The House Select Committee on Jan. 6 appears set to try and criminalize the portion of the First Amendment allegedly guaranteeing Americans’ right to peacefully assemble to redress grievances against their government, and two Republicans — Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger — are knee-deep in it.
Specifically, according to The Federalist, the committee is seeking the phone records of dozens of American citizens who did nothing wrong the day the Capitol was stormed except show up to hear a political speech from then-President Donald Trump.
“That committee has moved forward with issuing subpoenas to telephone companies,” a GOP aide told The Federalist. “Our understanding at this point is they have not subpoenaed member information, but they are subpoenaing telephone records of private American citizens.”
In August, CNN reported that the committee sent requests to major telecoms asking them to preserve records of members of Congress who took part in or attended the “Stop the Steal” rally where Trump spoke:
The records request is the first step in the committee’s investigatory process and could signal the direction they plan to go when they call witnesses.
It is unclear what means the committee will use to compel the telecommunications companies to cooperate with their request. The committee does have subpoena power, but requesting the information — especially from members of Congress — could lead to a lengthy legal battle.
The committee did not make public the names of the lawmakers whose records they are targeting. But multiple sources familiar with the committee’s work have confirmed for CNN at least part of list including many of the members of Congress included in the request.
At the time, the request — and the telecom companies’ apparent willingness to comply with turning over records to the partisan committee — did not sit well with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who pointed out that the act would be “in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States.”
“A Republican majority will not forget and will be ready to hold them fully accountable under the law,” McCarthy wrote then.
My statement on Democrats asking companies to violate federal law: pic.twitter.com/XELEVNbx65
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) August 31, 2021
What would Democrat accountability look like? Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) suggested that broad protections the telecoms enjoy under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that shield them from third-party liability could be curtailed.
“We should pass it and show the American people where we want to go,” Jordan noted in reference to the “Protect Speech Act.,” which seeks Section 230 reform.
Even though there is no chance it will pass in a Democrat-controlled Congress or that President Biden would sign it, “Jordan said its support in the House would showcase GOP commitment on issues of censorship, punishing telecom companies in process,” The Federalist reported.
The Ohio Republican also noted that his party should “speed up the path to get antitrust cases to the Supreme Court,” adding that constitutional originalist Justice Clarence Thomas has signaled interest in busting up the big tech monopolies.
The Federalist noted further: “Of the 45 subpoenas the committee has issued, a vast majority have targeted private citizens who merely exercised their free right to protest.”
The outlet added:
On Wednesday’s call, Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, who is leading the Republican investigation into the Capitol riot with Jordan, railed at Democrats’ committee as “all based on a conspiracy theory.”
“According to the committee, January 6 was an inside job,” Banks said. “It was an attempted coup disguised as a political rally that was secretly orchestrated by President Trump and his closest advisors. That is a lie and…. it’s crazy.”
To that point, in August Reuters reported that an FBI probe found “scant evidence” that there was a coordinated effort to storm the U.S. Capitol.
And frankly, if there was evidence, under Biden, we’d have known about it by now because the conspirators would have already been charged.
The good news? Kinzinger’s Illinois district is going away so he’s retiring, and Cheney is about as popular in her state of Wyoming as Biden — which isn’t saying much.