The FBI said in a letter Tuesday night that it had “nothing to add” to comments this week by the Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, who said there was “no intelligence to support” that Russian disinformation efforts were connected to recently surfaced emails that have been behind stories critical of Hunter Biden and his father Joe Biden.
In a carefully worded letter, Jill C. Tyson, FBI assistant director for congressional affairs, wrote in response to questions from Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson that “we have nothing to add at this time to the October 19th public statement by the Director of National Intelligence about the available actionable intelligence.”
Ratcliffe, during an appearance on Fox Business, said there was “no intelligence to support” claims that Russian disinformation were behind the articles in the New York Post that have been seized upon by President Donald Trump, Republican allies in Congress and conservative media in the closing weeks of the election. CNN has not determined the authenticity of the emails.
CNN reported Friday that the FBI is investigating whether the recently published emails that purport to detail the business dealings of Joe Biden’s son in Ukraine and China are connected to an ongoing Russian disinformation effort targeting the former vice president’s campaign.
A computer repair store owner in Delaware claims that someone he believes was Hunter Biden dropped off a laptop last year and that in recent months he provided data purported to belong to Hunter Biden to Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney. The owner has said the FBI seized the laptop in December. None of the material published so far appears to show wrongdoing by the former vice president. Biden has said he had nothing to do with his son’s private business ventures.
Tyson suggested that the review was continuing.
“If actionable intelligence is developed, the FBI in consultation with the Intelligence Community will evaluate the need to provide defensive briefings to you and the Committee pursuant to the established notification framework,” she said.
In in its letter to Johnson, who has spent months investigating Biden’s son, the FBI declined to provide any additional information and said it could not confirm or deny any investigation, a similar response it has given to stories about the purported Hunter Biden emails.
Still, the letter from the FBI is notable because the bureau and the Justice Department have sought to turn the page from “October surprise” letters to Congress from former FBI Director James Comey that came in the closing days before the 2016 election, where he revealed the bureau was investigating emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop that were potentially related to a probe of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server. Clinton has blamed Comey’s move as part of the reason she lost the 2016 election days later.
Part of the reason that Justice officials, including former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, claimed Comey deserved to be fired was due to those letters.
The FBI and Justice Department routinely ignore congressional letters and deadlines, particularly when members of Congress are seeking sensitive investigative information.
In recent months, allies of Trump and the President himself have sharply criticized FBI Director Christopher Wray over what his failure to produce information that they claim would be harmful to their political enemies, including Biden. The prospect that Trump may fire Wray has hung over the FBI.