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An exchange between U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and FBI official Bryan Vorndran has led to claims that the agency misplaced Hunter Biden’s laptop.
The exchange is not proof that the FBI lost or misplaced the computer. While Vorndran told Gaetz that he personally didn’t know where the laptop was, he didn’t say that the agency lost it.
Reporting by the Washington Post says that the laptop is in the bureau’s possession.
For well over a year, we’ve heard a lot about Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop. Questions have swirled about its contents, whether it was really his and even whether it existed at all.
But a close look shows that conclusion is an overreach based on a confrontational exchange in a March 29 House hearing.
In that Judiciary Committee hearing, which was held to discuss oversight of the FBI’s cyber division, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., questioned Bryan Vorndran, the FBI assistant director for the division, about the laptop’s whereabouts. Vorndran repeatedly told Gaetz he doesn’t know.
Donald Trump Jr. turned the exchange into a video on his Facebook page titled, "UNREAL: The FBI lost Hunter Biden’s Laptop?"
"Oh my god, guys, you’ve got to watch this exchange. The head of FBI cyber has no idea where the Hunter Biden laptop is," Trump says in the video. "You know who probably has Hunter Biden laptops? Russia, Iran, China … all of our enemies have a copy of this laptop it feels like but you know who misplaced it? The FBI, because they have no interest in looking at it."
The video was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The exchange Trump referenced is not proof that the FBI lost or misplaced Hunter Biden’s laptop, and recent reporting confirms that the laptop is in the bureau’s possession. While Vorndran says that he personally didn’t know where the laptop was, he didn’t say that the agency lost it.
PolitiFact reached out to the FBI for comment but did not hear back. Trump’s team declined to comment.
Here is the exchange:
Gaetz: "So, where is it? The laptop?"
Vorndran: "Sir, I’m not here to talk about the laptop. I’m here to talk about the FBI’s cyber program."
Gaetz: "You are the assistant director of FBI cyber. I want to know where Hunter Biden’s laptop is. Where is it?"
Vorndran: "Sir, I don’t know that answer."
A few moments later, Gaetz says, "I’m holding the receipt from Mac’s Computer Repair, where in December 2019 they turned over this laptop to the FBI, and now you’re telling me right here, that as the assistant director of FBI cyber you don’t know where this is after it was turned over to you three years ago?"
Vorndran: "Yes, sir, that’s an accurate statement."
After Gaetz grills him further, Vorndran says the questions are not "in the purview of his investigative responsibilities."
We could find no credible reports about the FBI losing or misplacing the computer. A March 30 Washington Post story that details how the newspaper analyzed a copy of the laptop’s hard drive places it in the FBI’s possession.
"The MacBook itself is now in the hands of the FBI, which is investigating whether Hunter Biden properly reported income from business dealings," the story says.
Questions about the laptop first emerged in October 2020, after the New York Post reported that a computer that appeared to belong to Hunter Biden was dropped off at a repair shop in April 2019 in Delaware and had been shared with then-President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
At the time, other news outlets were unable to verify the laptop’s existence or contents. In March 2022, however, the New York Times reported on an ongoing investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes and acknowledged the legitimacy of the laptop through emails authenticated by people involved in the investigation. The Washington Post also authenticated thousands of emails from a copy of the computer’s hard drive with the help of security experts who examined the data.
In none of this reporting is there a suggestion that the FBI has misplaced the laptop that they seized.
Using video from a Congressional hearing as evidence, Donald Trump Jr. claimed that the FBI lost Hunter Biden’s laptop.
That hearing was about the FBI’s cybersecurity division. Vorndran, an FBI official who was presenting, was questioned by Gaetz about the laptop. Discussion of the computer and its contents were not on the agenda for the day’s meeting. Vorndron responded that he did not know of the computer’s whereabouts and wasn’t there to talk about that matter. This does not amount to evidence of Trump’s claim.
There is no other indication that the computer, which was seized by the FBI, has been misplaced. The Washington Post, which reviewed the contents of the computer’s hard drive, confirmed it remains in FBI possession. We rate this claim False.
Donald Trump Jr. Facebook video, April 4, 2022
House Committee on the Judiciary, Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Cyber Division hearing, March 29, 2022
Washington Post, Here’s how The Post analyzed Hunter Biden’s laptop, March 30, 2022
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