John Sipher
A longtime CIA veteran who signed the infamous letter baselessly asserting Russian involvement in the Hunter Biden laptop saga said he was proud to have played his part in influencing the 2020 election in favor of President Joe Biden — before backtracking and claiming he was being sarcastic when he became embroiled in a Twitter spat with Donald Trump's ex-intelligence chief.

John Sipher retired in 2014 after a 28-year career in the CIA's National Clandestine Service, and he is one of the dozens of former intelligence officials who claimed the laptop story "has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation."

Sipher, a longtime defender of Christopher Steele's discredited dossier, is now a co-founder of Spycraft Entertainment and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Despite offering no proof, Joe Biden's 2020 campaign, along with many in the media, dismissed the laptop story as being a Russian disinformation operation.

The letter hedged a bit at various times, noting that "we do not have evidence of Russian involvement." But, it said, "our experience makes us deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case." The letter argued that "if we are right, this is Russia trying to influence how Americans vote in this election" and expressed "our view that the Russians are involved in the Hunter Biden email issue."

After the New York Post published emails belonging to his son, then-candidate Biden called the laptop story "garbage" and part of a "Russian plan" during an October 2020 debate with then-President Donald Trump. He was referring to the Politico report about the letter in an article titled "Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say."

The title was misleading because the letter never directly called it Russian "disinformation," but Sipher himself shared the story.

Sipher claimed last week: "We didn't say the laptop was fake but that the Russians were spinning the story to create chaos."

When he tweeted on Friday that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas should resign over an unrelated matter, that drew out Ric Grenell, Trump's former acting director of national intelligence.

On Saturday, Grenell tweeted: "Didn't John Sipher sign a letter 3 weeks before the 2020 elections saying don't look at Hunter Biden's laptop because it's Russian disinformation? Now he's lecturing people about ethical behavior?! These people have no shame."

The following day, Sipher tweeted: "Oh, look who unblocked me so he could could [sic] spin his predictable fake lowbrow idiocy to his unfortunate followers... I guess you didn't bother to read the letter... Look who's trying to use a non-issue to be relevant." Sipher repeatedly called Grenell "Dick" and "Tricky Dick."

Grenell, who is gay, said that "resorting to gay slurs is what people do when they can't debate." Sipher contended it was "a Nixon reference."

In response to a commenter, Sipher tweeted: "I lost the election for Trump? Well then I [feel] pretty good about my influence."

Grenell then tweeted that "Sipher proud he helped swing an election by claiming 'Russian disinformation.' I hope the new Republican Congress subpoenas him."

Sipher replied: "Having you far away from responsibility is a good thing. Subpoena away. You might actually read the letter first."

He also tweeted: "I take special pride in personally swinging the election away from Trump."

Sipher soon after claimed: "This is called sarcasm."

When someone called him a liar, he retorted: "I guess sarcasm is too sophisticated for you. No I didn't lie. Also no, a retired guy signing a letter accurately pointing out that the Russians amplify political stupidity about a non-candidate hardly swings a National election."

Former Attorney General William Barr argued this month that the Hunter Biden letter "probably affected the outcome" of the 2020 race.

Grenell tweeted on Sunday: "Is Hunter Biden's laptop 'Russian disinformation' as you said 3 weeks before the 2020 election? And why can't you talk to the New York Post about your claim?"

Sipher claimed Grenell seemed "obsessed."

"I'm obsessed with outing the people who manipulated intelligence for their partisan political gain," Grenell replied. "*YOU* said Hunter's laptop was Russian disinformation. You told the public not to take the laptop seriously. You pretended to have seen intel. You didn't even get a briefing!"

Sipher claimed: "I did not pretend anything. Nor did the letter say the laptop wasn't Biden's. It said the Russians — and dishonest partisans like you — were amplifying and exploiting the issue to damage the U.S." He also tweeted over the weekend that "I don't think it was a Russian plot."

Grenell said: "If they hadn't given aid & comfort to the Beijing line to not look inside the laptop then we may have known who The Big Guy was before the election." Grenell also said Sipher "lied about intel."

Sipher replied: "How could I have lied about the intel? ... Hardly needed intel to to [sic] see Russian disinformation."

He tweeted early Monday morning: "I signed a letter I believed to be true."

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence tweeted in March 2021 it had "released the declassified Intelligence Community assessment of foreign threats to the 2020 U.S. federal elections." A few days later, Sipher replied, "Funny. We were told we were wrong when we signed this letter." He shared a link to the "Russian disinfo" Politico article.

The report released by ODNI in March 2021 concluded that Russia "heavily amplified" stories about Hunter Biden. But it did not reference the Hunter Biden laptop and reached no public conclusions related to it.

Then-Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said in October 2020 there was no intelligence to support the laptop was part of a Russian disinformation campaign.

Sipher responded to Ratcliffe's comments saying: "He didn't say it wasn't part of a Disinfo campaign. He said we don't have intelligence to support it. ... Playing games with words."