Authored by Tom Ozimek via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner, a Republican who's running for the state governorship, said he's convinced the 2020 presidential election was "stolen" and that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is to blame.
Mr. Warner, a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Army, made the remarks during a Dec. 7 debate held by Metro News among candidates for West Virginia's 2024 gubernatorial election.
During the debate, the candidates discussed a range of issues, including tax cuts and economic growth. At one point in the debate, Mr. Warner was asked by the moderator whether he believes former President Donald Trump is "correct when he says—continues to say—the election was stolen."
Mr. Warner replied in the affirmative—and explained his rationale for siding with President Trump's version of events around the 2020 election.
"The election was stolen," Mr. Warner said. "And it was stolen by the CIA."
'Sell a Lie to The American People'
Mr. Warner went on to allege that former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell "colluded" with Secretary of State Antony Blinken (who at the time was advising the Biden presidential campaign) to manage the production of a letter signed by 51 former senior intelligence officials that cast doubt on the veracity of the contents of the infamous Hunter Biden laptop by framing it as Russian disinformation.
"He colluded with Antony Blinken to sell a lie to the American people ... for the very purpose of throwing the presidential election," Mr. Warner said.
Polling suggests that if voters had been aware of the laptop's contents, some would have voted differently, with a potentially different outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
Further, earlier this year, two Republican-controlled House committees published a report alleging the CIA's Prepublication Classification Review Board (PCRB) reviewed and approved the letter, with the report also alleging that a PCRB employee may even have recruited signatories.
Mr. Blinken has denied playing any role in the letter, and the CIA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The function of the PCRB is to ensure current and former CIA employees aren't disclosing classified information in any materials they may release publicly, such as articles or books.
'All The Classic Earmarks'
The Republican report, which was released on 10, 2023, accuses former CIA officials of playing an active role in recruiting signatories for the letter that discredited the Hunter Biden laptop reports by framing them as having had "all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation."
The report alleges that Mr. Blinken, who was working for the Biden campaign at the time, contacted Mr. Morell on Oct. 17, 2020, to discuss the letter. Mr. Morell reportedly agreed to the plan and actively recruited other signatories.
Two days after discussing the letter with Mr. Blinken, Mr. Morell reportedly sent a final draft of the letter to the PCRB for review on Oct. 19, 2020. Mr. Morell told the CIA board "[t]his is a rush job, as it need to get out as soon as possible," per the report.
The letter's signatories hoped to give then-candidate Joe Biden a "talking point" to defend against the Hunter Biden laptop reporting during his final presidential debate with President Trump on Oct. 22, 2020, the report indicates.
One of the signatories of the letter, former CIA analyst David Cariens, told congressional investigators that his book was up for consideration by the PCRB when Mr. Morell and other former intelligence officials were soliciting other signatories.
Mr. Cariens told investigators that a CIA employee affiliated with the PCRB informed him of the intelligence community letter and asked if he would sign it. Mr. Cariens said, "The person in charge of reviewing the book" called to tell him that it had been approved without any changes required and then told him about the letter.
If an employee of the PCRB were, in fact, involved in recruiting signatories for the letter, that could be problematic as there are rules against federal employees getting involved in political campaigns. For instance, the Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from using government resources to help a partisan political campaign.
"Even Morell testified that such an action by a CIA employee would be 'inappropriate,'" the Republican report states.
Mr. Blinken has denied playing any part in the letter.
"With regard to that letter, I didn't—it wasn't my idea, didn't ask for it, didn't solicit it. And I think the testimony that the former deputy director of the CIA, Mike Morrell, put forward confirms that," Mr. Blinken told Fox News in a May 1 interview.
While Mr. Morell's testimony indicates that a phone call he received from Mr. Blinken didn't explicitly or implicitly request the letter, he also insisted that Mr. Blinken's call was "absolutely" the trigger that motivated him to become involved in the letter's production.
Post-election research suggested that as many as one in five Biden voters may have voted differently had they been aware of reports about the Hunter Biden laptop, which were actively suppressed on social media thanks in part to the impact of the letter.
'I Say I Won'
Meanwhile, President Trump recently revealed what went into his decision to challenge the results of the 2020 election.
In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the former president spoke about what went into his decision.
"I was listening to different people. And when I added it all up, the election was rigged," he said. "It was my decision."
In the interview, President Trump was asked why he decided to challenge the elections even after "the most senior lawyers in your own administration and on your campaign" told him he lost.
"I didn't respect them as lawyers," President Trump said, adding that former Attorney General Bill Barr had allegedly been afraid of an impeachment inquiry and acted to avoid that, and many others he had hired based on recommendations. "But I did respect others."
"It's my choice," he continued, adding, "I happen to know that the election was rigged."
"I say I won the election," he clarified.
Catherine Yang and Ryan Morgan contributed to this report.