Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe says Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg surprised him with his version of events concerning an FBI warning about Russian disinformation that preceded Facebook throttling the Hunter Biden laptop story before the 2020 election.
The Trump-era spy chief insisted to Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Friday that FBI Director Christopher Wray gave him a different impression at the time and suggested the bureau’s actions amounted to election interference.
“I was actually surprised to hear Mark Zuckerberg say that, because what he related the FBI told him was exactly the opposite of what my conversations with the FBI director himself at the time were about,” Ratcliffe said.
Facebook took action to limit the spread of reporting on the laptop believed to have belonged to the son of President Joe Biden on the eve of the election after the FBI alerted the social media giant of Russian propaganda, Zuckerberg said in an interview with podcast host Joe Rogan released Thursday. Although Zuckerberg did not say the FBI’s warning was about the laptop in particular, his comments sparked outrage among Republicans, with some lawmakers saying they want Zuckerberg to come before Congress as they raise concerns about whether his Big Tech company “colluded” with the FBI. The bureau defended its actions.
“The FBI routinely notifies U.S. private sector entities, including social media providers, of potential threat information, so that they can decide how to better defend against threats,” the FBI said in a statement. The FBI added that the bureau has “provided companies with foreign threat indicators to help them protect their platforms and customers from abuse by foreign malign influence actors.”
Meta responded with a statement of its own, saying, “The FBI shared general warnings about foreign interference — nothing specific about Hunter Biden.”
Prior to Zuckerberg’s comments, the FBI was already facing intense scrutiny after the raid of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and whistleblower allegations that bureau agents had falsely labeled accurate information about Hunter Biden as disinformation during the FBI’s investigation in 2020. Wray testified this month that he found the allegations to be “deeply troubling.”
Ratcliffe, who oversaw the intelligence community in the run-up to the 2020 election, hearkened back to his statement in October 2020 saying there was “no intelligence” to support the notion that the laptop was part of a Russian disinformation campaign, despite claims to the contrary by Democrats such as House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff. While the FBI publicly said at the time it had “nothing to add” to Ratcliffe’s assertion, the former spy chief declared there was broad agreement between his office, the FBI, and Justice Department about the need to “counter” a false narrative about the laptop.
“I put out a statement and was backed up by both the Department of Justice and FBI that this was not Russian disinformation,” he added. “So, to hear that contrary to what the FBI director was saying and the official position of the FBI that agents were acting in contradiction to that in dealings with Facebook or telling, if whistleblowers are to be believed, telling FBI agents to suppress information about Hunter Biden’s laptop and to amplify damaging information about then-president Donald Trump. That is entirely inconsistent with what we all knew and what you now know and the public knows, that this wasn’t Russian disinformation. Hunter Biden’s laptop was real. And unfortunately, a lot of folks misled the American people about that, and the American voter about that, two weeks before a presidential election.”
Agreeing with Carlson, Ratcliffe went on to say there was interference in the election.
“To the extent that these allegations are true that FBI agents were knowingly putting bad information out there, it absolutely —” Ratcliffe said. “And the troubling part about this, Tucker, is the FBI is the primary domestic authority for enforcing election security; for making sure that people don’t interfere with the American voters and American elections. And if they’re engaged in election interference, then we’ve got a real problem.”