An alleged campaign finance violation could ensnare Secretary of State Antony Blinken and 51 former senior intelligence officials who asserted without evidence in 2020 that the Hunter Biden laptop was Russian disinformation.
America First Legal, a conservative organization run by former Donald Trump White House aide Stephen Miller, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission in late October, alleging a ‘coordinated communication’ and an unreported in-kind contribution to the Joe Biden presidential campaign and related entities, in violation of federal law.
‘[The] evidence suggests that the respondents failed to disclose coordinated expenditures constituting in-kind donations with respect to the infamous ‘Letter of 51’ former intelligence officials claiming that the Hunter Biden laptop story had ‘all the classic earmarks’ of Russian disinformation,’ says the 13-page AFL complaint, with 110 accompanying pages of evidence.
The FEC complaint claims that the Biden for President campaign in 2020, the Biden Victory Fund, the Democratic National Committee, and the Biden Action Fund should have reported on coordinating efforts.
The ‘Letter of 51’ was released on Oct. 19, 2020, weeks before the Nov. 8 presidential election between Biden and Trump.
The Obama administration officials who signed included former Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former CIA director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Former George W. Bush DNI Michael Hayden, a vocal Trump critic, also signed.
The complaint notes that Panetta and Clapper donated to the Biden Victory Fund and the Biden for President campaign in 2020.
In March, former CIA Deputy and Acting Director Michael Morrell testified to the House Judiciary Committee and House Intelligence Committees that on Oct. 17, 2020, then-Biden campaign adviser Blinken contacted him to discuss the Hunter Biden laptop story first reported by the New York Post.
The complaint cited an April statement from the House Judiciary Committee that summarized the Morrell testimony.
‘Morell testified that his communication with Blinken was one of a few communications he had with the Biden campaign, explaining that he also received a call from Steve Ricchetti, Chairman of the Biden campaign, following the October 22 debate to thank him for writing the statement,’ the House Judiciary Committee press release from April said. ‘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 letter from intelligence officials provided cover and credibility for social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter to restrict the access and distribution of the Hunter Biden laptop story, first broken by the New York Post. Eventually, both the New York Times and Washington Post verified the authenticity of the Hunter Biden laptop. Also, during the first presidential debate between Trump and Biden, Biden referred to the laptop story as Russian disinformation.
‘There are reasons to believe that the public statement by 51 former intelligence officials was a coordinated political operation to help elect Vice President Biden in the 2020 presidential election, as set forth below,’ the complaint to the FEC says.
This fits a pattern of election meddling, said Reed D. Rubinstein, senior counselor and director of oversight and investigations for America First Legal.
‘In 2016, high-ranking federal intelligence officials interfered in a presidential election, lying about Russia collusion in a failed effort to elect Hilary Clinton,’ Rubinstein said in a statement.
‘In 2020, many of these same officials again interfered in a presidential election, lying about Hunter Biden,’ Rubenstein continued. ‘The Federal Election Commission’s charge includes election integrity — Americans have the right to know who is coordinating with federal candidates. But this right is only as effective as the agency that enforces it. The FEC must act here.’
Neither the Biden 2024 presidential campaign nor the Democratic National Committee responded to inquiries for this story.
The State Department also did not respond to an inquiry about Blinken’s role from Fox News about the matter.
The complaint alleges that the ’51 former intelligence officials’ statement was part of a carefully orchestrated effort to influence the 2020 election. AFL argued the Biden campaign, through key individuals, actively participated in drafting and disseminating the statement. The complaint argues that the 51 former intelligence officials’ public statement was strategically crafted to discredit the Hunter Biden laptop story, with the intent of aiding Joe Biden’s campaign.
The complaint details communication between then-Biden campaign advisor Blinken and Morell regarding the Hunter Biden laptop story. For his part, Blinken has denied having a role.
‘There is reason to believe that the respondents failed to report the above contribution and to identify the individuals who made it,’ the complaint says.
The complaint also alleges that the disinformation campaign should be considered a ‘coordinated communication’ under FEC regulations, subject to reporting requirements.
The AFL complaint contends that the Biden campaign actively participated in drafting and disseminating the statement, utilizing the national security credentials of the former intelligence officials to downplay the Hunter Biden laptop revelations.
The complaint further references a survey that found almost four of five Americans who followed the Hunter Biden laptop scandal thought that honest news coverage would have changed the outcome of the election. The survey by Technometric Institute of Policy and Politics was released in August 2022.