The new House GOP majority’s early oversight and inquiries into the “weaponization of the federal government” have thus far included plenty of supposition and elaborate theorizing — even as that has often run afoul of the known facts.
Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) began the Twitter-focused hearing by again gesturing in the direction of an elaborate alleged government conspiracy to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story. (We’ve dealt with previous versions before.)
But Jordan’s summary ignored key events, and it is contradicted by sworn testimony previously delivered by two key witnesses — including one who was responding to questions from Jordan himself.
Less than a minute into his opening statement, Jordan invoked Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth.
“So what did the government tell him? A hack-and-leak operation was coming. How often did the government tell him this? Repeatedly for a year. When did the government say it was going to happen? October of 2020. And who did the government say it would involve? Hunter Biden,” Jordan said.
“The FBI knows what’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen, and who it’s going to involve. Now that’s amazing,” he said, adding: “So maybe they get the time right, but they got the time, they got the method, and they got the person. That’s amazing. It’s almost like these guys were clairvoyant.”
Indeed, it does sound amazing. Except it ignores plenty of publicly available evidence from the time, and it doesn’t actually reflect Roth’s testimony.
Roth testified last month to the House Oversight Committee that it wasn’t the government that suggested such a hack-and-leak operation might involve Hunter Biden; he believed that information actually had come from another company.
“I don’t believe that perspective was shared by law enforcement,” Roth said. “They didn’t endorse it. They didn’t provide that information.”
Roth said some people had drawn the wrong conclusion based on a misreading of an affidavit he had signed. In the affidavit, he described meetings with federal law enforcement in which he was warned about potential foreign hack-and-leak operations shortly before the 2020 election. The affidavit stated: “I also learned in these meetings that there were rumors that a hack-and-leak operation would involve Hunter Biden.”
Roth made a point to clarify last month that he hadn’t said law enforcement was his source.
“In one of those meetings, it was discussed, I believe by another company, that there was a possibility the hack-and-leak could relate to Hunter Biden and Burisma,” he said, referring to the Ukrainian company on whose board Hunter Biden served.
Jordan’s summary is also contradicted by a November deposition from the former FBI agent whom Roth cited as warning of the hack-and-leak operations, Elvis Chan. “I do not remember us specifically saying ‘Hunter Biden’ in any meeting,” Chan said in the deposition.
Jordan himself asked Roth about this last month. At the same Oversight hearing, he suggested that Chan’s deposition contradicted Roth’s affidavit. And Roth again said he had been referring to someone besides the government.
“My recollection is that a representative of another tech company may have mentioned it,” Roth responded.
Roth added that “those meetings were several years ago. I truly don’t recall.” But at the least, it hasn’t been established that the government warned the hack-and-leak “would involve” Hunter Biden, as Jordan claimed Thursday. Yet Jordan spoke as if this was Roth’s version of events.
And it wasn’t the only segment of Jordan’s opening statement that took such liberties.
Shortly thereafter, he broached “Twitter Files” reporting from a committee witness about a training exercise for journalists conducted by the Aspen Institute. The session was reportedly held before the Hunter Biden laptop story broke, in September 2020, but it happened to deal with a hypothetical scenario involving a hack-and-leak operation on Hunter Biden and Burisma.
“That’s amazing,” Jordan again said. He noted that the Aspen Institute gets government funding. And given that the FBI had Hunter Biden’s laptop as of late 2019, he suggested that this amounted to the government priming journalists to disregard it.
But again, it’s less amazing when you dig just a little deeper. There were very public reasons someone might have imagined such a hypothetical scenario long before the Hunter Biden laptop story broke. And people did.
In January 2020, a California cybersecurity firm said that military spies from a Russian intelligence agency known as the GRU had hacked Burisma. As early as late 2019, it was reported that Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for President Donald Trump, had been working with a Ukrainian politician with ties to Russia, Andriy Derkach, in search of dirt on Hunter Biden. (By Sept. 10, 2020, the Treasury Department under Trump sanctioned Derkach for running an anti-Biden “influence campaign” and labeled him “an active Russian agent for over a decade.”)
The GRU was also involved in hack-and-leak operations of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman in 2016. So given that and the above, it was hardly fanciful to imagine such a scenario involving Hunter Biden.
Indeed, a Washington Post podcast floated such a scenario in January 2020, eight months before the Aspen Institute event, calling it a “warning flare for 2020.” And it was seemingly plausible enough for a tech company employee to float it while meeting with federal law enforcement — or for the Aspen Institute to build a training exercise around it.
Jordan mentioned none of this. But after suggesting that all of these things were tied together, he concluded, “If that’s not the weaponization of government, I don’t know what is.”
It’s certainly a theory.