Former executives of Twitter are scheduled to testify before Congress about the company’s decision, ahead of the 2020 election, to suppress reporting about a laptop that reportedly belonged to Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.
In an emailed statement to NTD News, House Oversight Committee Communications Director Jessica Collins confirmed that former Twitter executives Vijaya Gadde, James Baker, and Yoel Roth will testify before the committee on Feb. 3. Collins further confirmed that the platform’s handling of the Biden laptop allegations will be a point of focus for the committee, which is now under Republican control.
The hearing comes about a month and a half after new Twitter owner Elon Musk began releasing tranches of the company’s internal communications to journalists in an ongoing series dubbed the “Twitter Files.”
In December, the sixth installment of the Twitter Files indicated that FBI employees flagged content on Twitter that Twitter employees would then review and often remove from the website.
In the seventh installment of the Twitter Files, journalist Michael Shellenberger detailed Twitter communications suggesting the FBI had conditioned the platform in advance to distrust troves of documents like the ones the New York Post reported on in its Hunter Biden laptop articles.
Shellenberger noted that in December of 2019, the owner of a Delaware computer repair shop had provided the FBI with a laptop that Hunter Biden had allegedly abandoned after bringing it in for repairs. In light of the FBI’s possession of the laptop evidence, Shellenberger then wrote about how FBI officials communicated and warned Twitter executives throughout 2020 that state actors would likely attempt “hack-and-leak operations” in October 2020 to discredit the Biden family. Those FBI communications specifically warned that such efforts could target Hunter Biden.
The New York Post obtained a copy of the documents from the allegedly abandoned laptop and published a series of articles in October of 2020 that revealed what the contents of the laptop showed regarding various foreign business activities in which Hunter Biden was involved.
The New York Post articles detailed various communications found on the laptop appearing to pertain to the younger Biden’s business deals. The New York Post reported that emails found on the laptop dating back to March or April of 2015 indicated that Hunter introduced his father, who was the vice president at the time, to one of his business partners in the Ukrainian gas firm Burisma. Those allegations arose after Biden had said earlier in the 2020 campaign cycle that “I’ve never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings.”
Burisma had been a subject of particular controversy in President Donald Trump’s 2019 impeachment case after he spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about Joe Biden’s alleged involvement in the firing of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin, who was allegedly investigating Burisma.
After the New York Post published its initial reporting on the laptop, Twitter locked the New York Post out of its account until it deleted six tweets about the story. Twitter said the New York Post’s reporting violated the platform’s “hacked materials” policy.
The Biden campaign denied the allegations raised in the New York Post stories that Joe Biden met with his son’s Burisma business partner.
“We have reviewed Joe Biden’s official schedules from the time and no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place,” the Biden campaign said at the time.
Joe Biden himself referred to the New York Post articles as “another smear campaign.”
Gadde, Baker, and Roth have been recurring figures throughout the Twitter Files reporting and had close involvement in the platform’s actions surrounding the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop articles.
Roth served as Twitter’s head of Trust and Safety during the Hunter Biden laptop controversy.
Prior to Twitter’s suppression of the New York Post articles, Roth had been in weekly meetings with the FBI about content on the platform that the government agency flagged. As Shellenberger detailed, Roth and other Twitter employees received repeated FBI warnings about potential hostile foreign state actors running influence efforts on the platform, particularly Russia. Despite these warnings, Roth described how the platform saw “no evidence” supporting claims of Russian state-backed interference on the platform.
Shellenberger further detailed how Roth had initially pushed back on Russian interference claims. Shellenberger then revealed that in July 2020, FBI agent Elvis Chan arranged for temporary Top Secret security clearances for Roth and other Twitter employees and how in August of 2020, Chan briefed Roth about an alleged Russian hacking organization known as APT28.
In a December 2020 legal statement, Roth said federal agents repeatedly briefed him, during weekly meetings, about potential “hack-and-leak operations” by state actors before the 2020 election. Roth said, “I also learned in these meetings that there were rumors that a hack-and-leak operation would involve Hunter Biden.”
After the New York Post published its first article on the Hunter Biden laptop in October 2020, Roth initially said the article “isn’t clearly violative of our Hacked Materials Policy, nor is it clearly in violation of anything else,” to which Baker advised caution about allowing the article to remain on the platform.
Roth and Twitter ultimately chose to suppress the New York Post reporting, though Roth has since admitted the decision was, in his opinion, a mistake.
Baker worked at the FBI before working for Twitter as the platform’s deputy general counsel during the period of time the platform suppressed content about the Hunter Biden laptop.
While Roth felt that the New York Post article on Hunter Biden’s alleged laptop wasn’t clearly violative of the platform’s policies, Baker sent Roth an email stating, “I’ve seen some reliable cybersecurity folks question the authenticity of the emails in another way (i.e., that there is no metadata pertaining to them that has been released and the formatting looks like they could be complete fabrications).”
In another communication chain with Roth and other Twitter officials, Baker said, “I support the conclusion that we need more facts to assess whether the materials were hacked. At this stage, however, it is reasonable for us to assume that they may have been and that caution is warranted.”
In addition to questioning the authenticity of the laptop materials and advising at least a measure of caution, Baker is also alleged to have interfered in the initial release of Twitter Files documents.
In the first installment of the Twitter Files, journalist Matt Taibbi described how the decision to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop reporting was “made at the highest levels of the company,” including with the involvement of Gadde who worked at the time as Twitter’s head of legal, policy, and trust.
Taibbi provided internal communications detailing misgivings about the decision-making process surrounding the decision to suppress the laptop reporting. In a chain of communications involving both Roth and Gadde, an employee wrote, “I’m struggling to understand the policy basis for marking this as unsafe.”
Further Republican Investigations
The decision to call in former Twitter officials to testify about the Hunter Biden laptop story comes as Republicans are mounting broader investigations into the Biden family and its foreign business dealings.
In November 2022, after Republicans won control of the House, Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) said investigations would determine whether Joe Biden is “compromised or swayed by foreign dollars and influence.”
The FBI’s involvement in Twitter’s handling of the Hunter Biden laptop case could also be of interest to the newly-formed Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.
The Biden White House has sought to discredit the Republican probes into Hunter Biden, calling them “divorced-from-reality political stunts.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.