In an interview with The Washington Post’s “fact-checker,” former National Intelligence Director James Clapper contends that the news outlet Politico misled the public about a letter he and 50 other former intel officials signed during the 2020 presidential campaign, warning that the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story could be Russian deception.
“There was message distortion,” Clapper tells The Washington Post. “All we were doing was raising a yellow flag that this could be Russian disinformation. Politico deliberately distorted what we said. It was clear in paragraph five.”
It was not clear at all. The purpose of the letter, apparent then as it is now, was to discredit the New York Post’s scoop and provide Democrats and the media with ammunition to reject it. Of course, intelligence officials couldn’t definitively say that Hunter Biden’s emails, which implicated his father Joe Biden as a business partner, were concocted by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spooks. They had no access to the laptop.
The purpose was to enlist former intel chiefs to cast doubt on the New York Post’s story. A perfunctory CYA paragraph doesn’t change anything.
The laptop lie began, as is often the case, with Adam Schiff, the California congressman who used the House intelligence committee as a partisan disinfo clearinghouse. As soon as the story broke, Schiff, a Democrat, claimed that “we know”—a phrase he used numerous times—that the Hunter Biden emails had been planted by the Kremlin.
By then, though, everyone understood Schiff was an irredeemable liar. John Ratcliffe, then director of national intelligence, issued a statement at the time stressing that, actually, there was no evidence to back Schiff’s claims.
That’s when Politico reported that more than 50 former senior intelligence officials had signed a letter asserting that the Hunter Biden laptop “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”
The most notable signees were Clapper, a man who ran a domestic surveillance program and then lied about it to Congress, and former CIA Director John Brennan, a man who once oversaw an operation of illegal spying on a Senate staffer and then lied about it to the American people.
The former intel officials’ letter worked exactly as intended.
“Look,” Biden said during the second and last 2020 presidential debate when asked about his son’s laptop, “there are 50 former national intelligence folks who said that what he [President Donald Trump] is accusing me of is a Russian plan.” On CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” Biden called the story “disinformation from the Russians.”
Clapper now tells The Washington Post that he had absolutely no idea how the former vice president had framed the contents of the former intel officials’ letter—which is, to be generous, implausible nonsense.
If the letter Clapper signed was merely a good-faith warning, then why didn’t any of the other signees push back against Biden’s contention during their numerous television appearances? Did none of them watch the presidential debates?
Why didn’t Clapper send a follow-up statement clarifying his position after Politico’s headline purportedly “distorted” the letter? Did he not see the piece until now—just as House Republicans are about to investigate?
All that The Washington Post’s pedantic “fact check” does is offer the signees, and itself, cover. The Washington Post excuses the media’s (ongoing) suppression of the Hunter Biden story by arguing that the “leak of emails from the Democratic National Committee and [Hillary] Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta,” which “may have contributed to Donald Trump’s unexpected victory in 2016,” made journalists extra cautious about relaying uncorroborated information.
That contention is gravely undercut by the hundreds of pieces and columns that The Washington Post ran based on Democrats’ opposition research that contained what was almost surely Russian disinformation. Any skeptical journalist also would have immediately identified the letter, and the Politico piece, as a nakedly partisan attempt to undermine the legitimacy of a story.
Indeed, the New York Post’s Hunter Biden story had far more substantiation than any of the histrionic Russia-collusion pieces that the public was subjected to during the Trump years. The New York Post detailed how it came into possession of its evidence. It interviewed the owner of the Delaware computer repair shop where Hunter had abandoned his laptop. It provided Hunter’s signature on a receipt.
The New York Post had on-the-record sources with intimate knowledge of Hunter Biden’s business dealings. The newspaper had on-the-record interviews with people who claimed to have interactions with presidential candidate Joe Biden—incidents we now know Biden had lied about for years. And later, Hunter Biden’s emails were authenticated by forensic specialists at other outlets, as well.
Virtually the entire censorious journalistic establishment, including The Washington Post, with the help of tech giants and former spooks, limited exposure of the Hunter Biden story either by banning it outright as disinformation, creating the impression that it didn’t meet proper journalistic standards, or implying that it had been planted by Russians.
The media wasn’t going to allow another Hillary Clinton-like scandal to sink the prospects of a Democrat. And Clapper played a big part in that deception.
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