Six Degrees from James Baker: A Familiar Figure Reemerges With the Release of the Twitter Files.
Below is my column in the New York Post on the reemergence of James Baker, the former FBI general counsel, at the center of the Twitter suppression scandal.
Here is the column:
As thousands of Twitter documents are released on the company’s infamous censorship program, much has been confirmed about the use of back channels by Biden and Democratic officials to silence critics on the social media platform. However, one familiar name immediately popped out in the first batch of documents released through journalist Matt Taibbi: James Baker. For many, James Baker is fast becoming the Kevin Bacon of the Russian collusion scandals.
Baker has been featured repeatedly in the Russian investigations launched by the Justice Department, including the hoax involving the Russian Alfa Bank. When Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann wanted to plant the bizarre false claim of a secret communications channel between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, Baker was his go-to, speed-dial contact. (Baker would later testify at Sussmann’s trial). Baker’s name also appeared prominently in controversies related to the other Russian-related FBI allegations against Trump. He was effectively forced out due to his role and reportedly found himself under criminal investigation. He became a defender of the Russian investigations despite findings of biased and even criminal conduct. He was also a frequent target of Donald Trump on social media, including Twitter. Baker responded with public criticism of Trump for his “false narratives.”
After leaving the FBI, Twitter seemed eager to hire Baker as deputy general counsel. Ironically, Baker soon became involved in another alleged back channel with a presidential campaign. This time it was Twitter that maintained the non-public channels with the Biden campaign (and later the White House). Baker soon weighed in with the same signature bias that characterized the Russian investigations.
Weeks before the 2020 presidential election, the New York Post ran an explosive story about a laptop abandoned by Hunter Biden that contained emails and records detailing a multimillion dollar influence peddling operation by the Biden family. Not only was Joe Biden’s son Hunter and brother James involved in deals with an array of dubious foreign figures, but Joe Biden was referenced as the possible recipient of funds from these deals.
The Bidens had long been accused of influence peddling, nepotism, and other forms of corruption. Moreover, the campaign was not denying that the laptop was Hunter Biden’s and key emails could be confirmed from the other parties involved. However, at the request of the “Biden team” and Democratic operatives, Twitter moved to block the story. It even suspended those who tried to share the allegations with others, including the White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who was suspended for linking to the scandal.
Even inside Twitter, the move raised serious concerns over the company serving as a censor for the Biden campaign. Global Comms Brandon Borrman who asked if the company could “truthfully claim that this is part of the policy” for barring posts and suspending users.
Baker quickly jumped in to support the censorship and said that “it’s reasonable for us to assume that they may have been [hacked] and that caution is warranted.”
Keep in mind that there was never any evidence that this material was hacked. Moreover, there was no evidence of Russian involvement in the laptop. Indeed, U.S. intelligence quickly rejected the Russian disinformation claim.
However, Baker insisted that there was a “reasonable” assumption that Russians were behind another major scandal. Faced with a major scandal implicating a Joe Biden in the corrupt selling of access to foreign figures (including some with foreign intelligence associations), Baker’s natural default was to kill the story and stop others from sharing the allegations.
The released documents may show why Twitter was so eager to hire Baker despite his role in the Russian collusion controversies. What likely would have been a liability for most companies seemed an actual draw for Twitter. For censors and political operatives in Twitter, Baker likely seemed like a “made man” for a company committed to systemic censorship. He would be working with the chief legal officer at the company, Vijaya Gadde, who functioned as the company’s chief censor. Gadde was widely reviled by free speech advocates for her dismissal of free speech principles and open political bias.
Not unexpectedly, Gadde and Baker would play prominent roles in the suppression of the Hunter Biden scandal. There was hardly a need to round up “the usual suspects” in the suppression scandal when Musk took over the company. Both lawyers swatted down internal misgivings to bury a story that could well have made the difference in the close 2020 election.
It is striking how many of the figures and institutions involved in Russian collusion claims are within six degrees of James Baker. Not only did Baker work closely with fired FBI director James Comey and other key figures at the Justice Department, but he was an acquaintance of key Clinton figures like Sussmann who pushed the false collusion allegations. He was also hired by Brookings Institution, which also has a curious Bacon-like role in the origins and development of the false Russian collusion allegations.
None of these means that Baker was the driving force of the scandals. To the contrary, Baker earned his bones in Washington as a facilitator, a reliable ally when it came to the business of the Beltway. It is hardly a surprise that Baker found a home at Twitter where “caution” was always “warranted” in dealing with potentially damaging stories for Democratic interests.