Former intelligence members who characterized Hunter Biden’s laptop as Russian disinformation in 2020 are seeking cover from congressional election interference inquiries.
James Clapper, formerly Director of National Intelligence, claims Politico “deliberately distorted” a letter he and 50 other former intelligence community members signed. Many of the signatories of the letter that was published prior to the general election supported then-candidate Joe Biden.
Years later, facing furious GOP congressional investigators, some signatories are blaming media for distorting their words.
Fox News further reported:
It’s now an infamous headline among conservatives and a sore spot for Politico. But at the time, the October 19, 2020, story by Natasha Bertrand had its intended bombshell effect with this headline: “Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say.”
Now former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says Politico “deliberately distorted” the letter he and more than 50 others – many of them open Joe Biden supporters – signed. Critics are wondering why the players in the story are speaking out more than two years later – just as House Republicans are investigating the matter – and why they didn’t cry foul at their own words being twisted at the time.
“If James Clapper knew Politico and Natasha Bertrand were lying about what their letter said, why didn’t he say so then?” journalist Glenn Greenwald asked on Monday. “Reality: the CIA/IC people lying wanted the media to spread this. Only now that someone has to take the hit is Clapper saying Politico lied.”
Clapper’s remarks showed up in a lengthy fact-check by the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler on Monday, which broke down the letter itself and how it was also falsely characterized by then-candidate Joe Biden in the closing weeks of the 2020 election. Biden claimed at a debate with then-President Trump that intelligence officials had declared the laptop reported on by the New York Post was a “Russian plan.” Another letter signer, former deputy director of National Intelligence for analysis Thomas Fingar, told Kessler that no one should be “surprised” by the media or politicians that “willfully or unintentionally” misconstrue statements.
Kessler noted Politico’s headline did not accurately reflect the letter’s contents, which were not quite as conclusive, but rather suggested the laptop had the “earmarks” of a Kremlin disinformation operation. They also declared their “view that the Russians are involved in the Hunter Biden email issue” in some capacity. The laptop contained details about Hunter Biden’s overseas business dealings, including an email suggesting he peddled his father’s powerful position to help his interests, as well as salacious material involving sex and drugs.
The signers also stipulated they had no evidence to prove their claims but were mostly going by their gut. For a media that often regurgitated Russiagate storylines from intelligence community sources throughout the Trump administration – and was wary of helping Trump by pushing out material harmful to the Biden candidacy in a manner similar to the 2016 election – that was more than enough.
But despite Politico and Biden’s framing, the signers of the letter didn’t come out of the woodworks at the time to dispute their characterization of their words. Nor did they seem to care that numerous Democrats, including future Biden officials like Jen Psaki, Susan Rice, Kate Bedingfield, Andrew Bates and others, shared the story on Twitter or touted its contents in interviews.
The Washington Examiner’s Jerry Dunleavy ruefully noted Clapper claimed not to know Biden – his chosen candidate for president that year – had cited his own letter at a presidential debate.
New York Post columnist Miranda Devine told Fox News Digital that Clapper’s comments “show what a fraud he is, and that he’s worried now the GOP controls the House and has vowed to haul in the signatories and make them testify under oath. He’s trying to pre-shape the narrative.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, sent a letter earlier this month to a dozen of the signatories, including Clapper, demanding answers. Devine said she didn’t recall any of them expressing public discontent with Politico’s framing of their statements in 2020.
“They were silent. That was the message they wished to convey, and now they are scrambling because the GOP House is about to hold them accountable,” Devine said.
Clapper admitted again to Kessler that he and his fellow signers had “no evidence” to support their suspicions.
“To me, it’s a difference without a distinction. It could have been bad information, false information,” he said. “But we had no evidence, no inside baseball that it was. The intent of the letter was that this could be Russian disinformation — emphasis on could.”
But Clapper sounded more sure in an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett on Oct. 16, 2020, the same week the New York Post released their story that was promptly blocked by Big Tech outfits.
“To me, this is just classic textbook Soviet Russian tradecraft at work,” he said at the time. “The Russians have analyzed the target, they understand that the president and his enablers crave dirt on Vice President Biden. Whether it’s real or contrived, that doesn’t matter to them, and so all of a sudden, two-and-a-half weeks before the election, this laptop appears somehow, and emails on it without any metadata. It’s all very curious.”
Greenwald, a fervent critic of Russiagate coverage, lit into the media for transforming the letter into “fact.”
“The CIA and other intelligence operative scumbags have a point here, one I’ve stressed from the start,” he tweeted on Monday. “In their letter to manipulate the election, they said they didn’t *know* it was Russian disinformation, just thought it was. It was the media that transformed it into fact.”
“I don’t care who is bored by it: 2 weeks before Americans went to vote for President, the CIA and others in the intelligence community concocted an outright lie that most major media corporations spread. Everyone now knows it’s a lie, but not one media outlet has retracted it,” he added.
The letter also included a feedback logic loop; the fact that the Washington Post had reported Rudy Giuliani could be the target of a Russian intelligence operation was significant to them because it mirrored their own concerns about Russia. The Washington Post story in question cited four anonymous sources.
Politico noted that “several” of the signees of the letter were backing Biden; Fox News Digital counted at least 13 who had publicly endorsed Biden, including Clapper, ex-CIA Directors John Brennan, Leon Panetta and Michael Hayden, and former CIA officials Patty Brandmaier, Larry Pfeiffer, Paul Kolbe, Timothy Kilbourn, and John Sipher. Jeremy Bash, an MSNBC analyst who worked at the CIA and Pentagon under President Obama, also signed the letter.
Hayden, Panetta, Bash, Brennan and former CIA Director Mike Morell, who the Washington Post reported organized the letter in the first place, didn’t respond to requests for comment. Most of them ignored similar questioning by the New York Post last year.
Republican lawyer Kash Patel, who was the primary author of the 2018 memo from then-House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., about significant flaws in the Russia investigation, believes the officials involved have a duty to explain themselves.
“One, this Congress should subpoena at least the leadership structure of those 51 people, those that served as directors and deputy directors of our intelligence agencies and law enforcement community and just say, ‘Why did you make this statement? Why did you sign this letter? What was the bait? You are the direct former director of the CIA. Certainly someone sent you intelligence for you to sign on to this and what was the intelligence,’” Patel told Fox News Digital.
Patel said revoking security clearances is something the executive branch can do, and a lot of the signees aren’t working in government service anymore but could eventually return. In the meantime, they use their clearance to continue pad their wallets.
The letter unsurprisingly made it onto CNN and MSNBC as well.
The day after the Politico story published, left-wing CNN political analyst John Avlon praised the officials for speaking out and lambasted then-Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe for rejecting the Russian narrative.
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