send the request to Giuliani.
Kerik, who was granted a full pardon by Trump for 2010 felony convictions for tax fraud and lying to White House officials, did not reply to subsequent follow-ups on the status of the request.
Contact Karl Baker at email@example.com or (302) 324-2329. Follow him on Twitter @kbaker6.