January 6 Committee Tightens the Screws Despite Republican Warnings

The Select Committee investigating the
January 6 mob attack on the Capitol took a significant step forward late
Thursday night when it announced that it had received thousands of documents it
had requested from social media and telecom companies.“With several hours to go before today’s
deadline, the Select Committee has received thousands of pages of documents in
response to our first set of requests and our investigative team is actively
engaged to keep that flow of information going,” a spokesperson for the
Committee said in a statement released late Thursday night. The statement
continued with a tantalizing mention of the fact that the National Archives and Records Administration “has
undertaken the process required by law for review of presidential records.”The statement was an effective signal that
both the committee and the telecom companies were undeterred by recent warnings
from congressional Republicans. It’s a stark sign that nothing has stopped or
slowed the committee’s investigation so far. Republicans have tried to stop the
committee from having Republicans on it. That hasn’t worked (although the two GOP
members are some of the most ardent opponents of Donald Trump on Capitol Hill).
Republicans have tried to intimidate the social media and telecom companies out
of complying with the committee. That doesn’t seem to be working, either. It’s
not clear if all the companies are following the committee’s demand. But some
are—and the committee wants the world to know it.  “What the committee is communicating to all
stakeholders is that it’s off to a good start,” said Norm Eisen, a former
co-counsel for the House Judiciary Committee during Donald Trump’s first
impeachment. Eisen continued that it’s important for any of the recipients of
the committee’s records requests who are dawdling to know “their peers are
providing assistance.” Eisen added, “These are perfectly lawful requests, and
they should be cooperated with.”  The last sentence of the committee’s statement
is perhaps the most intriguing. It means that the National Archives and Records
Administration, or NARA, has started taking steps to go through presidential
records from the Trump administration that relate to the committee’s records
request.“In a nutshell, what it means is, even though
it’s not the fastest process in the world, the wheels are turning to get those
Trump administration documents,” Eisen added.In a separate interview on Friday, Walter
Shaub, a senior fellow at the Project on Government Oversight who also was the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said that the NARA request has its own
peril. It suggests to Shaub that the committee is negotiating with the Biden
administration about which documents the committee can go through.  “What it means is, they’re going through them and
seeing if they want to assert any privileges and refuse to release documents,”
Shaub said. “There’s been this attitude of being very protective of
presidential prerogatives, which is dangerous because we saw in the last
administration congressional oversight break down entirely because the
president, President Trump, was able to take advantage of theories that have
been asserted from past administrations, and then he ratcheted them up on
steroids. But he wouldn’t have been able to do that if past presidents hadn’t
pushed back against congressional oversight.”In other words, even as the January 6 committee
makes its way through these records and documents, there’s a ripple effect that
could make it more difficult for future administrations to block oversight. Shaub
explained that the January 6 committee statement suggests the Biden administration
might be protecting some documents on the basis of presidential prerogative in
a similar way to how Attorney General Merrick Garland at times has opted
to side with Donald Trump’s Justice Department.Earlier this month, House Minority Leader
Kevin McCarthy responded to a demand by the committee for telecom companies to
preserve records related to the attack by threatening retribution. “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,”
McCarthy said in a statement posted to Twitter. More aggressively, he added
that the “Republican majority will not forget” if the companies comply with the
majority.Other Republicans have made similar arguments, and a group of GOP lawmakers sought to try to counter the committee’s request
by demanding that social media and telecom companies “preserve the
communication and phone records of Democrat representatives for future
investigative use”—a request that doesn’t relate in any serious way to January 6.McCarthy and other congressional Republicans,
including those the committee is reportedly seeking records for, have since
been arguing that the 30-some telecom companies that received the request are
legally obligated not to comply. That argument was called into question by
legal experts, though. In response to McCarthy’s argument that telecom companies
are required to protect the records the committee is asking for, former Federal Communications Commission Chair Tom
Wheeler was among the many experts who said those laws don’t apply here. “There’s two issues here,” Wheeler said in an interview
earlier this month. “Number one, I don’t think this is a single member of Congress,
is it? … And number two, the data that he chooses? No. This is about an
insurrection.”The telecom companies seem to agree, as well,
and the committee wants to publicize that. That’s a reminder that nothing about
this investigation is unserious or unimportant—or anywhere near over.
Read More

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button