Our intelligence agencies told the American people that in 2016, the Russians spread disinformation on social media which changed the outcome of the 2016 election. They claimed that President Donald Trump had colluded with the Russians to pull off this disinformation campaign. This was such an outrageous offense and threat to our democracy, that it was necessary to appoint a special counsel, spend over $40 million, and two and a half years investigating this crime. In the end, the investigation proved that Donald Trump had not colluded with the Russians, and the Russians influence on the 2016 election totaled the purchasing of few hundred thousand dollars of political ads on social media which amounted to a fraction of 1% of all of the political ads purchased on social media that election cycle.
Let’s be honest the overwhelming majority of political advertising whether it’s on TV, the radio, in the newspaper or on social media, is a form misinformation or disinformation. There’s very little truth in advertising when it comes to political ads. The candidate who bought the ad presents himself as the next coming of Abraham Lincoln, and his opponent is the next coming of Richard Nixon or even Adolf Hitler. Neither claim is anywhere near the truth. But we see these phony claims again and again, and it continually influences elections again and again. One of the most famous examples of such advertising was in the 2012 Presidential election, when a progressive action group ran an ad literally showing Paul Ryan pushing a grandmother in a wheelchair off a cliff, and that ad immediately swung the polls in Barack Obama’s favor. That is why campaigns raise hundreds of millions of dollars every election cycle so they can run ads which distort their own or their opponents record and positions. Make no mistake, that’s their right. They should want to present themselves in the best possible light and show their opponent in the worst possible light. That is what political campaigns are all about. So, even if they are not being completely truthful, there’s nothing we can or should do about it. The alternative is worse.
Likewise, it is not against the law for the Russians or other foreign entities to purchase ads on social media and present our candidates in whatever light they want. They cannot contribute directly to political campaigns, but they can try to influence our elections through advertising. This is what happens. It’s not as if the United States doesn’t have a history influencing other countries elections. How many foreign leaders have we overthrown and implanted a US-friendly President into that country – Iran, Guatemala, Congo, Dominican Republic, South Vietnam, Brazil, Chile, Indonesia, Haiti, to name a few. Didn’t Barack Obama go to Israel in 2015, and try to influence their Presidential election away from Netanyahu? This is what happens.
We can pass laws prohibiting foreign entities from buying advertisements in our media space that could influence our elections, but that would be very hypocritical because cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco already allow foreign nationals to vote, and 162 Congressional Democrats voted this week to allow foreign nationals to vote in our elections. So, it would not make sense to allow foreign nationals to vote in American elections, but not buy advertisements which may influence that same election they are voting in.
The one thing that should be outlawed until the end of time, is our intelligence agencies colluding with one political party to censor speech on our public forums. That is a direct violation of our First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of the press. They cannot argue that the social media platforms are private companies, and those companies can censor whatever speech they want, because it is no longer a private company decision when elected officials, government agents and political campaigns use their power to collude with or coerce these private companies to censor the speech they do not like. These private companies can no longer hide behind the fact that they are private companies. As we have discovered through the Twitter Files released by Elon Musk, this practice was rampant throughout the 2020 Presidential campaign.
In October of 2020, 51 former and current intelligence officials all signed a letter claiming that the Hunter Biden laptop had all the earmarks of a Russian disinformation campaign. That letter was used by social media companies to justify censoring the story on their sites, the website Politico wrote an article claiming that the laptop was Russian disinformation, and Joe Biden used the letter during one of the Presidential debates to refute Donald Trump's claims that Joe Biden had been selling influence to our enemies. Former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, who never knew a lie that he didn’t tell, in 2020 said, “To me, this [Hunter Biden’s laptop] is just classic textbook Soviet Russian tradecraft at work." Polls show that 16% of Biden voters would have voted differently if the Hunter Biden laptop story had not been suppressed. More than enough to swing the election.
Now that Hunter Biden's laptop has been verified, many of those 51 intelligence officials are trying to distance themselves from the letter they all signed three years ago. Clapper told The Washington Post this week, “All we were doing was raising a yellow flag that this could be Russian disinformation. Politico deliberately distorted what we said.” If that were the truth, if they were really concerned that the American people may be misled by a Russian disinformation campaign, then why didn’t they all stand up and proclaim that Politico was misleading the American people when it distorted what they had said in the letter back in 2020? Why didn’t they write another clarifying letter after Joe Biden used their letter to debunk Donald Trump’s accusations against Biden of using his son to sell influence to our foreign enemies? Didn’t Joe Biden distort their letter as much as Politico did? Wasn’t Joe Biden using their letter to mislead the American people? Weren’t Biden and Politico engaged in a disinformation campaign themselves?
Many of the 51 intelligence agents are now claiming that they were very careful not to assert that it was definitely a Russian disinformation campaign, but only that it could be, yet they never corrected the public record when Biden and media outlets used their letter to state definitively that it was. So, now our intelligence agents are lying about the fact that they lied back in 2020 in order to influence the election in favor of Biden. Every single intelligence agent who signed the Hunter Biden letter should be stripped of all of their security clearances and have their pensions and other benefits taken from them. The abuse of their office and the abuse of the credibility of their office has caused untold damage not just in the 2020 election, but damage to the intelligence agencies in the eyes of the American people for years to come. If that appears too harsh, understand that signing that letter was a clear violation of their oath when they became a member of the intelligence community which states clearly, to “Support and Defend the Constitution of the United States.” Unlawfully interfering with our elections and denying American citizens their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of the press is a direct violation our Constitution.
But nothing will happen to any of them. This is the way it works. The people in power break the law, manipulate the system to their own advantage, and there will be an investigation, there will be some embarrassment, but nothing will be done about it. They will get away with this scot-free. No different than the law clerk who leaked the Dobbs decision which overturned Roe v. Wade. It was a clear violation of the law, the person who did it should be immediately disbarred. The Supreme Court did a so-called investigation and concluded that they would never be able to find out who did it. The violator of our Constitution will get away scot-free.
Remember, the Watergate scandal which took down a sitting President consisted of President Richard Nixon using CIA agents to break into the Democrat National Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel to get inside information so he could use that to influence the outcome of the 1972 election. In 2016, the Clinton campaign colluded with intelligence agencies to spy on their opponent. In 2020, the Biden campaign colluded with intelligent agencies to deny American citizens their first amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. All three have the exact same elements of wrongdoing, a Presidential candidate illegally using the intelligence agencies for political purposes to influence the outcome of an election. Richard Nixon was forced to resign and is still considered one of the most corrupt Presidents we’ve ever had because of Watergate, but what Hillary Clinton did and what Joe Biden did in their Presidential campaigns will only be shrugged off as business as usual.
Judd Garrett is a graduate from Princeton University, and a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He has been a contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.