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Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas denied knowing that his pick for “disinformation czar” had dismissed Hunter Biden’s laptop as Russian disinformation, nor that she had vouched for the now-discredited Steele dossier.
Mayorkas made the admission during testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. Mayorkas has come under fire both for creating a disinformation board and for tapping Nina Jankowicz to lead the effort. Critics have dubbed the board the “ministry of truth,” and pointed to Jankowicz’s divisive and partisan social media presence.
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., pressed Mayorkas on the hiring process Jankowicz went through, asking whether the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was aware of her social media presence.
“When the department picked her did it know that she had said that Mr. Hunter Biden’s laptop is Russian disinformation?” Kennedy asked.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during an April 2022 House hearing. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
“I was not aware of that, but we do not discuss the internal hiring process. Ultimately, as the secretary I am responsible for the decisions of the Department of Homeland Security,” Mayorkas responded.
“When the department picked Ms. Jankowicz did it know that she had vouched for the veracity of the Steele dossier?” Kennedy pressed.
“Senator, let me repeat myself and add an additional fact,” Mayorkas said. “One, we do not discuss internal hiring processes. Two, I was not aware of that fact. Three, as the secretary of homeland security I am responsible for the decisions of the department, and it is my understanding that Ms. Jankowicz is a subject-matter expert in the field in which she will be working on behalf of the department.”
An image of Nina Jankowicz from Twitter and a hand scrolling through ‘fake news’ (Arkadiusz Warguła/iStock)
“I can tell,” Kennedy quipped in response.
Numerous high-profile Republicans have criticized the board, which they say will have a stifling effect on free speech.
“I am particularly concerned that this administration will weaponize the Board as a political tool to discredit legitimate criticism of President Biden’s policies,” Blackburn wrote. “These concerns are substantiated by the appointment of Nina Jankowicz – who has a history of political partisanship and supporting dubious claims – as the Board’s executive director.”
Jankowicz has said the thought of “free speech absolutists” controlling Twitter made her “shudder.” She made her TikTok account private on Tuesday following criticism of a video she posted of herself singing about “information laundering.”
But Mayorkas insisted Wednesday that the board will not have “operational authority.”