A legal complaint has shaken the political landscape, alleging a coordinated disinformation campaign during the 2020 presidential race.
The conservative organization America First Legal (AFL) accuses 51 former intelligence officials of colluding with the Biden campaign to discredit the Hunter Biden laptop story, potentially violating campaign finance laws.
The AFL, led by Stephen Miller, a former aide to President Trump, submitted the complaint to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in October 2022. The complaint sets forth that the Biden campaign, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and related entities failed to report coordinated expenditures and in-kind donations linked to a letter penned by these 51 officials.
Just weeks before the 2020 election, this letter was released, claiming that the story about Hunter Biden's laptop bore "all the classic earmarks" of Russian disinformation. This letter provided a pretext for social media platforms to limit access to the Hunter Biden story.
Prominent among these 51 officials were former CIA Directors John Brennan and Leon Panetta, as well as former Directors of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper and Michael Hayden. Both Panetta and Clapper had contributed to the Biden campaign in 2020.
In the spring of 2022, former acting CIA Director Michael Morell testified that Biden adviser Antony Blinken had reached out to him regarding the laptop story in the month leading up to the election. Morell further revealed that the Biden campaign had a hand in strategizing the release of the controversial letter.
The intention behind this strategy, Morell admitted, was twofold: to assist Biden in the debates and to bolster his chances of winning the election. This admission has fueled the allegations of a coordinated political operation to discredit the laptop story and secure Biden's victory.
During the first debate, Biden labeled the laptop story as Russian disinformation. This comment followed closely on the heels of the release of the letter. The subsequent election saw Biden secure the presidency.
The 13-page complaint lodged by the AFL, bolstered by 110 pages of evidence, makes serious allegations. The press release from the House Judiciary Committee in April offers further insight into the communication between Morell and the Biden campaign.
Citing Morell's testimony, it mentions a call from Steve Ricchetti, Chairman of the Biden campaign, thanking Morell after the October 22 debate. It also notes that the Biden campaign played a role in strategizing the public release of the letter.
"Morell also explained that the Biden campaign helped to strategize about the public release of the statement. Morell further explained that one of his two goals in releasing the statement was to help then-[former] Vice President Biden in the debate and to assist him in winning the election."
The AFL complaint evokes the specter of election interference, a recurring concern in recent American political history. Rubinstein, the senior counselor and director of oversight and investigations for America First Legal, drew parallels between this case and the 2016 election.
In a statement, Rubinstein accuses these former intelligence officials of interfering in the 2020 election, just as they allegedly did in 2016 in an unsuccessful bid to elect Hilary Clinton. The complaint posits the letter as part of a concerted effort to elect Biden by discrediting the laptop story.
The New York Times and The Washington Post later verified the authenticity of Hunter Biden's laptop, casting further doubt on the claims of Russian disinformation made by the 51 intelligence officials.