The Washington Post fact-checker’s new approach to suggesting disinformation about Hunter Biden laptops: ignoring key documents

That the media has recently embraced Hunter Biden’s laptop as a legitimate news source is a major win for accountability reporting. Unfortunately, this hasn’t meant the end of media gatekeeping about which lines of inquiry can be considered legitimate news.

In his last cable, for example Washington Post Fact-checker Glenn Kessler questions former President Donald Trump’s (typically sloppy) allegations about a mysterious $3.5 million transfer from Yelena Baturina, a Russian billionaire, to a Hunter Biden-affiliated company. “He brought it up again recently, prompting us to finally clear up what’s going on here,” Kessler said announced on twitter.

Instead of making full use of it The Washington Post Access to original documents, Kessler’s analysis relies on the word of anonymous sources, some of whom have ties to the companies under investigation.

A little backstory: In December 2013, Hunter Biden helped launch a Chinese private equity fund called Bohai Harvest RST (BHR). The American partners held their shares in the company through a shell company called Rosemont Seneca Thornton. Senate investigators later revealed that Yelena Baturina, the billionaire ex-wife of Moscow’s longtime mayor, wired $3.5 million to Rosemont Seneca Thornton on February 14, 2014, raising concerns about Hunter Biden’s possible relationship with the Russian oligarch expressed.

Kessler then raised an important objection:

[A]Almost as soon as Rosemont Seneca Thornton was formed, The partners decided to break it up, according to a person with access to board minutes…

Within a year, Chinese company records showed that the foreign investors in BHR Rosemont were Seneca Bohai LLC with 20 percent and Thornton Group LLC with 10 percent. Company records show that Rosemont Seneca Bohai, the backup company vehicle, was incorporated on February 13, 2014, the day before Baturina’s transfer.

In theory, Rosemont Seneca Thornton was no more to Hunter Biden.” [Emphasis added]

So in this narrative, Hunter Biden had no reason to bother with Rosemont Seneca Thornton when it received Baturina’s millions.

Former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov (left) and his wife, businesswoman Yelena Baturina, walk at a polling station during general elections in Moscow September 18, 2016. (YURI KADOBNOV/AFP via Getty Images)

However, emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop show that the board decision to split Rosemont Seneca Thornton’s stake was not circulated until October 2014, eight months later than Kessler admits. And a February 2015 email to Hunter from one of BHR’s partners confronts him with the possibility of a capital injection from Rosemont Seneca Thornton. And publicly available Chinese company filings named Rosemont Seneca Thornton as a shareholder until June 2015, 16 months after the company was said to be “no more” as far as Hunter was concerned.

Curiously, none of these details made it into the fact check.

But the laptop is cited elsewhere in the story. Kessler noted that the Washington Post found no “significant evidence of direct interaction” between Hunter and Baturina on the laptop. They also found no records showing this hunter personally earned $3.5 million in 2014. But when it came to setting the timeline for Hunter Biden’s relationship with Rosemont Seneca Thornton, Kessler only cites “a person with access to [BHR’s] Board Minutes,” as if there was nowhere else to look.

When Kessler admitted that Rosemont Seneca Thornton “unexpectedly” survived under the control of Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s longtime business partner, he apparently assumed that RST would only survive for Archer’s benefit.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter golf in the Hamptons with Devon Archer, who served with Hunter on the board of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings.

Devon Archer (far left) with former Vice President Joe Biden (center right) and his son Hunter (far right) golfing in the Hamptons.

Corporate records in Delaware, where Rosemont Seneca Thornton was incorporated, make it almost impossible for the public to know who controls the company, but it’s hard to ignore that 10 percent of the stock originally held by Rosemont Seneca Thornton ended up in the Hands fell from Hunter Biden. And it’s also hard to ignore that companies controlled by Archer regularly accepted payments on Hunter’s behalf, as in the case of Burisma.

It’s the knot that Senate investigators, law enforcement officials, and reporters across the country are working to unravel. The evidence presented by Kessler does little to “solve it definitively” either way. Even more disturbing is that his fact check gives a false appearance of clarity by omitting documents directly relevant to the issue at hand and explaining exactly why all of this is a mystery in the first place.

The effect of this is not to curb overheated political rhetoric, but rather to give the impression that the underlying issue has somehow been resolved and further reporting could therefore fall under the dreaded banner of “misinformation”. For a newspaper that is reckoning with the media-wide failure to seriously consider the laptop, that’s a huge step backwards. From a fact-checking perspective, it is clear misconduct.

Peter Schweizer is President of the Government Accountability Institute, a senior contributor to Breitbart News, and the best-selling author of Red-Handed: How American Elites Get Rich Helping China Win.

Jacob McLeod is Director of Research at the Government Accountability Institute. Follow him on Twitter at @tweetsbymcleod. The Washington Post fact-checker’s new approach to suggesting disinformation about Hunter Biden laptops: ignoring key documents

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