Former acting CIA director Mike Morell has testified that he organized 50 of his colleagues in the intelligence community to sign a letter in October 2020 claiming that emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop were Russian disinformation after Joe Biden’s presidential campaign sought his help — and said that campaign official Antony Blinken, now the Secretary of State, was the person who reached out to him.
In his interview with members of the House Judiciary Committee, Morell said Blinken had reached out “on or before” Oct. 17, 2020, just days after The New York Post had published an email from the laptop that suggested Hunter introduced his father, while he was vice president, to his Ukrainian business partner, reports the Post.
Morell said he organized the letter to help Biden because he wanted him to win the election, but he told the investigators that he did not intend to write a statement for Biden until he got the call from Blinken, but he agreed that the conversation triggered that intent in him.
Judiciary Chair Rep. Jim Jordan and Rep. Michael Turner, chair of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter to Blinken on Thursday concerning Morell’s testimony, telling him that on Oct. 17, 2020, the day he contacted Morell, he also emailed him an article “published in USA Today alleging that the FBI was examining whether the Hunter Biden laptop was part of a ‘disinformation campaign.'”
The email included the signature block of Andrew Bates, who was the director of rapid response for the Biden campaign, the letter said.
Morell testified that he also got a call from Steve Ricchetti, the head of the Biden campaign, to thank him for putting the statement out. The call was organized by Jeremy Bash, who also signed the letter claiming Russian disinformation, he said.
Biden later appointed Bash, a former chief of staff for then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and an MSNBC security analyst to a role on his President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. Morell, who at one time was under consideration to be Biden’s CIA director, did not get that job.
Jordan and Turner, in their letter to Blinken, said there is an investigation into the origins of the “infamous public statement” signed by the former intelligence officials, and that even though subsequent reporting revealed that The Post’s story was not part of a “Russian information operation,” that was “little consolation.”
“The concerted efforts to dismiss the serious allegations in the Post’s reporting and to suppress any discussion of the story played a substantial role in the 2020 election,” they added.
Jordan and Turner asked Blinken to surrender documents and communications concerning the statement while providing the identities of everyone who was involved in its “inception, drafting, editing, signing, publishing, or promotion.”
The Judiciary Committee, in its online statement, said that based on Morell’s testimony, “it is 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.”
They pointed out that after the statement surfaced, news organizations not only reported the development but during the final presidential debate on Oct. 22, Biden used the statement to rebut President Donald Trump’s criticism of the Biden family’s business dealings.
Those who signed the statement claiming Russian disinformation do have the “unquestioned right to free speech and free association,” the committee statement said, but “their reference to their national security credentials lent weight to the story and suggested access to specialized information unavailable to other Americans.”
The statement added that “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.”