Below is my column in The Hill on the recent disclosure that the organizer of the infamous “Russian Disinformation” letter on the Hunter Biden laptop was prompted by then Biden campaign adviser Antony Blinken. He is, of course, now our Secretary of State and he follows a pattern of the “made men” of the Biden Administration.
Here is the column:
Secretary of State Antony Blinken would really, really prefer to talk about grain in Ukraine this week. But many people are less interested in what Blinken is doing as secretary of state than in what he did to become secretary of state.
This week, Blinken was implicated in a political coverup that could well have made the difference in the 2020 election. According to the sworn testimony of former acting CIA Director Michael Morrell, Blinken – then a high-ranking Biden campaign official – was “the impetus” of the false claim that the Hunter Biden laptop story was really Russian disinformation. Morrell then organized dozens of ex-national security officials to sign the letter claiming that the Hunter laptop story had “all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”
Morrell further admitted that the Biden campaign “helped to strategize about the public release of the statement.”
Finally, he admitted that one of his goals was not just to warn about Russian influence but “to help then-Vice President Biden in the debate and to assist him in winning the election.”
Help it did. Biden claimed in a presidential debate that the laptop story was “garbage” and part of a “Russian plan.” Biden used the letter to say “nobody believes” that the laptop is real.
In reality, the letter was part of a political plan with the direct involvement of his campaign, but Biden never revealed their involvement. Indeed, over years of controversy surrounding this debunked letter, no one in the Biden campaign or White House (including Blinken) revealed their involvement.
Of course, the letter was all the media needed. Discussion of the laptop was blocked on social media, and virtually every major media outlet dismissed the story before the election.
That was also all Biden needed to win a close election. The allegations that the Biden family had cashed in millions through influence peddling could have made the difference. It never happened, in part because of Blinken’s work.
Once in power, Blinken was given one of the top Cabinet positions. He was now one of the “made” men of the administration.
He was not alone. The 2016 election was marred by false allegations of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. Unlike the influence peddling allegations made against Biden, the media ran with those stories for years. It later turned out that the funding and distribution of the infamous Steele dossier originated with the Clinton campaign. The campaign, however, reportedly lied in denying any such funding until after the election. It was later sanctioned for hiding the funding as legal expenses.
Those involved in spreading this false story were rewarded handsomely. For example, the second collusion story planted in the media by the campaign concerned the Russian Alfa Bank. The campaign used key Clinton aide Jake Sullivan, who went public with the entirely false claim of a secret back channel between Moscow and the Trump campaign.
Sullivan was also a “made” man who was later made Biden’s national security adviser. Others who were implicated in either the Steele dossier or Alfa Bank hoaxes also later found jobs in the administration. The Brookings Institution proved a virtual turnstile for these political operatives.
Many signatories on the Russian disinformation letter continue to flourish. MSNBC analyst Jeremy Bash signed the letter and was put on the president’s Intelligence Advisory Board. As with Sullivan, it did not seem to matter that Bash had gotten one of the most important intelligence stories of the election wrong.
Former CIA head James Clapper was referenced by Biden on the letter and was also a spreader of the Russian collusion claims. Despite those scandals and a claim of perjury, CNN gave him a media contract.
They are all “made” men in the Beltway, but they could not have succeeded without a “made” media.
These false stories planted by the Clinton and Biden campaigns succeeded only because the media played an active and eager role. In any other country, this pattern would fit the model of a state media and propaganda effort. However, there was no need for a central ministry when the media quickly reinforced these narratives. This is a state media by consent rather than coercion. The Biden campaign knew that reporters would have little interest or curiosity in how the letter came about or the involvement of campaign operatives.
If Republicans did not control the House of Representatives, the Morrell admission would never have occurred. The Democrats repeatedly blocked efforts to investigate this story and the influence peddling allegations. Even this week, some Democrats called it a “tabloid story.”
Given the career paths of figures such as Blinken and Sullivan, there is a concern that other officials may see the value in “earning their bones” as “made” men and women. There is now a senior IRS career official who is seeking to disclose what he claims was special treatment given to Hunter Biden in the criminal investigation.
While the 51 former intelligence figures were eager to raise Russian disinformation claims before the election, most have become silent. After all, the letter served its purpose, as Morrell indicated, “to assist [Biden] in winning the election.” After the false stories planted before the 2016 and 2020 elections, the question is what is in store for 2024?
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.