By J. Peder Zane for RealClearPolitics
Elon Musk is performing a great public service by releasing the Twitter Files, which show how the social media company he recently purchased suppressed news about the Biden family’s foreign dealings. While the company’s actions, which occurred weeks before the 2020 election, raise knotty questions about free speech, they are a distraction.
The more urgent issue is the conduct of our own government, specifically the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which created the landscape where censorship and disinformation could thrive and possibly change the outcome of the presidential contest.
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Here is a brief chronology which focuses on the bureau’s key role in this ongoing scandal.
In December 2019, the FBI used a subpoena to take possession of the laptop Hunter Biden had abandoned at a Delaware repair shop the previous April. The bureau has not said what it did with the computer but, as it acquired the laptop in connection with a Hunter Biden investigation involving money laundering, it is hard to believe it did not authenticate the data.
Earlier this year, several news organizations, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and CBS News verified much of the laptop’s contents, connecting Joe Biden to his son’s lucrative influence-peddling schemes.
During the late summer and early autumn of 2020, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who had obtained a copy of the laptop hard drive, began trying to place the story in media outlets. Giuliani’s efforts almost certainly would have come onto the bureau’s radar, as he was already under investigation by federal prosecutors for his lobbying work in Ukraine.
Around the same time, the FBI warned executives at Twitter and Facebook to be on high alert for Russian “hack and leak operations” involving Hunter Biden. Mark Zuckerberg recalled that the bureau warned that “basically there’s about to be some kind of dump” of Russian propaganda.
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These claims by the FBI – which, it bears repeating, possessed the laptop – would become the foundation of Democratic Party and media efforts to discredit the explosive material.
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On Oct. 14, 2020, the New York Post ran the first article about the laptop whose headline – “Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad” – contradicted Joe Biden’s iron-clad claim that “I have never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings.”
That first Post article also reported that the FBI had the laptop, telling social media platforms and rival journalists where they might go to check its authenticity. On the same day, Twitter and Facebook limited distribution of the Post article on the grounds that it could be hacked material.
The Twitter Files reveal that a prime force calling for the censorship of the news was James Baker, a lawyer who had previously worked at the FBI, where he was instrumental in furthering the Trump/Russia collusion hoax. It strains credulity to believe he never checked with his former colleagues at the bureau about the laptop before advising Twitter that “it’s reasonable for us to assume that they may have been [hacked] and that caution is warranted.”
The same goes for the rival news organizations that disparaged the laptop story. There can be little doubt that the bureau’s phone lines were burning that day, though we do not know who called, what they asked, or what they were told. But given the FBI’s long history of violating its own policy about not discussing ongoing investigations, and the national import of this story, it almost certainly had a duty to somehow set the record straight. Officially, there was only silence, which allowed disinformation to spread.
On Oct. 17, Rep. Adam Schiff, who had led the Democrats’ effort to paint Trump as Putin’s treasonous puppet during the Russiagate hoax, dismissed the laptop as a smear “from the Kremlin.”
Five days later, on Oct. 19, Politico reported that “more than 50 former senior intelligence officials have signed on to a letter outlining their belief that the recent disclosure of emails allegedly belonging to Joe Biden’s son ‘has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.’”
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Joe Biden used that letter during the first presidential debate on Oct. 22 to dismiss the laptop as a “Russian plan.”
Again, it strains credulity to believe that the Biden campaign never queried the FBI about the laptop or that Joe Biden never asked his son whether he had, in fact, left the laptop he had used for years at a Delaware repair shop. Even if Hunter, who has struggled with drug addiction, did not remember, as he later claimed, whether he had failed to retrieve it, he certainly would have known that his computer was missing and that the contents being leaked were familiar.
On Oct. 23, the FBI conducted a five-hour interview with one of Hunter Biden’s former business partners, Tony Bobulinski, who said he had evidence that Joe Biden was taking a cut from his son’s foreign deals. Bobulinksi said the agents promised to follow up with him quickly. Two years later, he is still waiting.
Thus, the FBI enabled Democrats to turn the tables on Trump, using damaging information about the Bidens to reenforce their narrative that Trump was in cahoots with the Russians. In the years since, it has worked to continue to suppress the truth about the Biden family business. Without dismissing the serious danger posed by Twitter and other media regarding their approach to the laptop, the real story here is the actions of our own government.
Syndicated with permission from RealClearWire.
J. Peder Zane is a RealClearInvestigations editor and columnist. He previously worked as a book review editor and book columnist for the News & Observer (Raleigh), where his writing won several national honors. Zane has also worked at the New York Times and taught writing at Duke University and Saint Augustine’s University.
The opinions expressed by contributors and/or content partners are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Political Insider.