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Truth and consequences: After origins of Biden laptop letter exposed, lawmakers seek penalties

Republicans float penalties for 51 letter signatories, ranging from impeachment to defunding security clearances and contracts.

Published: May 1, 2023 11:21pm

Congress now has compelling evidence that a letter from 51 security experts during the 2020 election falsely portraying the Hunter Biden laptop as a Russian influence operation was in fact Joe Biden campaign propaganda. Now armed with the truth, GOP lawmakers are looking to impose consequences for the organizers and the signatories.

Several House and Senate Republicans told Just the News they are looking to impose penalties ranging from possible impeachment of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, whom former CIA Director Mike Morell testified "triggered" the effort, to defunding federal contracts and security clearance for the security and intelligence officials who signed their name to the letter.

"Exposing the truth is certainly the first step in accountability, pretty powerful accountability," Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), the top Republican on the powerful Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said Monday on the "Just the News, No Noise" television show. "But the House can impeach those individuals who are currently serving in government. And a number of those individuals ... are now serving in the Biden administration. They also ought to either resign or be impeached.

"And then we should do everything we can to revoke security clearances of every one of those individuals that sign that letter. All of them should be barred from either current or future employment with the federal government."

The issue burst into view two weeks ago when Just the News reported that Morell, in a transcribed interview with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, revealed that a call from Blinken, then a Biden campaign adviser, "triggered" his effort to draft the letter and get fellow former CIA directors and other intelligence professionals to sign it.

Morell revealed he engaged in the effort to influence the election in favor of Joe Biden and that the campaign helped distribute the letter and its message to the media. He said while Blinken did not directly instruct him to write the letter, the current secretary of state did send a USA Today article that was used to make the letter's most audacious claim: that the laptop might be a Russian disinformation operation.

In fact, the laptop had already been in the FBI's possession for months and had been authenticated. Even letter signatories have admitted they had no evidence to suggest the Russians were behind its content or the release.

Johnson's suggestions for possible penalties match similar ideas being floated in the House.

Asked by Just the News if he supported blocking security clearances or contracts to letter signatories, Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) answered: "Why wouldn't I? Especially if they knew what they were signing wasn't truthful, that they said this all just to go after Donald Trump and to protect [Biden's] son."

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) said now that the House GOP caucus passed a debt ceiling increase with significant spending cuts, its members are turning their focus to imposing consequences on agencies like the FBI that meddled in elections with Russia collusion probes or Big Tech censorship or individual actors like those who signed the laptop letter.

"You've got to have consequences for these people," he said.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) agreed.

"If we don't like the way people have been doing their job, we can fire them in Appropriations — we can completely wipe out their salaries," Greene told the "Just the News, No Noise" television show last week. "And that's what I would like to see done.

"We had 51 members of the intelligence community lie, sign their name to a lie, saying that the Hunter Biden laptop was not real and that it was pure Russian propaganda. We know exactly why they did that, and that was to sway the 2020 election."

Calling for "real accountability" for "the Democrats and the agencies they're in control of," Greene said, "where I want to go to battle and the real fight is with budget and appropriations and make sure that we gut these agencies with these people who play politics."

Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.), a key voice on the House Appropriations and Judiciary Committees, said another important consequence lawmakers will impose later this year is warrantless spying reform that will restrict the FBI from searching Americans' phone records looking for evidence to open up Foreiugn Intelligence Surveillance Court cases, as happened with the Russia collusion probe in 2016. The Section 702 warrantless spying provision of the FISA law expires at the end of the year.

"There are members of the Judiciary Committee who want to see it expire completely — and don't think that the FBI can be trusted to keep its hands out of the 702 process — and leave it to the CIA and the focus on what it was originally focused on, which was foreign soil and foreign-based terrorism searches and fights," Cline told the John Solomon Reports podcast. "They just can't help themselves. And that may be true.

"Others want to try and reform the 702 process, to say that the domestic entities like the FBI can't take advantage of it, that it's only for CIA, and not to let it expire, but to put guardrails around it. Others want to reauthorize it as it is, and that's a shrinking number, given the abuses that have occurred. But we're having a good conversation. And I would expect you're going to see legislation here soon. There are a lot of us on Judiciary who put the Fourth Amendment protections for Americans first. And we want to make sure that legislation, if it does reauthorize 702, it does protect those rights first."

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