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House Republicans say CIA staffer helped seek support for statement from former intel officials questioning Hunter Biden laptop story

By Annie Grayer, CNN

House Republicans are demanding more information on how Central Intelligence Agency employees interacted with a group of former intelligence officials as they organized a 2020 public statement that questioned whether a laptop with 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 signers told committee investigators that a staff member at the CIA asked him about signing onto the effort.

The assertion is part of a 65-page interim report that Republicans on the committee released Wednesday. The report comes as House Republicans continue to dig into the October 2020 public letter that stated that the appearance of the Hunter Biden laptop story on the political scene had “all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.” Though the former officials acknowledged in their public letter that they did “not have evidence of Russian involvement,” Republicans have 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 a book of his approved by the CIA’s publications review board in 2020 when the individual in charge of approving his work asked if he wanted to sign onto the letter framing the Hunter Biden laptop story as Russian disinformation, according to the report. At the time, the letter about the Hunter Biden laptop story was also under review by the review board.

“When the person in charge of reviewing the book called to say it was approved with no changes, I was told about the draft letter,” Cariens said, the report said.

Cariens added that after being read certain portions of the letter, “I agreed to sign.”

To follow up on Cariens’ claims, committee Republicans sent a letter to CIA Director William J. Burns on March 21 requesting documents by April 4 on how the CIA interacted with former employees, such as Cariens, over the letter which was eventually signed by 51 former intelligence officials. The CIA has “failed to respond to this request,” according to the report from committee Republicans obtained by CNN.

The report also states, “the committees will continue to pursue additional information about the actions and events described in this report.”

“The role of CIA’s Pre-Publication Review Board (PCRB) is to review materials submitted by current and former officers to determine if the materials contain any classified information,” a CIA spokesperson said when CNN asked about the allegation in the interim report.

House Democrats on the Judiciary panel released their own report discrediting allegations Republicans are making about the CIA as the result of Cariens’ singular email.

Former CIA service officer Marc Polymeropoulos called into question Cariens’ account of being called on the phone by the publications review board in testimony revealed by the Democrats.

“I would never take any kind of approval over the phone. That would mean nothing to me,” he said, adding that a phone call approval like Cariens described “doesn’t seem plausible.”

Democrats also produced the email from Cariens confirming he wanted to sign onto the letter and pointed out that it did not mention any phone conversation he had with a publications review board official.

Democrats on the panel also raised questions about why Republicans have not brought Cariens in for an interview.

“Let’s call this report what it is: another blatant attempt by Jim Jordan to mislead the American people,” said Judiciary Committee ranking member Jerrold Nadler.

“Jordan’s claim that the CIA promoted this letter is not justified by his investigation,” said House Intelligence committee ranking member Jim Himes.

Ian Sams, White House spokesperson for oversight and investigations, said in a statement, “Instead of working with President Biden on the issues that matter most to the American people, House Republicans are weaponizing their power to go after their political opponents and re-litigate the 2020 election with misleading claims.”

“The American people see these House GOP attacks for what they are: political stunts intended to hurt President Biden,” he said.

CNN has reached out to Cariens for comment.

Former deputy director for the CIA and one of the former intelligence officials who signed the public letter, Michael Morell previously testified to the panel that he did not know about Cariens’ encounter but had he known, “I would have reacted very negatively to this.”

“It’s inappropriate for a currently serving staff officer or contractor to be involved in the political process,” Morell said, according to an excerpt of 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 concern me.”

“This is something that the (Prepublication Classification Review Board) in my experience would never engage in something like that. They are just straightforward back and forth in terms of approval. The idea they would have a comment on any other thing that they were working on, that to me is not even close to what I’ve experienced with them,” Polymeropoulos said.

The report also further discussed how the letter was also intended to help support Biden’s presidency. Morrell told the committee the intent of the letter was twofold: to share shares about the potential of Russia’s role in the issue and “help Vice President Biden in the debate.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

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CNN’s Zack Cohen contributed.

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