Liberals blaming Russia for Hunter Biden’s laptop was easy to predict, but Joe Biden’s complete dismissal of the emails as a Russian plot during last week’s debate took it to another level.
"There are 50 former national intelligence folks who said that what he’s accusing me of is a Russian plant," Biden said at the debate, referring to a letter published by Politico that was signed by 50 former intelligence officials.
Even Russiagaters who believe Moscow got Donald Trump elected in 2016 are having a hard time swallowing Biden’s assertion. The Washington Post published a story on Saturday that pointed out the authors of the Politico letter explicitly stated they have no evidence the laptop came from Moscow.
"We want to emphasize that we do not know if the emails … are genuine or not and that we do not have evidence of Russian involvement," the letter reads. The former spooks just have a hunch the emails came from Russia.
The Post story reads: "The Biden campaign’s decision to lean into accusations of Russian involvement in the episode, despite lacking specific proof, risks eroding public trust in US allegations of foreign election interference if the suspicions in this case turn out to be unfounded, according to intelligence and foreign policy experts."
While the Post and the so-called experts quoted in the story act like Biden’s claims are an aberration, the Politico letter is no different than the stories the public has been bombarded with for the past four years about Russian interference and collusion with the Trump campaign.
Former CIA director John Brennan is the top signatory to the Politico letter. Brennan’s antics since he was removed from his post as CIA chief has been one of the main driving forces of the hysteria in the media around Russiagate. Former spy chiefs are seen as credible sources in the eyes of the American public. Brennan took advantage of his position to spew baseless conspiracies for years, and he continues to do so. Why would he stop? Russiagate mania is lucrative for the former CIA chief, who landed a job as an analyst for NBC in 2018 and just published a best-selling book.
The Post story says President Trump has undermined US intelligence officials by "casting doubt on proved Russian interference on his behalf during the 2016 campaign." But what Russian interference has been proved?
The two claims underpinning the Russiagate conspiracy are that posts from the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a St. Petersburg-based troll farm, swayed the election and that Russia hacked the DNC and provided WikiLeaks with emails from the server. But these allegations are far from proven.
Two Senate-commissioned reports show the vast majority of the IRA’s posts were not even related to the 2016 election. One of the reports was prepared by the firm New Knowledge, a company that was found to be running fake Russian bot accounts during the 2017 Alabama Senate election.
New Knowledge was trying to make it appear like Republican candidate Roy Moore was being boosted by Russian bots. The New York Times exposed the conspiracy and quoted a report from the firm that admitted to the scandal. "We orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet," the report said.
Despite New Knowledge’s history of hyping the threat of Russian interference, the firm’s own report on the IRA shows what little focus the troll farm had on the 2016 election. According to the report, just "11 percent" of the IRA’s total content was election related. The IRA’s posts were "minimally about the candidates" with "roughly 6% of tweets, 18% of Instagram posts, and 7% of Facebook posts" having "mentioned Trump or Clinton by name."
More details about the reports can be found in The Nation in a piece by Aaron Maté. There’s no reason to believe the IRA was anything more than a troll farm looking for clicks.
After Robert Mueller indicted the IRA in 2018, Justin Raimondo pointed out a few significant holes in the narrative:
"Most of the ‘Russian’ ads ran after the election, and they didn’t support any candidates: instead, they focused on ‘hot button’ issues – precisely the sort of thing intended to attract visits and make money for the creators via ads … The IRA, like other clickbait operations, isn’t really about politics, although it deals with political subjects: it’s about making money for it owners. Period."
As far as the alleged Russian hack of the DNC, recently declassified House testimony from 2017 revealed that the cyber-security firm CrowdStrike had no "concrete evidence" that the emails were "exfiltrated" from the DNC server. The claim that Russia hacked the DNC came from CrowdStrike, and the FBI relied on the company’s work for their investigation.
The Politico letter and Biden’s claim that the laptop is a "Russian plant" is no different than other Russiagate claims. It just hasn’t been repeated enough for it to be considered "proved" by the mainstream media.
Dave DeCamp is the assistant news editor of Antiwar.com and is based in Richmond, VA. Follow him on Twitter @decampdave.