A coauthor of the statement 51 former intel officials wrote casting doubt on the Hunter Biden story in 2020 testified to Congress that he still had “suspicions” that Russia had involvement in the story’s publication, according to a congressional report published Wednesday.
Former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell said that while he would have worded the statement “differently” because “we now know the emails are authentic,” he still stands by his concerns about Russia, according to the report.
The report provided an “interim” update on investigative work by the House Judiciary Committee, House Intel Committee, and Weaponization of the Federal Government Select Subcommittee.
It showed the below exchange between Morell and the committees:
Q. And, as you sit here today, do you believe the Russians were involved in the Hunter Biden laptop matter?
A. I don’t know. I mean, I still have suspicions, Congressman.
Q. Would you organize such a letter today knowing what you know now?
A. I would have to write it differently because we now know the emails are authentic, right? So you couldn’t say anymore we don’t know whether it’s information or disinformation. But I still have suspicions about a Russian role in these emails getting to The New York Post.
The committees also asked Morell if then-Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe’s public and unequivocal objection to the Russia angle had any influence on him as he sought to draft the statement and garner signatures for it.
“No,” Morell replied.
The report stated, “Rather than give the then-Director of National Intelligence’s statement credence or at least a modicum of deference, Morell rejected it wholesale.”
The report gave a 65-page in-depth look at behind-closed-doors testimonies and private communications among the former officials and the Biden campaign regarding the statement, which Politico ultimately published two weeks before the 2020 presidential election.
THE SPIES WHO LIED. @HouseIntel, @Weaponization, and @JudiciaryGOP release report on the origins on the Hunter Biden “Intel” letter and how senior officials and the Biden campaign misled the American people to help Joe Biden.
🚨 Read it here: https://t.co/atSmOD58XW
— House Judiciary GOP (@JudiciaryGOP) May 10, 2023
The statement claimed without evidence that the New York Post’s story about the Biden family, written by now-Breitbart News Political Editor Emma-Jo Morris, “had all the classic earmarks of a Russian information campaign.”
The Post’s story gave a damning account of the Biden family’s business dealings based on emails the Post uncovered from Hunter’s laptop, which he had abandoned at a computer store. Many legacy media outlets later agreed the laptop was real, the committees’ report pointed out.
Furthermore, the intelligence community itself also had an interest in the laptop as early as 2019 to the point that the FBI subpoenaed it from the computer store as part of a federal investigation into Hunter, Fox News first revealed. CBS later corroborated the contents of the laptop that had specifically been given to the FBI.
Morell nevertheless seized on then-swirling questions about the laptop’s authenticity, which had stemmed in part from social media’s aggressive suppression of the Post’s story when it first came out.
The ex-CIA chief explicitly asked his fellow former intelligence community peers to sign on to a statement for what he said were two reasons: to convey their purported concerns about Russia’s involvement in the story and to help then-candidate Joe Biden win the election, according to the committees’ report.
Emails in the report show that Morell sought to “rush” approval from the CIA for the statement to provide Biden with a “talking point” ahead of the final presidential debate.
Confronted about the story during the final presidential debate, Biden indeed relied on the statement to refute the Post’s story.
In a sane world, the media would be running this on a 24/7 loop. pic.twitter.com/80DkunRajG
— Hans Mahncke (@HansMahncke) December 10, 2020
The report also revealed that an active employee at the CIA allegedly had a role in obtaining at least one signature on the statement.
“On November 3, 2020, the American people went to the polls to elect the president of the United States with the false impression that Hunter Biden’s laptop was Russian disinformation,” the committees wrote, adding that the U.S. “is witnessing in real time the growth of a censorship industrial complex.”
Write to Ashley Oliver at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @asholiver.