During a Senate hearing Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas pleaded ignorance on the spotty fact-finding record of President Biden’s appointee to head the Disinformation Governance Board.
The board, technically tasked with countering disinformation with regards to violent extremism, human trafficking, and foreign meddling in American institutions and politics, has been satirically dubbed the ‘Ministry of Truth’ by conservative critics. The Biden administration tapped Nina Jankowicz to lead the board, even though she endorsed the view that Hunter Biden’s laptop was the product of a foreign disinformation campaign.
During the hearing, Senator Kennedy asked Mayorkas: “When the department picked her, did they know that she said that Mr. Hunter Biden’s laptop is Russian disinformation?”
“I was not aware of that. We do not discuss the internal hiring process. Ultimately as the secretary, I’m responsible for the decisions of the Department of Homeland Security,” he replied.
Specifically, Jankowicz had dismissed the emails extracted from Hunter Biden’s laptop, which revealed some suspect foreign business dealings involving the president, as a “Trump campaign product.”
Republicans have questioned Jankowicz’ ability to preside over the board with impartiality and fairness, given that she also endorsed the work of Christopher Steele, the author of the discredited dossier on former president Donald Trump that sparked the Mueller probe. Mayorkas also claimed to have been unaware of Jankowicz’s endorsement of the Steele dossier during the hearing.
“When the department picked Ms. Jankowicz did it know that she had vouched for the veracity of the Steele dossier?” Kennedy asked.
“I was not aware of that fact,” Mayorkas responded.
Jankowicz tweeted about a podcast featuring the dossier’s author: “listened to this last night – Chris Steele (yes THAT Chris Steele) provides some great historical context about the evolution of disinfo. Worth a listen.”
She also said in April 2020 that “the inclusion of the Steele dossier didn’t influence the conclusions of the [intelligence community assessment].” However, the since debunked Steele dossier was a key part of the evidence the FBI presented to the FISA court to obtain a warrant to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and the report was cited in an annex of Mueller’s final report.
Kennedy also raised the subject of Jankowicz’s bizarre song and dance videos, asking whether Mayorkas was familiar with her musical talents when she was hired.
“When the department picked [Nina Jankowicz], was the department aware of her TikTok videos? They’re really quite precocious,” Kennedy said, referring to a juvenile spoof of a Mary Poppins song about disinformation Jankowicz posted on Twitter in February 2021. Mayorkas claimed he had no knowledge of the videos.
Despite the partisan nature of Jankowicz’ past comments and opinions, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki assured earlier this week that the board would operate “in a nonpartisan and apolitical manner.”
“The mandate is not to adjudicate what is true or false online or otherwise,” Psaki said during a White House press briefing Monday. “It will operate in a nonpartisan and apolitical manner. It’s basically meant to coordinate a lot of the ongoing work that is happening . . . and the focus is on disinformation and threats to the homeland.”