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Dozens of former intelligence officials sign letter warning Hunter Biden story could be Russian disinformation

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spoke with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani before President Trump arrived for a news conference in the Briefing Room of the White House on September 27, 2020 in Washington, D.C.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spoke with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani before President Trump arrived for a news conference in the Briefing Room of the White House on September 27, 2020 in Washington, D.C.Joshua Roberts/Getty

More than 50 former intelligence officials have signed a letter publicly stating their belief that the disclosure of e-mails allegedly belonging to Hunter Biden, son of Democratic nominee Joe Biden, possesses “the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”

The letter was provided to POLITICO by Nick Shapiro, a former top aide under CIA director John Brennan, on Monday, the news outlet reported.

The joint statement focused on a trove of documents released last week by the New York Post in an article centered around Hunter Biden’s alleged “secret e-mails.” The article, which was deemed so dubious that Twitter and Facebook limited its distribution, suggested the former vice president was connected with his son’s Ukrainian business dealings.

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A number of outlets, among them the New York Times and the Washington Post, could not independently verify the authenticity of the data in the article. The New York Post reported that the photos and documents were obtained from the hard drive of a laptop — alleged to be Hunter Biden’s — given to them by President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani, according to the New York Post, was given the hard drive from a computer repair shop owner in Delaware, who said he had alerted authorities to its existence.

But in the letter, signed by those including former Trump administration officials, the authors said they were “deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case.”

Though they did not provide new evidence, the authors stated that they had “devoted significant portions” of their lives to national security and that they see “Russia as one of our nation’s top adversaries.” Most importantly, the signatories said, they believe that American citizens “should determine the outcome of elections, not foreign governments.”

“It is for all these reasons that we write to say that the arrival on the US political scene of e-mails purportedly belonging to Vice President Biden’s son Hunter, much of it related to his time serving on the Board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation,” the letter states.

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The former intelligence officials emphasized that they do not know if the e-mails described in the New York Post are genuine, nor do they have explicit evidence of Russian involvement.

But they outlined a number of factors that awakened their suspicions. For one, they argue that such an operation would be in line with Russian objectives highlighted by the United Stated Intelligence Community — namely to create “political chaos” in the nation and deepen divisions, but also to “undermine the candidacy” of Biden.

“For the Russians at this point, with Trump down in the polls, there is incentive for Moscow to pull out the stops to do anything possible to help Trump win and/or to weaken Biden should he win,” the letter states.

Further, the operation would be on par with methods Russia has previously used in “its now multi-year operation to interfere in our democracy,” the letter states, such as hacking and information dumping — including the distribution of misinformation.

The officials noted that Russia used such methods during the 2016 presidential election.

In outlining their belief, the officials also said such a misinformation campaign is consistent with reports that Russians targeted Burisma last year and gained access to its e-mails.

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The signatories also cited media reports as supporting their view that “the Russians are involved in the Hunter Biden e-mail issue,” specifically an article from the Washington Post on Giuliani being a target of an influence operation by Russian intelligence, and reports that federal authorities are investigating the matter.

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said Monday that e-mails purporting to show the business dealings of Hunter Biden are “not part of some Russian disinformation campaign,” though the Trump appointee said he knew “little” about the issue.

News outlets have reported, however, that the FBI is conducting an investigation to determine whether the e-mail release was linked to a foreign influence operation.

The New York Times reported this weekend that the New York Post article was primarily written by a staff reporter, Bruce Golding, but that he refused to put his name on it due to “concerns over the article’s credibility.”

Giuliani said he chose to approach the Post because “either nobody else would take it, or if they took it, they would spend all the time they could to try to contradict it before they put it out,” the Times reported.