James Baker, Twitter lawyer fired by Elon Musk, played key role in FBI’s Trump-Russia collusion probe

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Twitter’s former deputy general counsel James Baker, who was fired Tuesday by new CEO Elon Musk for “suppression” of information, has a long history of facing allegations of anti-Trump, pro-Democratic bias in the public and private sectors.

Substack journalist Matt Taibbi, whose “Twitter Files” were released on Friday revealed new details about the company’s suppression of the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story during the 2020 presidential election, shared an article on Sunday about Baker’s connections to FBI controversies involving the Trump-Russia probe.

The article, from New York Post opinion writer Jonathan Turley, said Baker was “at the center of the Twitter suppression scandal” and “is fast becoming the Kevin Bacon of the Russian collusion scandals.”

Musk responded to Taibbi’s tweet of the article by announcing that Baker “was exited from Twitter today” due to concerns over his “possible role in suppression of information important to the public dialogue.”

Taibbi later said part of the reason Baker was fired was because Baker himself had “vetted” the first installment of the “Twitter Files” and had delayed the release of the second installment without Musk’s knowledge.

“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,” Taibbi tweeted. “We can now tell you part of the reason why. 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 confirmed in a tweet Tuesday evening that he “only discovered this on Sunday.” Musk said he gave a Baker a chance to explain himself before his termination, but that his explanation was “unconvincing.”

Baker’s name surfaced in Friday’s first installment of the “Twitter Files” due to internal company discussions about whether the Hunter Biden laptop story fell under Twitter’s “hacked materials” policy.

A Twitter executive had wondered in an email chain whether the company could “truthfully claim” that the laptop story was “part of the policy,” to which Baker responded, “I support the conclusion that we need more facts to assess whether the materials were hacked” but added that “it’s reasonable for us to assume that they may have been and that caution is warranted.”

Before joining Twitter, Baker worked as general counsel at the FBI, where he was a key figure in the bureau’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

On Sept. 19, 2016, less than two months before the presidential election, Baker met with then-Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann, who presented data allegedly showing a covert communications channel between the Trump Organization and the Russia-based Alfa Bank.

Sussman was later charged with making a false statement to the FBI after being accused of telling Baker he was not doing work “for any client” when he was allegedly billing the Clinton campaign for the work. Sussmann was acquitted of the charge in May of this year.

Baker testified during Sussmann’s trial, describing Sussmann as his “friend.” He said that when Sussmann approached him with the Alfa Bank allegations, the FBI “was already conducting an investigation into alleged connections between the Trump campaign and Russians at this point in time.”

Baker said he immediately briefed then-FBI Director James Comey and then-FBI Deputy Director Andy McCabe about the Alfa Bank allegations because “it seemed to me of great urgency and great seriousness.”

“Here was another type of information between Trump and Russia that had come to me,” Baker said, adding that investigating any possible connections “was of high, high importance to the FBI at this point in time.”

Baker said, however, that the FBI investigated the claims for several weeks and “concluded there was no substance.”

The FBI investigation into whether candidate Donald Trump and members of his campaign were colluding or coordinating with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election was handed off to Special Counsel Robert Mueller after Trump was elected president. After nearly two years, Mueller’s investigation yielded no evidence of collusion.

In May 2017, after Trump fired Comey, Baker was reassigned from his role as the bureau’s general counsel, which Trump celebrated at the time. Baker left the bureau one year later.

In October 2018, Baker told House investigators during a closed-door congressional interview that he was personally involved in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant application to surveil then-Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

The FISA warrant relied largely on the unverified anti-Trump dossier, compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele and funded by the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s presidential campaign through law firm Perkins Coie.

Baker later admitted that his role in the FISA application and his friendship with Sussmann, a then-Perkins Coie partner, was unusual.

In January 2019, the Justice Department opened a criminal investigation into Baker over the potential leaking of classified information with reporters during his time at the FBI. He was not charged.

At the time, Trump accused Baker of colluding in an “unconstitutional hoax.” Baker did not return fire until May 2019, slamming what he called Trump’s “false narrative that there was a coup, and a conspiracy, and treason.”

Musk firing Baker from Twitter on Tuesday sparked a firestorm on the website, shining a light on his involvement with investigating Trump and suppressing the laptop story.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk during a T-Mobile and SpaceX joint event in Boca Chica Beach, Texas, on Aug. 25, 2022.

Trump appeared to address Baker’s firing on his social media website Truth Social Tuesday evening, writing in all capitalized letters, “The greatest witch hunt of all time continues, over & over again, & the people of this country aren’t going to take it much longer. A giant political scam!!”

Twitter also exploded over the firing, with several Republicans encouraging Baker to testify before lawmakers.

“Republicans should call Baker, former FBI lawyer before he went to @Twitter, to testify on possible FBI attempts to coerce @Twitter into election interference,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., tweeted.

Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., made a similar proposal: “[email protected], can you make sure to forward our email inviting James Baker to a @GOPoversight hearing next year? We sent it to his @Twitter email.”

Baker could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Fox News’ Alexander Hall and Paul Best contributed to this report.

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