Former top Twitter executives who censored the Hunter Biden laptop story in advance of the 2020 presidential election admitted on Wednesday that it was wrong to do so.
That was their testimony during a contentious hearing conducted by the House Oversight Committee. The story published by the New York Post was accurate and the laptop’s incriminating contents were real. Its suppression by social media companies, including Twitter, may have helped Joe Biden get elected.
Reams of evidence presented at the hearing revealed how the FBI worked in concert with Twitter to kill the story. The committee subpoenaed James Baker as a key witness. He once served as general counsel for James Comey’s FBI but then joined Twitter several months before the election. Baker, you’ll recall, was instrumental in pushing the Russia collusion hoax in a lawless effort to drive Donald Trump from office.
But during the hearing, Baker falsely portrayed himself as the voice of reason who urged “caution” in censoring the story. Internal emails and other documents disclosed as part of the “Twitter Files” show the opposite is true. He dismissed the laptop as hacked and the contents as fake while arguing in favor of killing the story.
Unlike Baker, the company’s head of Trust and Safety, Yoel Roth was far more candid in his testimony. When asked if he believed that the laptop was Russian disinformation, he replied, “I didn’t then and I don’t now.” When the story emerged on October 14, 2020, Roth argued that it did not violate any of Twitter’s policies and should not be censored. But he was overruled by executives above him. That’s where Baker played an instrumental role.
He was joined by Vijaya Gadde, the former general counsel of Twitter, who asserted that the Post article was based on hacked materials even though Roth emphatically advised that there was no evidence of hacking and Hunter’s damning emails appeared authentic. Gadde’s pretense of a hack was invented out of thin air to discredit a legitimate story that would clearly damage Biden’s campaign.
During the hearing, Baker presented a master class in deflection and deception. When he wasn’t refusing to answer questions by invoking a dubious version of the attorney-client privilege, he gave a fine impression of a deaf, dumb, and blind man. Here’s a sampling of his responses: “I don’t recall, I don’t understand, I’m having trouble hearing you, I don’t know, I have no answer to that.” Someone should get the guy a hearing aid and white cane.
Roth was already on record in a sworn declaration stating that the FBI was behind the social media censorship. Every day the bureau was sending requests to terminate tweets, “shadowban” conservatives, and banish accounts they didn’t like. In other words, the FBI was closely collaborating with Twitter to diminish the free speech rights of millions of people.
Ranking Democrat Jamie Raskin (D-Md) dismissed all of it by claiming that since Twitter is a private company it can do whatever it wants with no consequence. As a skilled lawyer, he knows that is completely untrue. Whenever the government uses a private company as a proxy to censor information it violates the Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled consistently that a government actor cannot pressure or direct private citizens or entities to do what the First Amendment prohibits the government from doing —that is, to abridge free speech rights.
The “Twitter Files” and Roth’s own declaration make it abundantly clear that the FBI colluded with the platform to suppress speech. Meetings and encrypted communications were “constant and pervasive.” There were at least nine former FBI agents who were working at Twitter. They had their own secret messaging system.
The FBI’s sustained censorship campaign primed Twitter to eliminate the laptop story. By virtue of its clandestine spying, the agency knew that the laptop scandal would eventually drop sometime before the election. The FBI had seized the laptop in December of 2019 and were alarmed by its incendiary contents of criminal wrongdoing.
Agents also knew that a copy was being passed around. In frequent meetings with Roth and others, bureau agents warned there would be a “hack-and-leak operation” involving Hunter Biden. Twitter received its marching orders to kill it when published and prevent its spread. That is precisely what the platform did.
Many in the mainstream media also willingly abided by refusing to report on the laptop. 51 former U.S. intelligence officials penned a letter falsely stating that it had “all the earmarks” of Russian disinformation. In reality, those intel officials were peddling disinformation to help Biden get elected.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) noted during the 6-hour hearing that Twitter “got played by the FBI.” They certainly did, but deliberately so. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) remarked that “Twitter got caught and Twitter got bought.” He’s right. Smoking gun documents show that the FBI shelled out $3.5 million dollars in taxpayer money for the company to process its “moderation” requests.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) deserves credit for fairness. Unlike the January 6th committee stacked with partisans that were hand-picked by his predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, the new speaker gave Democrats free rein to seat colleagues of their own choosing on the Oversight Committee. Indeed, they were allowed to challenge the evidence and even call a witness of their own.
That’s the laughable part. Dems put forward a former Twitter executive who openly confessed that she had nothing whatsoever to do with the censorship decision involving the laptop. Instead, she inveighed against the events of January 6th. The distraction served up a head-banging disconnect.
But that was the approach most Democrats took. They occupied their allotted time by resurrecting the violence on January 6th and railing against their great boogeyman, Trump. To a person they mocked the hearing as unimportant. Some Dems blindly claimed there was no evidence despite a plethora of evidence presented. Raskin demanded more censorship, not less. Wow. Democrats used to be civil libertarians. No more.
The award for cluelessness was earned —predictably— by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) who launched into an incomprehensible rant with her hands and arms flailing like a windmill. Someone could have been injured. She called the laptop “disinformation” and a “half-fake” story. Really? Which half? Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-NM) came in a close second by calling the FBI’s obvious collusion with Twitter “a conspiracy theory.” Ah…yes.
There is nothing “silly” —the word one Democrat used— about congress investigating government corruption involving the president’s family and maybe the president himself. Committee Chair, James Comer (R-Ky.), pointed this out when he explained that the laptop harbors evidence that Joe Biden’s son reaped millions of dollars from America’s adversaries. Emails, witness statements, and other records suggest that the father was complicit in “the Biden family influence peddling.” Comer concluded, “National security may be compromised.”
Whether America’s security is in jeopardy is certainly worth investigating.