Twitter hires former FBI chief counsel as deputy lawyer

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Twitter has tapped former FBI general counsel James Baker, a central player in the Russia collusion investigation, to serve as counsel to the tech giant.

“Thrilled to welcome @thejimbaker to @Twitter as Deputy General Counsel,” Twitter’s chief legal officer, Sean Edgett, posted Monday.

Edgett continued, “Jim is committed to our core principles of an open internet and freedom of expression, and brings experience navigating complex, global issues with a principled approach.”

Baker responded to the welcoming message in kind, writing, “Thanks @edgett!! I’m very excited to join such a great team @Twitter doing such important work. Glad to be on board.”

Despite having left Washington behind, Baker is joining the social media company at a notable political moment.

Twitter has been engaged in an ongoing feud with President Trump and his conservative allies since May, when the site took the unprecedented step of labeling two tweets from the commander-in-chief as promoting misinformation.

The warnings are attached to missives Trump fired off in which he claimed that mail-in ballots are fraudulent and will lead to a “rigged election” in November.

The move marked the first time the social media had annotated tweets from the president of the United States — arguably Twitter’s most prolific user, who frequently airs grievances to his 80 million followers.

In response, Trump issued an executive order curtailing liability protections for social media companies just two days later.

“We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers it has faced in American history had unchecked power to censure, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens or large public audiences,” the president said at the time.

“This censorship and bias is a threat to freedom itself. Imagine if your phone company silenced or edited your conversation. Social media companies have vastly more power in the United States than newspapers, they’re by far more rich than any other traditional forms of communication,” he added.

Baker, for his part, will likely be involved in defending the company using protections provided under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides those legal safeguards to platforms that allow anyone to publish content from lawsuits regarding that content.

During his time with the FBI, Baker found himself involved with the early stages of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, specifically the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant application against Carter Page.

Page was a campaign aide to Trump in 2016, when federal agents used the unverified Trump dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele to convince the FISA court to grant them a warrant to spy on Page.

That warrant, as well as the circumstances surrounding it, are being looked at by US Attorney John Durham, who was appointed by Attorney General William Barr to review federal surveillance abuses.

Baker has stood by his conduct during his time at the FBI and with regard to the Russia probe.

Speaking to Yahoo News in May 2019, the former general counsel said he would “welcome scrutiny” of his conduct.

“I plan to fully cooperate with the department to help them figure out what happened. Because I believe what happened was lawful, at least based on every piece of information that I have,” he said at the time.


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