A former deputy director of the CIA was prompted by the Biden campaign to frame the Hunter Biden laptop story as Russian disinformation in a letter signed by dozens of former senior intelligence officials ahead of the 2020 presidential election, according to testimony revealed by Congressional lawmakers.
Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell was among the 51 signatories of an open letter (pdf) that said the New York Post’s October 2020 report dismissing the explosive contents of a laptop purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden.
The letter said that the “arrival on the U.S. political scene of emails purportedly belonging to Vice President Biden’s son Hunter, much of it related to his time serving of the Board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”
Subsequent reporting has confirmed that the laptop wasn’t part of a Russian disinformation campaign but had been abandoned at a computer repair shop. Some of the contents found on the laptop included embarrassing photos of Hunter Biden, including one apparently showing him passed out with a crack pipe.
At the time, Biden’s presidential campaign cited the letter in framing the Hunter Biden laptop story as Russian disinformation. Polling suggests that if voters had been aware of the laptop’s contents, some would have voted differently, with a potentially different outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
Morrell said in Congressional testimony cited by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) that Morrell had organized the letter at the urging of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who at the time was serving as an adviser to Biden’s presidential campaign.
Jordan, who heads both the House Judiciary Committee and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, has demanded that Blinken answer a series of questions about Morrell’s testimony and provide records of related communication.
Morrell’s remarks come in the form of a transcribed interview with the Weaponization Subcommittee, according to Jordan’s April 20 letter to Blinken.
The transcript shows that Morrell had no intention of writing the letter suggesting the Hunter Biden laptop story was Russian disinformation but that a conversation with Blinken “triggered” it.
“So his call triggered … that intent in you?” one of the committee members asked Morrell, per Jordan’s letter.
“It did, yes,” Morrell replied, indicating that Blinken called him on or around Oct. 17, 2020, to discuss the Hunter Biden laptop story.
“According to Morrell, although your outreach was couched as simply gathering Morrell’s reaction to the Post story, it set in motion the events that led to the issuance of the public statement,” Jordan wrote.
Jordan said Morrell also received a call from Steve Ricchetti, who chaired the Biden campaign, thanking Morrell for writing the statement.
“Steve thanked me for putting the statement out,” Morrell said, per Jordan’s letter. “And that was the extent of the conversation.”
Morrell said that one of his two goals in releasing the statement was to help Biden in a debate and win the election.
“There were two intents. One intent was to share our concern with the American people that the Russians were playing on this issue; and, two, it was [to] help Vice President Biden,” Morrell said, per the letter.
“You wanted to help the Vice President why?” Jordan asked.
“Because I wanted him to win the election,” Morrell replied, per the letter.
The Epoch Times has been unable to contact Morrell for comment.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ian Sams, White House spokesperson for oversight and investigations, told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement that House Republicans are “weaponizing their power to go after their political opponents and re-litigate the 2020 election with misleading claims.”
“The American people see these House GOP attacks for what they are: political stunts intended to hurt President Biden, and House Republicans would be wise to instead focus on doing their job, raising the debt ceiling to avoid an economic catastrophe, and working together with the President to make actual progress on important issues,” he added.
Jordan said in his letter to Blinken that it’s apparent that the Biden campaign “played an active role in the origins of the public statement,” which had the effect of helping to suppress the Hunter Biden story and preventing American citizens from making a fully informed decision during the 2020 presidential election.”
Politico published the letter on Oct. 19 with the headline “Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say.”
In their letter, the 51 former officials wrote that they “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.” Making an appeal to authority, they wrote that their “experience makes us deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case.”
While Jordan acknowledged the “unquestioned right” to free speech on the part of the IC letter signatories, he said that their reference to their national security credentials lent credibility to its contents and its key suggestion that the Hunter Biden story had the markings of a Russian disinformation campaign.
“This concerted effort to minimize and suppress public dissemination of the serious allegations about the Biden family was a grave disservice to all American citizens’ informed participation in our democracy,” Jordan wrote.
He gave Blinken until May 4 to provide the requested documentation.
The letter that was purportedly inspired by Blinken was widely referenced by news outlets in the lead-up to the November 2020 election between then-President Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
Biden used the letter to deflect criticism about his son’s business dealings during the second debate with Trump. Around the same time, Twitter and Facebook moved to suppress the New York Post’s initial Hunter Biden laptop story, with Twitter locking the paper out of its account for over two weeks.
Two years after the laptop story was published, a poll found that 79 percent of people who have been following reports about Hunter Biden said that “truthful” media coverage of the story would have changed the outcome of the 2020 election.
In September 2022, a poll from Rasmussen Reports found that 63 percent of likely American voters believe the Hunter Biden laptop story is important.
Hunter Biden, in an ABC News interview in 2019, said that he engaged in no illegal activity and that there was nothing improper about his overseas business deals.
“I gave a hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father. That’s where I made the mistake,” Hunter Biden said at the time.
“So I take full responsibility for that. Did I do anything improper? No, not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever.”
It comes as House Republicans have been probing the Biden family’s business dealings.
Jack Phillips contributed to this report, which has been updated with a comment from the White House.