In case anyone is wondering who was responsible for the idea that the Hunter Biden laptop story was part of a Russian disinformation campaign, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper assures us it was not the 51 retired intelligence community leaders who penned the letter which said it was. Instead, it was the media who mischaracterized their words.
Clapper’s signature topped the list of prominent government officials willing to stake their reputations on the infamous letter that was written to sow doubt about a story which, if not suppressed, could arguably have changed the result of the 2020 presidential election.
Clearly these officials had only one goal in mind: to torpedo the New York Post’s bombshell story about the emails that pointed to then-candidate Joe Biden’s involvement in his family’s influence peddling operation. But anticipating they may one day face charges of election interference, the letter was carefully worded to absolve themselves of responsibility for their malfeasance.
Specifically, the retired Air Force lieutenant general, who is best known for lying to Congress in 2013 about the National Security Agency’s collection of Americans’ telephone records and for his role in perpetuating the Russian collusion hoax, blamed it on Politico’s “deliberate distortion” of their letter in an October 2020 piece titled, “Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say.”
In light of last week’s fiery House hearing about Twitter’s suppression of the Post’s story ahead of the election, The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, who writes a deceptively named feature called “The Fact Checker,” reached out to Clapper.
“There was message distortion. All we were doing was raising a yellow flag that this could be Russian disinformation,” Clapper said. “Politico deliberately distorted what we said. It was clear in paragraph five.”
Paragraph five is indeed a disclaimer. It states: “We want to emphasize that we do not know if the emails, provided to the New York Post by President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, are genuine or not and that we do not have evidence of Russian involvement — just that our experience makes us deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case.”
But if Clapper felt the letter had been deliberately distorted, he certainly had ample opportunity to clear things up. After leaving office at the end of the Obama administration, he became an MSNBC contributor, giving him a major media platform from which to do so. Yet he remained silent.
Moreover, Clapper claimed to be “unaware” of how Biden had described the letter during the debate, according to Kessler. Are we to believe that Clapper somehow missed the debate or at least the part where Biden used the letter to successfully shield himself from Trump’s attacks on his family’s alleged pay-to-play scheme?
Kessler writes, “A major question was the origin of the materials. The story that Hunter Biden turned over for repair, a laptop filled with sensitive materials — and then never picked it up — seemed rather fantastic.”
What is so “fantastic” about a self-declared drug addict dropping off a laptop at a repair shop and then forgetting about it?
Kessler reached out to another of the letter’s signers, former Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research Thomas Fingar, who responded by email. He wrote, “No one who has spent time in Washington should be surprised that journalists and politicians willfully or unintentionally misconstrue oral or written statements. The statement we signed was carefully written to minimize the likelihood that what was said would be misconstrued, and to provide a clear written record that could be used to identify and disprove distortions.”
Let’s rephrase that. No one who has spent time in Washington should be surprised that 51 members of the administrative state would use their clout to sway an election to their favored candidate. Each official who signed onto that letter did so to mitigate the damage to the Biden campaign from the Post’s exposure of the damning emails found on Hunter Biden’s laptop.
Much as a defense attorney works to create reasonable doubt in the face of incriminating evidence, these officials provided a very plausible explanation for the devastating material.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, they are hiding behind the language they so carefully incorporated into the letter.
Their strategy worked exactly as they hoped it would. From the beginning to the end.
A previous version of this article appeared in The Washington Examiner.
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