Washington A group of former Twitter executives testified for the first time before the US Congress on Wednesday. The focus was on the temporary blocking of a newspaper report on explosive laptop data from Hunter Biden, son of US President Joe Biden. Shortly before the 2020 presidential election, when Joe Biden was running against Donald Trump, Twitter had banned the article from its platform. Former Twitter boss Jack Dorsey later described the procedure as a “mistake”.
“Twitter got it wrong on this one,” Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, told Congress. After the Russian attempts to manipulate the 2016 presidential election, people were sensitized to possible misinformation and allegedly hacked material. “We didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of 2016.” However, he and the other ex-Twitter execs have denied Republican allegations that they were pressured into the decision by US Democrats and law enforcement.
The former executives appeared before the Congressional Accountability Committee. The US Republicans have recently gained a majority in the House of Representatives and can therefore set the agenda. The 53-year-old Hunter Biden and the President’s secret paper affair are said to be the subject of several investigations.
Tricky photos on disk
Specifically, it started with an article in the “New York Post” from October 2020. At the time, the tabloid reported that Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani had received a copy of a laptop’s hard drive. Hunter Biden had given it to a computer workshop in the US state of Delaware 18 months earlier and never picked it up.
The front-page article made a serious allegation, citing emails found on the laptop, alleging that Hunter Biden arranged a meeting between Ukrainian business partners and his father when he was vice president under Barack Obama. The newspaper also published photos said to come from the hard drive. They show Hunter Biden engaging in sexual acts and using hard drugs. According to his memoirs, the Yale graduate and lawyer was addicted to drugs and alcohol for 15 years. According to his own statements, he is now drug-free and sober.
Twitter blocked links to the article for several days after publication. The newspaper report was met with skepticism at the time because of questions about the laptop’s provenance, including Giuliani’s involvement. In addition, senior Trump administration officials have warned that Russia is working to discredit Joe Biden ahead of the election. Later, the authenticity of the laptop material was verified by several US media.
Hunter Biden has played a central role in the political battles between Republicans and Democrats for years. In 2019, then-President Donald Trump tried to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open an investigation into the Bidens. A transcript of the phone call, made public by a whistleblower, eventually led to Trump’s first impeachment trial.
“God bless Elon Musk”
At Wednesday’s hearing, the close ties between US Republicans and Twitter CEO Elon Musk became clear. Many of the documents Republicans cited came from the so-called “Twitter files” that Musk shared with select journalists shortly after his Twitter takeover. Communication from employees recorded therein suggests: Internally, the decision to block the New York Post article was quite controversial. Musk claims the US government pressured the company to block the report. However, there is no evidence for this.
Musk visited the US Congress last week and met with a number of Republicans and Democrats. James Comer, chairman of the Accountability Committee, called Musk a “great American.” Musk, according to Comer, gave him tips on which questions to confront the ex-Twitter managers with. “God bless Elon Musk,” Comer said.
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The committee could bring Hunter Biden’s name back into the media as his father prepares to campaign for re-election to a second term. Hunter Biden’s business relationships have been suspected of potential conflicts of interest for years. In 2014 he joined the board of directors of Burisma: the Ukrainian energy company was then run by an oligarch who was being investigated for corruption at the time.
Hunter Biden is said to have received around $1.5 million from Burisma for his work, while his father, as vice president, overlooked the Obama administration’s policies in Ukraine. Joe Biden stressed that he was in no way involved in his son’s business, and Hunter Biden later described working for Burisma as a “bad decision”.
Is a new email scandal looming?
According to Business Insider magazine, around 300 emails from Biden’s time as vice president have been requested by various interest groups and media outlets. On the basis of the Freedom of Information Act, the National Archives intends to publish the e-mails with the keyword “Burisma” in February. However, the White House has the power to stop publication.
Hunter Biden’s failed joint venture with Chinese tycoon Ye Jianming was also the subject of headlines in 2013, according to the Bloomberg portal. The head of the energy conglomerate CEFC China Energy lobbied in both US parties, gave Hunter Biden a large diamond, among other things, and was later arrested and convicted of money laundering. Regardless, US federal authorities have been investigating Hunter Biden since 2018 for an alleged tax offense.
His private life also causes a stir. “I bought crack cocaine on the streets of Washington, DC and cooked my own in a hotel bungalow in Los Angeles,” Hunter Biden wrote in his 2021 memoir Beautiful Things. In a 2022 interview with CBS, Joe Biden said his son had “an addiction problem” but was proud of his recovery efforts. “I love him and he’s on a stable path and has been for a couple of years. I’m just so proud of him.” In 2015, Biden’s second son Beau died of a brain tumor.
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