House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner (R-Ohio) are threatening to subpoena the CIA to force it to address claims of its involvement in an intelligence community letter to discredit reports on Hunter Biden’s laptop.
Last week, the two Republican-controlled House committees published a report alleging the CIA’s Prepublication Classification Review Board (PCRB) reviewed and approved an October 2020 letter by 51 former U.S. intelligence community officials, which alleged reports about the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop had “all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.” The Republican report also alleged a PCRB employee may have recruited signatories for the letter discrediting the negative reporting about Hunter Biden and his father, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden.
The laptop materials, which were first reported by the New York Post, indicated Joe Biden knew about his son’s foreign business dealings despite having denied such knowledge throughout the 2020 election cycle.
Jordan and Turner sent a letter (pdf) to CIA Director William Burns on Wednesday, requesting that the agency turn over additional documents relating to its involvement in the October 2020 intelligence community letter. The Republican chairmen threatened to use their subpoena power to compel the intelligence agency to divulge its records.
PCRB’s Role in Intel Community Letter
According to the May 10 Republican report (pdf), former CIA officials played an active role in recruiting signatories for the letter discrediting the Hunter Biden laptop reports.
The report alleges U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was working for the Biden campaign at the time, reached out to former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell on Oct. 17, 2020, to discuss the intelligence community letter. Morell, an Obama-era CIA official, was quick to agree to the plan and actively recruited other signatories.
On Oct. 19, 2020, two days after discussing the letter with Blinken, Morell sent a final draft of the letter to the PCRB for review. Morell told the CIA board “[t]his is a rush job, as it need to get out as soon as possible.” According to the Republican report, the signatories hoped to give then-candidate Joe Biden a “talking point” to defend against the Hunter Biden laptop reporting during his final presidential debate with Donald Trump on Oct. 22, 2020.
The PCRB’s sole function is to make sure current and former CIA employees aren’t disclosing classified information in any materials they may release publicly. The board, therefore, has an influential role over current and former agency employees who may be pursuing potentially lucrative book deals about their time working for America’s premier spy agency.
One such signatory, former CIA analyst David Cariens, told congressional investigators that his book was up for consideration by the PCRB at the time Morell and other former intelligence community officials were looking for people to sign their letter. Cariens told investigators that a CIA employee affiliated with the PCRB informed him of the intelligence community letter and asked if he would sign it. Cariens said “the person in charge of reviewing the book” called to tell him that it had been approved without any changes required and then told him about the letter.
Cariens’s wife, Janice, also a former CIA employee, also joined in signing the letter.
If the PCRB or one of its employees was involved in recruiting signatories for the letter, it could potentially prove problematic.
The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from using government resources to help a partisan political campaign. The intelligence community letter was developed after conversation with a Biden campaign adviser, Blinken, and with the intent to question the veracity of materials negatively implicating Joe Biden and his family.
“Even Morell testified that such an action by a CIA employee would be ‘inappropriate,'” the May 10 report states.
After detailing the PCRB’s connection to the letter, the Republican report states investigators “requested additional material from the CIA which has ignored the request to date.”
In their latest letter to the CIA, Jordan and Turner called on the agency to turn over any communications it had during the month of October 2020 with any of the 51 signatories of the intelligence community letter.