Ex-Spy Behind Discredited Hunter Biden Letter Said He Wanted To Provide Biden Campaign With a Debate 'Talking Point'

Michael Morell / AP
May 5, 2023

The former CIA official behind the discredited letter that claimed Hunter Biden's laptop was Russian disinformation told associates he wanted it used as a "talking point" in Joe Biden's 2020 debate against Donald Trump.

Michael Morell, the former acting director of the CIA, laid out the strategy in an Oct. 19, 2020, email to former CIA director John Brennan obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. Morell asked Brennan to sign on to a letter with dozens of other former intelligence officials that portrayed the release of Hunter Biden's laptop days earlier as a Russian intelligence operation. "Trying to give the campaign, particularly during the debate on Thursday, a talking point to push back on Trump on this issue," Morell wrote in the email, first reported by the Washington Examiner.

Brennan agreed: "Add my name to the list. Good initiative."

Biden indeed cited the letter in his Oct. 22 debate. After Trump brought up Hunter Biden's laptop and business dealings, Joe Biden said, "There are 50 former national intelligence folks who said that what he's accusing me of is a Russian plant."

Republicans have questioned whether Morell colluded with the Biden campaign on the letter, which Politico published on Oct. 19, 2020, under the headline "Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say."

Morell told Congress last month that he wrote the letter after a conversation with then-Biden campaign adviser Antony Blinken, now the secretary of state. Morell said his discussion with Blinken about the release of emails from Hunter Biden's laptop "triggered" his decision to write a letter dismissing the laptop news as Russian disinformation. Morell said he wrote the letter to help Biden defeat Trump.

Blinken claims he did not ask Morell to write the letter, but Morell suggested in his congressional interview that he may have had other conversations with the Biden campaign before the letter was published. He said he told Brennan's aide that the Biden campaign wanted the letter to go to a Washington Post reporter. Morell was a contributing columnist at the newspaper, where he wrote a series of screeds against Trump in October 2020.

Morell also told lawmakers that Biden campaign adviser Steve Ricchetti thanked him for the letter after the Biden-Trump debate.

Morell recruited 50 former intelligence officials in all to sign the letter, including Brennan and four other former CIA directors. Many of the signatories work at Morell's intelligence consulting firm, Beacon Global Strategies. One of those is former CIA chief of staff Jeremy Bash, whom Biden appointed last year to the President's Intelligence Advisory Board.