Weaponization hearing finds at least 20 White House employees involved in tech censorship

Louisiana’s attorney general called Thursday for federal employees to be fired, lose their retirement benefits and face civil lawsuits if they are found to have pressured technology companies to censor opposing viewpoints.

Jeff Landry made his suggestion to Congress during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee investigating “weaponization” of the federal government. He detailed what he labeled a “vast censorship enterprise” that ran deep into the Biden administration.

He and Sen. Eric Schmitt, Missouri Republican, said documents they obtained in a lawsuit reveal that the FBI, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Census Bureau, Dr. Anthony Fauci and multiple people at the White House took steps to pressure tech companies to shut down narratives with which they disagreed on the Hunter Biden laptop or the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Please remove this immediately,” one White House employee demanded of Twitter. Another time, the employee chided Facebook for “making our country’s vaccine hesitancy problem worse.”

The flow of requests was so extensive that Twitter proposed “a streamlined process” so it could prioritize them.

“In a given day last week, for example, we had more than four different people within the White House reaching out for issues,” Twitter said, according to documents from the case.

Mr. Schmitt accused President Biden and his administration of seeming to “lust for its own ministry of truth.”

“The Biden administration has led the largest speech censorship operation in American history,” said Mr. Schmitt, who before being sworn in as a senator this year was Missouri’s attorney general and pursued the lawsuit with Mr. Landry.

Mr. Landry, who served as a member of Congress before becoming attorney general in Louisiana, said a House bill to ban federal employees from using their positions to engage in censorship is a start but needs more teeth.

He said federal employees who do become censors should face termination and loss of future benefits, and citizens who had their views censored should have a clear path to legal action.

“There must be a penalty, or this problem will never be solved,” Mr. Landry said.

The ongoing lawsuit has developed a pile of evidence through the discovery process and depositions of top Biden officials.

Revelations included weekly meetings between tech companies and the CDC to talk about policing misinformation; FBI efforts to discourage the posting of hacked material, which primed tech companies to wrongly censor reports about Hunter Biden’s laptop; and Dr. Fauci’s public attempts to discredit the lab-leak theory for the origin of COVID-19, after which tech companies began to censor their platforms.

Matthew Seligman, a law professor at Stanford University whom Democrats invited to testify at the hearing, said the platforms always made censorship decisions.

“Government officials offered their suggestions to platforms about misinformation and no threat of adverse government action ever attached,” he said.

D. John Sauer, a special assistant attorney general in Louisiana, countered that the pressure campaign they uncovered went beyond simple suggestion and seemed closer to intimidation.

“There’s overwhelming evidence in our case that contradicts the notion that these were mere suggestions from federal officials,” Mr. Sauer said.

He said they uncovered at least 20 White House employees involved in badgering tech companies to take down content, even when content was true, that conflicted with the White House’s preferred narrative.

His testimony included an email where Facebook, after prodding by the White House, said it was “reducing the virality” of content on vaccines that Facebook acknowledged was “often-true” but could be seen as “alarmist or shocking.”

Rep. Chris Stewart, Utah Republican, compared the government’s pressure attempts to East Germany’s secret police, the Stasi, which would pressure newspapers to hinder positive coverage of regime skeptics.

“I think it’s an incredibly close comparison,” Mr. Stewart said.

He said the Stasi would also make visits to dissidents to intimidate them. He likened the tactic to the IRS’s visit this month to the home of a journalist while he was testifying to the weaponization subcommittee.

Democrats cast the hearing as a distraction.

Delegate Stacey Plaskett, the Democrats’ top lawmaker on the committee, said Congress should be focusing on the debt ceiling, the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and the school shooting this week in Nashville, Tennessee.

Ms. Plaskett, the Virgin Islands’ nonvoting member of Congress, said Republicans were using the hearing to spread more disinformation.

“Republicans know that these are false narratives, and they know Americans know the truth. And they are grasping for ways to spin the truth,” she said.

Democrats called Mr. Landry and Mr. Schmitt unworthy witnesses and accused them of fueling the Jan. 6, 2021, riot that briefly halted the counting of Electoral College votes at the Capitol.

When Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican and committee chairman, excused the two from having to answer questions — a courtesy often extended to current and former members of Congress — Democrats exploded. They said it deprived them of a chance to test the Republicans’ testimony.

One Democrat proposed striking the two men’s testimony from the record.

“You mean you want to censor it,” one Republican shouted.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

Source: WT