On Aug. 21, Reuters reported that a federal investigation had “found scant evidence that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the result of an organized plot to overturn the presidential election result, according to four current and former law enforcement officials.”
“Though federal officials have arrested more than 570 alleged participants, the FBI at this point believes the violence was not centrally coordinated by far-right groups or prominent supporters of then-President Donald Trump, according to the sources, who have been either directly involved in or briefed regularly on the wide-ranging investigations,” the wire service reported.
Our nation’s most capable law enforcement agency, with significant resources at its disposal, investigated the biggest criminal agenda item on the Biden administration’s list and found no evidence of a coordinated effort.
However, the House committee looking into the Jan. 6 incursion — whose members apparently have watched too many episodes of “Scooby-Doo” or read too many Nancy Drew novels — apparently believes career politicians can find a criminal conspiracy where the FBI didn’t. Zoinks! It was Old Man Gaetz all along! And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those meddling Democrats (and Liz Cheney).
On Monday, according to The Hill, the committee sent letters to dozens of telecommunications companies and social media platforms asking them to retain records of those they believe could have been involved in the Capitol incursion — including their fellow lawmakers.
While the letters don’t specify whose information is being sought, CNN reported those lawmakers included Republican Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Jody Hice of Georgia and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.
That’s crossing a major line, as far as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California is concerned. In a strongly worded statement posted on Twitter, he warned companies that “a Republican majority will not forget” if they cooperate with the committee’s intrusive request.
“Adam Schiff, Bennie Thompson and Nancy Pelosi’s attempts to strong-arm private companies to turn over individuals’ private data would put every America with a phone or computer in the crosshairs of a surveillance state run by Democrat politicians,” McCarthy said in the Tuesday evening statement.
Schiff, a California Democrat, is on the committee; Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, is its chairman; and Pelosi, the speaker of the House, is responsible for the committee’s creation.
“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 wrote.
He didn’t cite the laws the companies would be violating by complying with the committee’s entreaties, but he made it clear the GOP elephant wouldn’t forget this one.
“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,” the minority leader said.
My statement on Democrats asking companies to violate federal law: pic.twitter.com/XELEVNbx65
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) August 31, 2021
It’s worth noting that while the committee has subpoena power, the letters sent by the committee on Monday weren’t subpoenas. However, they came across as what could best be described as very pointed entreaties.
According to The Hill, the letters asked for the records of “individuals who were listed on permit applications or were otherwise involved in organizing, funding, or speaking at the January 5, 2021, or January 6, 2021, rallies in the District of Columbia relating to objecting to the certification of the electoral college votes.”
“The document identifies individuals who may have relevant information to aid the fact-finding of the Select Committee,” the letters read.
”If you are not able or willing to respond to this request without alerting the subscribers or the accounts, please contact the Select Committee prior to proceeding,” they said.
The letters cast a wide net. The usual suspects — Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter, for instance — are commingled with platforms such as right-leaning social media network Parler, message board 4chan and alternative social media site Gab.
Most chilling, however, is the fact they requested phone companies keep an extensive trove of data.
“As Chairman Thompson previewed last week, the Select Committee today sent letters to 35 private-sector entities, including telecommunications, email, and social media companies, instructing them to preserve records which may be relevant to the Select Committee’s investigation. The Select Committee is at this point gathering facts, not alleging wrongdoing by any individual,” a statement by the committee read.
However, the committee is asking for a pretty wide-ranging set of data. For instance, its letter to Google requests the preservation of all email messages, Google Drive files, location history and deletion records.
This has nothing on their requests from phone companies, however: They’ve been asked to save text messages, location data and call data for everyone involved.
“We have quite an exhaustive list of people,” Thompson told reporters last week.
“I won’t tell you who they are, but it’s several hundred people that make up the list of people we are planning to contact.”
Not only that, they want tech and telecom companies to turn over private data on their enemies list — all because they’re convinced they can crack a case the FBI concluded was dead on arrival.
Our elected officials aren’t law enforcement officials.
Most importantly, a hyperpartisan committee shouldn’t be able to ask tech and telecom companies to turn over sensitive personal data from the opposition.
That’s what happens in a banana republic — and if Big Tech and Big Telecom cooperate, Republicans should never forget the role they played in getting us there.
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