Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say
More than 50 former intelligence officials signed a letter casting doubt on the provenance of a New York Post story on the former vice president’s son.
Again – More than 50 former senior intelligence officials have signed on to a letter outlining their belief that the recent disclosure of emails allegedly belonging to Hunter Biden, pictured here, “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.” | Handout/DNCC via Getty Images
By NATASHA BERTRAND
10/19/2020 10:30 PM EDT
Again and again – More than 50 former senior intelligence officials have signed on to a letter outlining their belief that the recent disclosure of emails allegedly belonging to Joe Biden’s son “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”
The letter, signed on Monday, centers around a batch of documents released by the New York Post last week that purport to tie the Democratic nominee to his son Hunter’s business dealings. Under the banner headline “Biden Secret E-mails,” the Post reported it was given a copy of Hunter Biden’s laptop hard drive by President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who said he got it from a Mac shop owner in Delaware who also alerted the FBI.
While the letter’s signatories presented no new evidence, they said their national security experience had made them “deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case” and cited several elements of the story that suggested the Kremlin’s hand at work.
“If we are right,” they added, “this is Russia trying to influence how Americans vote in this election, and we believe strongly that Americans need to be aware of this.”
Nick Shapiro, a former top aide under CIA director John Brennan, provided POLITICO with the letter on Monday. He noted that “the IC leaders who have signed this letter worked for the past four presidents, including Trump. The real power here however is the number of former, working-level IC officers who want the American people to know that once again the Russians are interfering.”
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The former Trump administration officials who signed the letter include Russ Travers, who served as National Counterterrorism Center acting director; Glenn Gerstell, the former NSA general counsel; Rick Ledgett, the former deputy NSA director; Marc Polymeropoulos, a retired CIA senior operations officer; and Cynthia Strand, who served as the CIA’s deputy assistant director for global issues. Former CIA directors or acting directors Brennan, Leon Panetta, Gen. Michael Hayden, John McLaughlin and Michael Morell also signed the letter, along with more than three dozen other intelligence veterans. Several of the former officials on the list have endorsed Biden.
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said on Monday that the information on Biden’s laptop “is not part of some Russian disinformation campaign,” though the FBI is reportedly conducting an ongoing investigation into whether Russia was involved.
The New York Times raised questions on Sunday about the rigor of the Post’s reporting process, revealing that several of its reporters had refused to put their name on the Biden stories because they were concerned about the authenticity of the materials. The Post stood by its reporting, saying it was vetted before publication.
But the release of the material, which POLITICO has not independently verified, has drawn comparisons to 2016, when Russian hackers dumped troves of emails from Democrats onto the internet — producing few damaging revelations but fueling accusations of corruption by Trump. While there has been no immediate indication of Russian involvement in the release of emails the Post obtained, its general thrust mirrors a narrative that U.S. intelligence agencies have described as part of an active Russian disinformation effort aimed at denigrating Biden’s candidacy.
“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,” the letter reads. But, it continues, “there are a number of factors that make us suspicious of Russian involvement.”
“Such an operation would be consistent with Russian objectives, as outlined publicly and recently by the Intelligence Community, to create political chaos in the United States and to deepen political divisions here but also to undermine the candidacy of former Vice President Biden and thereby help the candidacy of President Trump,” the letter reads.
National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director Bill Evanina said in August that Russia has been trying to denigrate Biden’s campaign, specifically through a Ukrainian lawmaker named Andriy Derkach who has met with Giuliani at least twice to discuss corruption accusations against Biden. Derkach was sanctioned by the Treasury Department last month for allegedly acting as a Russian agent and interfering in the 2020 election.
Giuliani brushed off concerns about Derkach in an interview with The Daily Beastthis week, saying “the chance that Derkach is a Russian spy is no better than 50/50.” And he told The Wall Street Journal of the purported Biden email trove: “Could it be hacked? I don’t know. I don’t think so. If it was hacked, it’s for real. If it was hacked. I didn’t hack it. I have every right to use it.”
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The former officials said Derkach’s relationship with Giuliani and fixation on the Bidens, along with Russia’s reported hack on Burisma — the Ukrainian energy company that gave Hunter Biden a board seat and is at the center of Trump and his allies’ corruption allegations — “is consistent with” a Russian operation.
“For the Russians at this point, with Trump down in the polls, there is incentive for Moscow to pull out the stops to do anything possible to help Trump win and/or to weaken Biden should he win,” the letter says. “A ‘laptop op’ fits the bill, as the publication of the emails are clearly designed to discredit Biden.”
Top Biden advisers who staffed him during his vice presidency, citing their own recollections as well as a review of Biden’s official schedules, have sharply rejected suggestions that Biden ever met with a representative of Burisma in 2015 or has otherwise been involved in Hunter Biden’s business interests.
“Investigations by the press, during impeachment, and even by two Republican-led Senate committees whose work was decried as ‘not legitimate’ and political by a GOP colleague have all reached the same conclusion: that Joe Biden carried out official U.S. policy toward Ukraine and engaged in no wrongdoing,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said last week. “Trump administration officials have attested to these facts under oath.”
What the whinners are saying now – “He was not Arrested”: CNN and MSNBC Ex-Bosses Struggle to Justify Burying the Hunter Biden Story.
Too funny to believe they don’t tell the real truth but lie.. They were paid not to publish anything. Plain and simple. They are/were part of the corruption then and now.
Res ipsa loquitur – The thing itself speaks
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BIZARRE, CRIMINAL LAW, MEDIA, POLITICSOctober 16, 2022
“He was not Arrested”: CNN and MSNBC Ex-Bosses Struggle to Justify Burying the Hunter Biden Story
“Denial is not just a river in Africa.” Those sage words from SNL character Stuart Smalley seemed prophetic this week as ex-MSNBC boss Phil Griffin and ex-CNN boss Jeff Zucker were confronted about their burying of the Hunter Biden story. Their tortured and transparent rationalizations caused an immediate response from some of us who have written about the scandal since its inception. That included Griffin’s almost laughable claim that their approach before the election was justified because “he was never arrested.”
Zucker and Griffin were in full spin mode in explaining why they did not believe that it was simply not worthy pursuing an alleged multimillion dollar influence peddling scheme with foreign interests by the Biden family.
Okay. No, I mean but I mean, that’s the problem…
We did. We did look into it. But first of all, you know, with regard to the son of the candidate, you know, he was the son of the candidate. He wasn’t the candidate. The question that you’ll come back with is, well, but what role did the candidate play in his business dealings? You know, frankly, with ten days or two weeks to go, it was looked at by very credible organizations, including The Wall Street Journal —Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal — and they found nothing at that time.
The problem is that the laptop makes repeated references to access to “the candidate” and millions in obvious influence peddling with Russian, Chinese, and other foreign sources. It is laughable to suggest that CNN would not have pursued such a story involving Trump children.
Joe Biden was not the vehicle of the influence peddling proceeds. He was the object of the influence peddling.
Nevertheless, CNN continued to report President Biden’s repeated and unchallenged claim that “I have never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings.” Those denials continued even after an audiotape surfaced showing President Biden leaving a message for Hunter specifically discussing coverage of those dealings.
Some of us have written for two years that Biden’s denial of knowledge is patently false. It was equally evident that the Biden family was selling influence and access.
There are emails of Ukrainian and other foreign clients thanking Hunter Biden for arranging meetings with his father. There are photos from dinners and meetings that tie President Biden to these figures, including a 2015 dinner with a group of Hunter Biden’s Russian and Kazakh clients.
People apparently were told to avoid directly referring to President Biden. In one email, Tony Bobulinski, then a business partner of Hunter’s, was instructed by Biden associate James Gilliar not to speak of the former veep’s connection to any transactions: “Don’t mention Joe being involved, it’s only when u [sic] are face to face, I know u [sic] know that but they are paranoid.”
Instead, the emails apparently refer to President Biden with code names such as “Celtic” or “the big guy.” In one, “the big guy” is discussed as possibly receiving a 10 percent cut on a deal with a Chinese energy firm; other emails reportedly refer to Hunter Biden paying portions of his father’s expenses and taxes.
Yet, Zucker maintained:
Okay. So my point is, it’s easy to say we should have spent more time on that. Listen, do I think it’s legitimate to look at. Sure. Do I think that like it’s a legitimate criticism to say that in the ten days, 14 days prior to the election, you didn’t spend enough time on it? Not really.
The problem is that, even after the election, CNN did not even acknowledge the authenticity of the laptop for roughly two years despite key figures confirming the contents.
CNN continued to ignore the story even as more details emerged. The laptop contained details to the extent of his knowledge and involvement. It appears that Biden met with at least 14 of Hunter’s business associates from the U.S., Mexico, Ukraine, China and Kazakhstan over the course of his vice presidency. That includes Hunter’s Mexican business associates, Miguel Aleman Velasco and Miguel Aleman Magnani who visited the West Wing on Feb. 26, 2014. Joe was later photographed with Hunter giving Velasco and Magnani a tour of the White House Brady Press Briefing room.
Even as foreign intelligence involvement and millions in payments were being discussed, CNN engaged in willful blindness under Zucker, who previously admitted that ratings drove the unrelenting anti-Trump focus of his coverage. CNN is currently trying to undo much of Zucker’s work that led to plunging ratings.
Griffin then added his own spin on the refusal of MSNBC to pursue the story:
“He was never arrested. The Justice Department was looking into it, never reported it until he is the son of a candidate. I don’t think it’s a main story until that happens.”
So the millions in influence peddling or criminal acts featured on the laptop was not particularly newsworthy. It was the absence of a perp walk?
That may come as a bit of a surprise to Donald Trump Jr. who was the subject of 24/7 coverage on the Trump Tower meeting, including unsupported claims from CNN and MSNBC legal experts that there was strong evidence of criminal conduct. Some of us pushed back on these claims but CNN and MSNBC did wall-to-wall coverage with the same legal experts for weeks on the criminal enterprise revealed at Trump Tower.
On CNN, viewers were told that this is the long-sought “smoking gun” on collusion. Norm Eisen, a White House ethics czar under former President Obama, invoked the Logan Act — a law from 1799 that makes it a crime for citizens to intervene in disputes or controversies between the United States and foreign governments. (The law is widely viewed as facially unconstitutional).
Richard Painter, an ethics lawyer under former President George W. Bush, declared that the meeting “borders on treason.” Others declared it a possible violation of the federal law banning foreign contributions to federal campaigns.
MSNBC justice and security analyst Matthew Miller said Trump Jr. could now go to jail because “it doesn’t have to be money … it can be, potentially, accepting information. So he’s potentially confessing in his statement to committing a crime.”
There was no circumspection or hesitancy at CNN or MSNBC in airing any and all such criminal theories on the meeting. Of course, no such charges were ever brought.
When the transcripts of the meeting came out, the media simply moved on. CNN, which had a bevy of legal analysts who have been flogging the Trump Tower conspiracy for months, ran the headline, “Trump Tower transcripts detail quest for dirt on Hillary Clinton.” Nothing on the great conspiracy or collusion.
Notably, it was still news that Trump’s team wanted to hear about possible criminal conduct. Yet, the media pushed false Russian collusion claims from the Steele dossier that the Clinton campaign funded (while denying that it was doing so). That was not worthy of the attention on the “quest for dirt on Donald Trump.”
Likewise, stories rebutting the laptop allegations were considered important news on the networks. Both CNN and MSNBC eagerly spread the false claim of 51 intelligence experts who declared that the laptop was likely “Russian disinformation.”
That is why SNL’s Stuart Smalley might have been more useful than CNN’s Michael Smerconish in working through these “issues” with the former executives. It all had that Daily Affirmation feel as Zucker and Griffin seemed to assure each other “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough and doggone it, people like you.”
Those mogul corruptors have left the building and don’t want to be a part of the crime scene.