By Hans Mahncke
Late on Dec. 2, Elon Musk started the process of releasing thousands of internal Twitter emails. Musk, whose purchase of Twitter was completed on Oct. 28, had previously announced that the actions of Twitter’s previous leadership had negatively affected “conservative” political candidates more than “progressive” candidates and that Twitter would release its internal documents to allow the public to regain trust in the company. On Nov. 28, Musk wrote on Twitter, “The public deserves to know what really happened.”
The first batch of emails reveals how the Hunter Biden laptop story was censored and suppressed by Twitter executives. The New York Post reported on Oct. 14, 2020, that then-2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden had met a top executive of a Ukrainian energy firm in 2015, which at the time was paying his son Hunter Biden up to $50,000 per month.
As the New York Post reported, Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to the board of Burisma, explicitly thanked Hunter Biden for introducing him to his father on April 16, 2015. Pozharskyi’s email stated that he and the elder Biden, who was vice president at the time, had “spent some time together.”
During his 2020 presidential campaign, Joe Biden repeatedly denied that he knew anything about his son’s business dealings.
The first batch of the so-called “Twitter Files” was released by independent journalist Matt Taibbi. During a Dec. 3 podcast, Musk stated that he had given thousands of internal Twitter emails to Taibbi and fellow independent journalist, ex-New York Times reporter Bari Weiss. Musk added that he had not had time to examine most of the emails himself. Musk also indicated that he would release the Twitter Files to the public once Taibbi and Weiss had had a chance to examine them in detail.
Musk’s approach mirrors that of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who gave nearly 400,000 leaked documents pertaining to the Iraq War to several news outlets before releasing them online. A notable difference is that while Assange gave his documents to mainstream outlets like The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel, Musk decided to give them to two independent journalists who publish on Substack, an online platform that allows independent journalists to publish directly to their subscribers.
While some reporters at media outlets belittled Taibbi as “Substack Man” and focused on the fact that Hunter Biden’s laptop contained pornographic materials, the bulk of the new disclosures detail the behind-the-scenes activities at Twitter when news of Pozharskyi meeting with Joe Biden broke on Oct. 14, 2020.
Twitter immediately took steps to suppress the story. According to Taibbi, Twitter’s then-CEO, Jack Dorsey, was left out of the loop. Instead, the head of Twitter’s legal department, Vijaya Gadde, spearheaded efforts to censor the story herself. Gadde later also spearheaded the effort to ban then-president Donald Trump from Twitter on Jan. 8, 2021.
In December 2021, the Biden administration gave Gadde a seat on the advisory committee of the government’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). This agency was established in 2018 to protect network infrastructure from cyber threats. However, as recently leaked documents show, the agency has since assumed the additional role of working together with the FBI to police speech online.
The First Amendment prohibits government agencies from interfering with free speech, and the actions of the FBI and CISA regarding the 2020 election, as well as in relation to so-called COVID misinformation, are currently the subject of a lawsuit brought against the Biden administration by the attorneys general of Louisiana and Missouri, Jeff Landry and Eric Schmitt.
In censoring the New York Post’s expose on the Bidens, Gadde worked closely with Twitter’s recently departed Head of Safety Yoel Roth. Roth’s efforts were twofold: First, he was Twitter’s conduit to the FBI. While the emails released thus far do not contain any explicit messages from the FBI, Roth has admitted in an affidavit that in the weeks ahead of the New York Post story, the FBI told him to watch out for a hack-and-leak operation involving Hunter Biden.
FBI agent Elvis Chan, who was recently deposed by AGs Landry and Schmitt, has admitted that he had regular meetings with Twitter. Chan has also admitted to working closely with Jen Easterly, head of CISA.
Roth’s affidavit loosely mirrors what Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the Joe Rogan podcast in August 2022 when he claimed that the FBI had warned Facebook about an upcoming Russian propaganda “dump.”
Second, Roth—who has been publicly vocal in his political views, such as by expressing his support for Hillary Clinton—backed Gadde in her efforts to censor the laptop story because of the “lessons learned in 2016.” It is unclear what lessons Roth was referring to.
At the time, however, and up to this day, there has not been any evidence that Hunter Biden’s laptop was hacked. Even if it had been hacked, Twitter failed to follow its own policies with regard to hacked material. As soon as Gadde decided to censor the New York Post’s story, Twitter communications manager Trenton Kennedy wrote in an internal email that he was “struggling to understand the policy basis for marking this as unsafe.”
Vice President for Global Communications Brandon Borrman asked, “Can we truthfully claim that this is part of the policy?” Another unnamed staffer said, “everyone knew this was [expletive].”
A second person to back Gadde’s censorship efforts was Twitter’s deputy head of legal affairs, former FBI General Counsel James Baker, who claimed that it was “reasonable for us to assume that they may have been [hacked] and that caution is warranted.”
In fact, all the evidence pointed to the material on the laptop having been legally obtained by the repair shop where Hunter Biden had abandoned it.
Notably, Baker also played a pivotal role in the 2016 election as the FBI’s general counsel.
It was in this role that he not only was responsible for reviewing FISA warrants against Trump 2016 presidential campaign aide Carter Page—which were later found by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to contain numerous flaws—but also aided his friend, Clinton 2016 presidential campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann, in delivering fabricated data to the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team that was investigating the Trump campaign. That data falsely alleged that then-presidential candidate Trump was maintaining a secret communications channel with the Kremlin via Russia’s Alfa Bank. When Sussmann was charged with lying about his role in bringing the false data to Baker, Baker failed to provide the team of special counsel John Durham with a key text message from Sussmann. When Baker finally handed over the message to Durham six months after Sussmann’s indictment, the trial judge threw out the evidence because it had come too late.
According to Taibbi, Baker is no longer working at Twitter.
The documents released thus far paint a picture of Twitter leadership influencing the outcome of the 2020 election in favor of Biden. An opinion poll taken soon after the election found that Biden would have lost 16 percent of his vote had voters been aware that the FBI was investigating the information on Hunter Biden’s laptop.