On Monday, CNN was the first to report that the January 6 Select Committee had sent letters requesting that a group of telecommunications, messaging and social media companies preserve records of a group of GOP members of Congress and former President Donald Trump, members of the Trump family, and others “who played a role in the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally that served as the prelude to the Capitol insurrection.”
The full list of companies includes 1&1 Mail, 4chan, 8kun, Amazon, AOL Mail, Apple, AT&T, Discord, Facebook, Gab, Google, LogMeIn, MeWe, Microsoft, Parler, Proton Technologies, Reddit, Rocket[.]Chat, Rumble, Signal, Slack, Snap, Sprint, Telegram, theDonald[.]win, Tiktok, T-Mobile, Twitch, Twitter, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless, Yahoo! Mail, YouTube, Zello and Zoho. Monday’s requests follow a set of letters sent to a subset of these companies on Friday seeking related information.Combined-Social-Media-Telecom-Preservation-Requests-August-30-2021
Following the request, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA23) issued a statement threatening the companies with retaliation if they comply with the the Committee.
My statement on Democrats asking companies to violate federal law: pic.twitter.com/XELEVNbx65— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) August 31, 2021
Legal experts agree the companies are obligated to produce the information that Congress has requested if they issue a subpoena. Democrats have suggested that McCarthy’s statement amounts to obstruction.
“These companies have a legal obligation to preserve the records,” ethics expert Norman Eisen told The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent. “The committee has the legal authority to get this critically important evidence.”
The Washington Post‘s Felicia Sonmez and Cristiano Lima published responses from a handful of the companies indicating many intend to cooperate with the Committee, including Facebook, Google/YouTube, Reddit, Snap, and Discord. Proton Mail, a Swiss company, raised concerns it may not be able to comply with requests from the committee under Swiss law.
In the past two days, some lawmakers have called on McCarthy to denounce statements by another Republican Representative, Madison Cawthorn (R-NC8), who said at a recent meeting with constituents that there will be “bloodshed” if elections continue to be “rigged,” adding that he is working on plans to get supporters of former President Donald Trump back to Washington D.C.
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & Innovation. He is an associate research scientist and adjunct professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Opinions expressed here are his own.