The Deep Twitter State. Former FBI General Council fired at twitter...https://jonathanturley.org/2022/12/07/t ... t-twitter/
On Tuesday, Elon Musk surprised many by firing former FBI General Counsel James Baker as legal counsel for Twitter. For many of us, the most surprising thing was that Baker was still at Twitter. I had assumed that Baker had left the company with Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s former chief legal officer who was the key figure behind the company’s notorious censorship system. I cannot imagine a less compatible figure to remain at the company to implement the new transparency and free speech policies of Musk. What was equally surprising was to see one of my columns referenced in the story.
Yesterday, I was returning from a hearing in Richmond when my phone seemed to explode. It appears that Musk announced the firing as part of an exchange with journalist Matt Taibbi on my recent column, “Six Degrees from James Baker: A Familiar Figure Emerges With the Release of Twitter Files.”
Musk was responding to Matt Taibbi tweeting on the Sunday column. He posted “In light of concerns about Baker’s possible role in suppression of information important to the public dialogue, he was exited from Twitter today.”
Taibbi later added details that seemed to confirm the fears of figures like the New York Post’s Miranda Devine, who has played a major role in exposing the Hunter Biden scandal. Devine immediately noted on Fox News that the release strangely did not include emails on known meetings with the FBI on censoring information. She speculated that someone was holding back information. There was also a curious delay in the release of material that Musk said would be forthcoming.
Taibbi explained: “On Friday, the first installment of the Twitter files was published here. We expected to publish more over the weekend. Many wondered why there was a delay.”
Musk then removed any doubt about what “exited” meant for Baker: “On Tuesday, Twitter Deputy General Counsel (and former FBI General Counsel) Jim Baker was fired.. Among the reasons? Vetting the first batch of “Twitter Files” – without knowledge of new management.”
Musk added that Baker’s explanation for delaying the release of materials was “unconvincing.”
The tweets were an ironic twist given Baker’s controversial career. Conservatives often cite Baker as part of a “deep state” committed to opposing former President Donald Trump and working closely with Democratic interests. Now he is accused of essentially being part of a deep state at Twitter sabotaging or obstructing efforts of Musk to release information.
Taibbi added that journalist Bari Weiss (who like Taibbi is helping in the release and analysis of the material) was shocked by the conduct. Taibbi quoted Weiss as saying “My jaw hit the floor.”
As I discussed earlier, Baker was a controversial figure at the FBI and was forced out after James Comey was fired as director. Twitter seemed eager to hire him. Later few of us were surprised to learn that he then became an advocate for censoring the Hunter Biden story or that the cry of “Russians” seemed to justify extreme measures.
Twitter’s ex-safety chief, Yoel Roth, said the decision was a “mistake” but the story “set off every single one of my finely tuned APT28 hack and leak campaign alarm bells.” The reference to the APT28 Russian disinformation operation dovetailed with false claims of former U.S. intelligence officers that the laptop was “classic disinformation.”
The Russian disinformation claim was never particularly credible. The Biden campaign never denied the laptop was Hunter Biden’s; it left that to its media allies. Moreover, recipients of key emails could confirm those communications, and U.S. intelligence quickly rejected the Russian disinformation claim.
Still, there were a few Twitter executives who expressed unease with censoring the story, including former global communications VP Brandon Borrman, who asked, “Can we truthfully claim that this is part of the policy?” Baker jumped in to support censorship and said, “It’s reasonable for us to assume that they may have been [hacked] and that caution is warranted.”
There was no evidence the Post’s Hunter Biden material was hacked — none. Yet Baker found a basis for a “reasonable” assumption that Russians or hackers were behind it.
Now, there is a strong suggestion that Baker played a role in limiting or delaying the release of material. The question is whether some of that information deals with the earlier disclosures of the FBI communications. There are also curious deletions on some of the emails of dates and times.
Baker is likely to find himself a popular figure in the weeks to come. Putting aside the requisite media contract for such figures like Peter Strzok, he is likely to be one of the first to be subpoenaed to appear before a House committee.
In the meantime, Musk will now have to review any material redacted or removed by Baker. The release of that material could shed light on not just the cause for Baker’s termination but his role at Twitter in allegedly undermining Musk’s policies. More importantly, any material related to the FBI and other agencies would be key in determining if there was a system of “censorship by surrogate” at Twitter.
What is also clear is that, despite the full mobilization of Washington against Musk, the billionaire is undeterred. Once again, the normally unstoppable forces of Washington may have met their first immovable object.