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James Clapper ridiculed for about-face on his 2020 suggestion that the Hunter Biden laptop story had 'all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation'

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper may soon have to face facts about an impactful and misleading letter he penned with other intelligence officials ahead of the 2020 presidential election. His letter implied that the New York Post's damning report on Hunter Biden's emails was part of a "Russian information operation."

Now, with a congressional investigation into the matter in the works and the liberal mainstream media in belated agreement that the Hunter Biden laptop and the data thereon were authentic, Clapper appears desperate to revise the record.

Rather than admit to possibly misusing his former credibility and credentials to protect a political candidate in a fraught election, Clapper has instead elected to suggest that the media misconstrued his and other intelligence community partisans' meaning concerning the laptop story.

This timely deflection of accountability has been met with outrage and ridicule, with some critics questioning why Clapper and others have waited over two years to point the fingers at Politico and other media outfits.

What is the background?

On Oct. 19, 2019, James Clapper, former director of national intelligence; Leon Panetta, former head of the CIA; John Brennan, former head of the CIA; Michael Hayden, former head of the National Security Agency; Nick Rasmussen, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center; Mike Vickers, former under secretary of defense for intelligence; and dozens of others penned a letter entitled, "Public Statement on the Hunter Biden Emails."

The letter declared that the Hunter Biden laptop story and the evidence it discussed were likely all an utter fabrication — that the story had "all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation."

Despite admitting in the letter to not knowing whether the Hunter Biden emails provided to the New York Post were "genuine" and having no "evidence of Russian involvement," Clapper and his peers suggested a "laptop op" designed "to discredit Biden ... would be consistent with some of the key methods Russia has used in its now multi-year operation to interfere in our democracy."

The authors of the now-discredited letter added, "Our experience makes us deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case. If we are right, this is Russia trying to influence how Americans vote in this election, and we believe strongly that Americans need to be aware of this."

According to former Attorney General Bill Barr, it was not Russia but Clapper and fellow intelligence alumni who used disinformation to influence how Americans voted in the 2020 election.

Barr told conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt last year, "The intelligence officials suggesting that it was Russian disinformation in order to essentially keep a cork in it until after the election ... I think that that probably affected the outcome, or at least there is a very distinct probability of that."

Then-candidate Joe Biden used the letter to great effect, referencing it in the final presidential debate with former President Donald Trump on Oct. 22, 2020, saying, "Look, there are 50 former national intelligence folks who said that what he’s accusing me of is a Russian plan. They have said that this has all the characteristics — four, five former heads of the CIA, both parties, say what he’s saying is a bunch of garbage. Nobody believes it except him and his good friend Rudy Giuliani."

Biden utilized the discredited letter on another occasion in conversation with "60 Minutes," where he said, "From what I’ve read and know, the intelligence community warned the president that Giuliani was being fed disinformation from the Russians. And we also know that Putin is trying very hard to spread disinformation about Joe Biden. And so when you put the combination of Russia, Giuliani, and the president together, you assess what it is. It’s a smear campaign because he has nothing he wants to talk about in his — what is he running on? What is he running on?"

While partisan operatives and the FBI reportedly worked with social media companies to kill the New York Post story online, the liberal media amplified the claims made in the intel officials' letter.

Politico ran a story by Natasha Bertrand entitled "Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say" on Oct. 19, 2020, just weeks before the election.

Bertrand had been given the letter by a former top aide under CIA director John Brennan, a signatory of the letter.

The aide claimed, "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."

While parroting the suggestions made in the letter, Bertrand also advanced claims by Biden's top advisers, including their rebukes of credible accusations concerning the Bidens' business dealings in Ukraine and elsewhere.

Glenn Greenwald tweeted Monday, "The pre-election lie -- and that's what it was -- that the NY Post's reporting was based on 'Russian disinformation' was first disseminated by @Politico and @NatashaBertrand , who was rewarded for her lying by being hired by CNN."

Clapper unwilling to take the hit

House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) wrote to Clapper, Brennan, Hayden, and several other signatories of the letter on Feb. 6, accusing them of falsely implying the New York Post's reporting about Hunter Biden was the product of Russian disinformation.

In a previous letter sent on April 6, 2022, Jordan and other Republicans noted that Clapper's "public statement served as a basis for Democrat operatives to try to delegitimize the scandalous allegations about Hunter Biden and the Biden family."

The April letter added, "At best, the public statement was a reckless attempt by you and your co-signatories to erroneously opine about purported election interference. At worse—and more likely—the public statement was a deliberate and coordinated effort to mislead the American people about information relevant to the 2020 presidential election by invoking your national security experience to falsely suggest that the allegations about Hunter Biden were not based in fact."

Now that he is required to testify before Congress, Clapper is accusing Bertrand of having "deliberately" lied about the letter — an accusation he has apparently waited over two years to make.

Glenn Greenwald said, "It's amazing what's going on here. Because of the House hearing investigating this, the political and media establishment can't ignore what they did any longer. So now they're turning on each other, blaming one another for the disinformation campaign."

"If James Clapper knew Politico and Natasha Bertrand were lying about what their letter said, why didn't he say so then? Reality: the CIA/IC people lying wanted the media to spread this. Only now that someone has to take the hit is Clapper saying Politico lied," added Greenwald.

When afforded an opportunity to clarify his meaning on CNN in October, Clapper, who allegedly lied to Congress in 2013, suggested that the emails serving as the basis of the Hunter Biden laptop story could be fake and "is just classic textbook Soviet Russian tradecraft at work."

In an apparent about-face, Clapper recently told the Washington Post, "There was message distortion. ... 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."

Glenn Kessler, a so-called fact-checker at the Washington Post, attempted to reinforce Clapper's accusation on Monday, suggesting that the Politico headline "likely shaped perceptions of the letter that continue to this day. The article itself does not say the letter made a disinformation claim."

Like Clapper, Politico too is apparently unwilling to assume any blame.

Politico told the Post that its "article fairly and accurately reported on — and summarized — the intelligence officials’ letter. More specifically, the headline is a fair summary of their allegations, the subhead offers additional context, and the first paragraph of the article hyperlinks to the letter itself, allowing readers to draw their own conclusion."

New York Post columnist Miranda Devine told Fox News Digital that Clapper's greatly delayed desire to clarify his remarks "show what a fraud he is, and that he's worried now the GOP controls the House and has vowed to haul in the signatories and make them testify under oath. He's trying to pre-shape the narrative."

Devine added, "They were silent. That was the message they wished to convey, and now they are scrambling because the GOP House is about to hold them accountable."

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