A retired CIA official is opening up about why he did not sign a letter that suggested the Hunter Biden laptop story could be part of a Russian disinformation operation just weeks before the 2020 election.
Dan Hoffman, the CIA’s former Moscow station chief, told Fox News he was “surprised” that no one requested his Russia expertise in discussing the letter before it went public and explained why he did not want his signature attached to it.
“I remember I got the letter, October 18, 2020, and at first glance, it seemed natural to lay the blame at the Kremlin’s doorstep. Remember, Vladimir Putin is in the Kremlin and he’s well known for cloak-and-dagger espionage operations,” Hoffman said. “But at the same time, there was no evidence and the letter noted there was no evidence. And I just felt like we needed to do the forensics. It was a very convoluted story.”
After revealing that he was among the group of former officials asked to sign a now-infamous letter saying Hunter Biden's laptop was Russian disinformation, Dan Hoffman explains why he didn't. pic.twitter.com/bFO5sbQhJx
— Spencer Brown (@itsSpencerBrown) April 28, 2023
The letter, released on October 19, 2020, with the signatures of 51 former intelligence officials, said the alleged laptop contents have “all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation,” but it also stressed the signees did not know if emails being reported at the time were genuine and insisted they had no evidence of Russian involvement.
After POLITICO, the news outlet that first reported the statement, published a headline that said the former intelligence officials were claiming the story was “Russian disinfo,” then-candidate Joe Biden, Hunter’s father, used the letter to cast doubt on the laptop story during one of his debates with then-President Donald Trump weeks before the election.
Yet over the past two years, many of the laptop’s contents — revealing details about Biden’s personal life and business dealings — have been analyzed and shown to be authentic. One of the letter’s most prominent signees, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in February accused POLITICO of “deliberately” misrepresenting its message. POLITICO defended its reporting about the letter.
In recent months, Hunter Biden’s lawyers began to send letters to state and federal officials demanding investigations into individuals involved in disseminating the contents of the laptop, including to the media. His attorney, Abbe Lowell, insisted the letters do not “confirm” the laptop was his client’s device. Hunter Biden is under investigation by federal prosecutors looking into potential crimes related to his tax affairs, foreign business dealings, and a gun purchase. The president’s son has said he expects to be cleared of wrongdoing.
Hoffman came forward last week in a Washington Times op-ed that said he received an email from former acting CIA Director Michael Morell asking for signatures on the letter.
“[T]he email I received from Mr. Morell did not invite any further discussion or debate. The letter was a fait accompli. It was being passed around for signatures, not edits,” he wrote. “I’ve never been one to put my name to words someone else wrote on my behalf.”
The op-ed, which noted Hoffman did not even respond to the email as had other priorities at the time, came on the heels of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees disclosing portions of a transcribed interview in which Morell talked about putting together the letter after a conversation with now-Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who in October 2020 was a senior adviser to Joe Biden’s campaign.
In his interview with Fox News, Hoffman said there were “many others” who did not sign the letter.
“Look, when I was at CIA, we would sit in Michael Morell’s office when we had a particularly difficult, challenging intelligence issue, and we would hash out all the evidence that we have, the intelligence we had and then Michael would draw analytical conclusions with some level of confidence — low, medium, or high — and bring it to the White House,” Hoffman said. “We didn’t have that debate about this laptop issue. We weren’t invited to debate it.”