Twitter owner Elon Musk last week fired James Baker, the company’s deputy general counsel and vice president who helped suppress a story about incriminating material found on Hunter Biden’s laptop computer weeks before the 2020 presidential election.
Mr. Baker, who previously was the FBI’s general counsel, played a role in spreading the Steele dossier’s bogus claims of Trump-Russia ties, which made his efforts to suppress potential dirt on Democrat Joseph R. Biden look especially galling to conservatives and free speech advocates.
“In light of concerns about Baker’s possible role in suppression of information important to the public dialogue, he was exited from Twitter today,” Mr. Musk said in a tweet.
Mr. Baker was axed after Mr. Musk revealed Twitter’s internal deliberations ahead of the decision to ban the laptop story published on Oct. 14, 2020, by the New York Post.
The “Twitter Files” was published with Mr. Musk’s consent by independent journalist Matt Taibbi in a Twitter thread last week. It also detailed Mr. Baker’s involvement in the suppression of the story on the social media platform.
The Post’s bombshell story just before the 2020 election outlined the trove of damning information contained in the laptop, including accusations about a potential influence-peddling scheme involving Mr. Biden, the Democratic nominee for president.
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The successful efforts to deep-six the story by Twitter and other Big Tech companies, as well as the FBI and the Biden campaign, have been credited with helping Mr. Biden defeat President Trump.
Independent journalist Bari Weiss was slated to publish a Twitter thread about additional internal censorship decisions made by Twitter executives before Mr. Musk’s takeover, but the process ground to a halt when she discovered that Mr. Baker was vetting the emails before sending them to her.
“‘My jaw hit the floor,’ says Weiss,” Mr. Taibbi tweeted Tuesday.
Mr. Taibbi described Mr. Baker, who served as Twitter’s deputy general counsel and vice president beginning in June 2020, as “something of a Zelig of FBI controversies dating back to 2016.”
Before joining Twitter, Mr. Baker spent four years serving as the top lawyer for the FBI. It was in that post in 2016 that he linked up his friend, lawyer and Democratic operative Michael Sussmann, with top FBI investigators. Mr. Sussmann then passed along fabricated accusations that Mr. Trump had a secret communication line to a Russian bank.
Mr. Musk was aware of Mr. Baker’s connection to the Trump-Russia investigation and called it “pretty bad” in an April tweet, but he did not fire Mr. Baker when he terminated many other top executives, including Chief Legal Officer Vijaya Gadde, in October.
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Mr. Baker, also a former CNN analyst who provided commentary about Mr. Trump and defended the Trump-Russia investigation, has not responded to an interview request that The Times made to his office at Harvard Law School, where he serves as a guest lecturer.
Mr. Baker played an instrumental role in Twitter executives’ decision to block the newspaper reports about what was discovered on Hunter Biden’s laptop computer.
The move to censor the story took place two weeks before the presidential election, and Twitter executives were responding to the demands of the Biden campaign team, who contacted them through back channels.
They consulted with Mr. Baker, who in an undated email backed the move to block the story from the site.
“I support the conclusion that we need more facts to assess whether the materials were hacked,” Mr. Baker wrote. “At this stage, however, it is reasonable for us to assume that they may have been, and caution is warranted.”
Mr. Baker said in the email that Twitter needed more information to determine whether to run the story and that “there are some facts that indicate that materials may have been hacked.”
Twitter blocked the story, labeling it “unsafe,” and prevented users from sharing links to the story via direct message. Twitter also temporarily suspended the account of the New York Post, one of the most popular news sites in the world, in response to the paper’s initial tweeting of the laptop story.
In Mr. Taibbi’s report, he described Mr. Baker as a former Twitter executive, but Mr. Baker was apparently still on the clock.
Ms. Weiss, who over the weekend was working on the second release of emails, according to Mr. Taibbi, “discovered that the person in charge of releasing the files was someone named Jim. When she called to ask ‘Jim’s’ last name, the answer came back: ‘Jim Baker.’”
Mr. Musk then wasted no time firing Mr. Baker, Mr. Taibbi said, and reporters are now combing through more Twitter files.
“Reporters resumed searches through Twitter Files material — a lot of it — today,” Mr. Taibbi tweeted.” The next installment of ‘The Twitter Files’ will appear @bariweiss. Stay tuned.”
• Susan Ferrechio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Victor Morton can be reached at email@example.com.
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