U.S. Chamber of Commerce Invites Trump Bête Noire Michael Morell to Speak at Major Gathering

Morell, Donald Trump’s “deep state” enemy No. 1, spoke at a Chamber of Commerce event Monday, highlighting the strange gulf between the K Street titan and the GOP.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12:  Michael Morell, former acting director of the CIA , prepares to testify to a House Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill, January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony from an outside view on the U.S. Strategy for Iraq and Syria and the Evolution of Islamic Extremism.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Michael Morell, former acting director of the CIA, prepares to testify to the House Armed Services Committee on Jan. 12, 2016, in Washington, D.C. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted Michael Morell, former acting director of the CIA, at a major gathering for corporate executives on Monday, according to a copy of the agenda obtained by The Intercept. The invitation to Morell — who spoke at the Association Committee of 100 in conversation with a top Chamber executive — is another sign of the increasingly warm ties between the Chamber of Commerce and the network of Democratic-aligned opponents of Donald Trump that the former president maligns as the “deep state.” 

Morell is a controversial career official at the CIA who played a key role in the Bush-era torture program and the subsequent spying on the U.S. Senate done to thwart an investigation into what the administration had dubbed “enhanced interrogation.” Morell, after leaving the CIA, joined a private consulting firm, Beacon Global Strategies, linked to former allies of the Clintons. He endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016, warning that Trump was a threat to national security, and in 2020, he teamed with the Biden campaign to organize a letter arguing that Hunter Biden’s leaked laptop “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”

It turned out the laptop’s journey from a Wilmington, Delaware, computer repair store to the New York Post was a Rudy Giuliani-led information operation — and that the laptop also happened to be real. The Morell letter was used by the Biden campaign to muffle coverage of the laptop and its contents. Joe Biden himself cited the letter in a debate with Trump. “There are 50 former national intelligence folks who said that what he’s accusing me of is a Russian plant,” Biden said, though this is not true. The letter itself had been more cautious, adding the caveat that the signers “do not have evidence of Russian involvement.” 

But the clear intent of the letter, to link the laptop with Russian election interference, was picked up in substance by the press. Morell himself later said he was contacted by Biden aide Antony Blinken, now secretary of state, and urged to help organize the letter. One motivation, he said, was to help elect Biden. 

“There were two intents. One intent was to share our concern with the American people that the Russians were playing on this issue,” Morell said. “And, two, it was to help vice president Biden.”

Asked why, he added, “Because I wanted him to win the election.” As a result of Morell’s efforts, he has moved into the inner circle of Trump’s most despised adversaries, making his invitation to speak at the Chamber event another sign of the strained relationship between the Chamber and the MAGA wing of the Republican Party, which is otherwise known as the Republican Party. That the Chamber and the GOP are locked in such a battle is a stark departure from decades of political allegiance between the largest voice for big business in America and the party that represented those interests most vocally.


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The rift between the Trump wing of the party and the Chamber began during the 2016 campaign, during which the pro-business lobby did not get behind Trump soon enough, Trump later let the Chamber know. Trump and his allies felt further betrayed after Republicans moved through Congress a multitrillion-dollar tax cut, only to see the Chamber increasingly endorse Democrats in close House races. Senate Republicans such as Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas rarely miss an opportunity to lambaste the Chamber; House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., have made their refusal to meet with the organization conspicuous

“The priorities of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have not aligned with the priorities of House Republicans or the interests of their own members, and they should not expect a meeting with Speaker McCarthy as long as that’s the case,” Mark Bednar, a spokesperson for McCarthy, told CNBC. 

But Morell’s appearance also signals that big business has interests that go beyond Trump’s many grievances related to the 2020 election. Morell’s talk, according to a source, focused on the geopolitics of the U.S.’s ongoing confrontations with Russia and China — pocketbook concerns for the Chamber’s Association Committee of 100, which is made up of top corporate executives. His talk was moderated by John G. Murphy, a Chamber executive who leads international policy. “We don’t comment on the agenda or speakers at these events, but we always invite and hear from a variety of leaders and subject matter experts,” said Kasper Zeuthen, a spokesperson for the Chamber.

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