By Annie Grayer, CNN
House Republicans demand more information about how CIA employees interacted with a group of former intelligence officials while staging a 2020 public statement questioning whether a laptop containing Hunter Biden emails and documents was part of a Russian disinformation operation.
House Judiciary Republicans say in a new report that one of the letter’s signatories told committee investigators that a CIA staffer asked him about signing on to the effort.
The claim is part of a 65-page interim report that Republicans on the committee released Wednesday. The report comes as House Republicans continue to investigate the October 2020 public letter that claimed the emergence of the Hunter Biden laptop story on the political scene had “all the classic hallmarks of a Russian information operation.” Although the former officials acknowledged in their public letter that they had “no evidence of Russian involvement,” Republicans argued that the letter helped discredit the laptop story just before the election in support of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.
Former CIA official David Cariens told the committee via email that he was in the process of getting his book approved by the CIA’s publications review board in 2020 when the person in charge of approving his book Work asked her if she wanted to sign as part of the letter. the Hunter Biden laptop story as Russian disinformation, according to the report. At the time, the review board was also reviewing the Hunter Biden laptop story letter.
“When the person in charge of reviewing the book called to say it was approved without change, I was informed of the draft letter,” Cariens said, according to the report.
Cariens added that after reading certain parts of the letter, “I agreed to sign.”
To follow up on Cariens’ claims, Republicans on the committee sent a letter to CIA Director William J. Burns on March 21 requesting documents by April 4 about how the CIA interacted with former employees, like Cariens, about the letter that was ultimately signed by 51 former intelligence officials. The CIA “did not respond to this request,” according to the Republican committee report obtained by CNN.
The report also states that “the committees will continue to seek additional information regarding the actions and events described in this report.”
“The role of the CIA Pre-Publication Review Board (PCRB) is to review materials submitted by current and former officers to determine whether the materials contain classified information,” a CIA spokesperson said when asked by CNN about the release. accusation in the interim report.
CNN has reached out to Cariens for comment.
Former CIA deputy director and one of the former intelligence officials who signed the public letter, Michael Morell previously testified before the panel that he did not know about the Cariens encounter but had he known, “I would have reacted very negatively to it. ”
“It is inappropriate for a currently serving personnel officer or contractor to become involved in the political process,” Morell said, according to an excerpt from his interview included in the report.
Another former CIA service officer, Marc Polymeropoulos, told the committee in an interview included in the report that if Cariens’ claims are true, “it would worry me.”
“This is something that the (Prepublication Classification Review Board) in my experience would never get involved with something like that. They are just easy back and forth in terms of approval. The idea of them having a comment on whatever else they were working on, that to me is not even close to what I’ve experienced with them,” Polymeropoulos said.
The report also discussed how the letter was also intended to help support a Biden presidency. Morrell told the committee that the intent of the letter was twofold: to share action on Russia’s potential role in the issue and to “help Vice President Biden in the debate.”
The CNN Wire
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CNN’s Zack Cohen contributed.