BY: MARGOT CLEVELAND | DECEMBER 27, 2022
VISIT ON TWITTER@PROFMJCLEVELAND
Emails released on Saturday as part of the latest dump of the “Twitter Files” reveal that the week before the 2020 presidential election, the FBI field office investigating Hunter Biden sent multiple censorship requests to Twitter — so many in fact, a top attorney for the tech giant found it “odd.” This blockbuster detail from the weekend came mere days after the FBI issued a statement framing coverage of the “Twitter Files” as “misinformation” being peddled by “conspiracy theorists.”
The FBI has “some folks in the Baltimore field office and at HQ that are just doing keyword searches for violations,” then-Twitter legal executive Stacia Cardille stressed in a Nov. 3, 2020, email to Jim Baker, the then-deputy general counsel for Twitter. “This is probably the 10th request I have dealt with in the last 5 days,” Cardille continued, before telling Baker to let her know if he had any other questions.”
Less than an hour later, Baker responded to Cardille, noting it was “odd” that the FBI is “searching for violations of our policies.”
Independent journalist Matt Taibbi published these emails as part of a 50-something Christmas Eve “Twitter Files” thread that he remarked showed “the FBI acting as doorman to a vast program of social media surveillance and censorship, encompassing agencies across the federal government – from the State Department to the Pentagon to the CIA.”
The entire thread is newsworthy, but that FBI agents in both the Baltimore field office and at FBI headquarters were running keyword searches for supposed Twitter violations proves hugely significant because both offices were involved in the Hunter Biden investigation.
While the Delaware U.S. Attorney’s Office is — and was at the time of the 2020 election — handling the investigation into Hunter Biden, reportedly for potential money laundering and tax crimes, there is no separate Delaware FBI field office. Rather, the Baltimore FBI field office covers all of Delaware for the bureau and thus supported (and continues to support) the Delaware U.S. Attorney’s Office in its investigation of Hunter Biden.
We also know from multiple FBI whistleblowers that FBI headquarters entangled itself in the Hunter Biden probe: In July 2022, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, announced that “multiple FBI whistleblowers, including those in senior positions,” had claimed that “in August of 2020, FBI supervisory intelligence analyst Brian Auten opened an assessment, which was used by a team of agents at FBI headquarters to improperly discredit and falsely claim that derogatory information about Biden’s activities was disinformation, causing investigative activity and sourcing to be shut down.”
“The FBI headquarters team allegedly placed their assessment findings in a restricted access subfolder, effectively flagging sources and derogatory evidence related to Hunter Biden as disinformation while shielding the justification for such findings from scrutiny,” according to Grassley.
Given the involvement of both Baltimore FBI and FBI headquarters in the investigation of Hunter Biden — and the latter’s attempt to shut down the probe — the revelation that “some folks in the Baltimore field office and at HQ” were “doing keyword searches for violations,” suggests the FBI undertook a full-court press to interfere in the 2020 election.
Previously released “Twitter Files” and statements from Twitter and Facebook established the FBI lied to the tech giants, representing the Hunter Biden laptop story as Russian disinformation and prompting the censorship of the Biden-family scandal mere weeks before the 2020 election. Internal Twitter communications also revealed that the night before the New York Post published emails from Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop that implicated Joe Biden in a pay-to-play scandal, “the FBI used a private communications channel to send 10 documents to a top Twitter executive.”
The “Twitter Files” also exposed “Twitter’s contact with the FBI was constant and pervasive, as if it were a subsidiary of the FBI,” as Taibbi explained in an earlier thread. The “Twitter Files” Taibbi previously reported showed that from “January 2020 to November 2022, there were over 150 emails between the FBI and former Twitter Trust and Safety Chief Yoel Roth.” Those communications indicated “agencies like the FBI and DHS regularly sending social media content to Twitter through multiple entry points, pre-flagged for moderation.”
These earlier threads, however, all focused on either communications coming from the San Francisco FBI field office or discussed the monthly and then weekly meetings between Twitter and the federal government’s Foreign Influence Task Force, or FITF. As Taibbi noted, the FBI greatly expanded the number of agents assigned to the FITF following the 2016 election, with the task force swelling to 80 agents.”
With FBI San Francisco and the FITF already liaisoning with Twitter, why then would the Baltimore field office and FBI headquarters have any involvement in communicating with Twitter? And as Saturday’s emails reveal, those officers were not merely passing on information they received, they were, according to a Twitter legal executive, running “keyword” searches — something even Baker, who was previously general counsel for the FBI, found “odd.”
And the Baltimore field office and FBI headquarters conducted these “keyword” searches and shared the results with Twitter for one reason only: to prompt Twitter to censor the speech the week before the 2020 presidential election.
“Odd” doesn’t even begin to capture the situation — which, given the connection between those two FBI offices and the Hunter Biden investigation, suggests a new wing to the Big Tech scandal: one in which FBI agents proactively sought out people and speech to censor for the benefit their politician of choice.
Ironically, the Wednesday before Taibbi broke this latest news, the FBI issued a statement claiming that “the correspondence between the FBI and Twitter show nothing more than examples of our traditional, longstanding and ongoing federal government and private sector engagements, which involve numerous companies over multiple sectors and industries. … It is unfortunate that conspiracy theorists and others are feeding the American public misinformation with the sole purpose of attempting to discredit the agency.”
When the bureau’s own former general counsel calls the FBI’s conduct “odd,” it’s pretty clear who is discrediting the agency: It isn’t conspiracy theorists — it’s the FBI.
Margot Cleveland is The Federalist’s senior legal correspondent. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and Townhall.com, and has been published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Cleveland is a lawyer and a graduate of the Notre Dame Law School, where she earned the Hoynes Prize—the law school’s highest honor. She later served for nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk for a federal appellate judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Cleveland is a former full-time university faculty member and now teaches as an adjunct from time to time. As a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of a young son with cystic fibrosis, Cleveland frequently writes on cultural issues related to parenting and special-needs children. Cleveland is on Twitter at @ProfMJCleveland. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.