The Republican minority leader of the US House of Representatives this week issued a very public threat to cellphone networks and social media giants that were asked to cooperate with a congressional investigation into the storming of the Capitol in January.
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) warned “a Republican majority will not forget” if the corporations participate as asked in the probe, which is being conducted by a Democratic-led House select committee.
That panel of lawmakers asked 35 companies, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Signal, plus Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile US, to preserve their records of certain users’ phone and computer activities between April 1, 2020, to January 31, 2021.
Committee chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said the information may be needed “as part of its examination of the violent attack on the Capitol and the broader context of efforts to delay or interfere with the peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 election.”
Five people died and many more were injured during an insurrection in which Congress was ransacked on January 6.
In a letter to the telcos and internet giants on Monday, the committee named the individuals whose records it was interested in, though that list of people was not publicly released.
Some reports claimed the number of names may be in the hundreds and cover those who were potentially involved in disrupting the certification of Joe Biden’s victory. Some claimed selected Republican congressfolk, as well as Donald Trump and some of his family, were on the list.
In response, on Tuesday, Rep McCarthy was blunt: if the mega-corps cooperate with the investigation, the Republicans may punish them if or when the political pendulum swings his party’s way.
“Adam Schiff, Bennie Thompson and Nancy Pelosi’s attempts to strong-arm private companies to turn over individuals’ private data would put every American with a phone or computer in the crosshairs of a surveillance state run by Democrat politicians,” he claimed.
“If these companies comply with the Democrat order to turn over private information, they are in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States. If companies still choose to violate federal law, a Republican majority will not forget and will stand with Americans to hold them fully accountable under the law.”
McCarthy’s threat didn’t name the federal law that would be broken, and his office declined to comment further. Rep Ted Lieu (D-CA) suggested such a blatant threat to the committee might itself be illegal.
18 U.S. Code § 1505: “Whoever…by any threatening letter or communication…endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede…the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any…investigation is being had by either House…Shall be fined under this title, imprisoned…” https://t.co/YlquEXKybd
– Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) August 31, 2021
Rep McCarthy’s name is not thought to be on the list of those being investigated, as far as has been reported. Fellow Republicans report McCarthy was on the phone to President Trump on the day of the insurrection telling the one-time TV star to call off the rioters trying to break into his office, only to be told: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
House Republicans have boycotted the Capitol riot investigation so far, and some have said that they will take legal action if they are ordered to testify before it.
Committee spokesman Tim Mulvey said the probe “won’t be deterred by those who want to whitewash or cover up the events of January 6, or obstruct our investigation,” according to the Washington Post.
“The select committee is investigating the violent attack on the Capitol and attempt to overturn the results of last year’s election. We’ve asked companies not to destroy records that may help answer questions for the American people.” ®
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