McCarthy threatens telecoms over request from January 6 committee

Washington – House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy warned a group of private companies that Republicans will “not forget” if they comply with a request to preserve documents from the House select committee investigating the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

McCarthy said in a statement posted to Twitter on Tuesday that letters from the January 6 panel sent to 35 social media, telecommunications and email companies this week would “put every American with a phone or computer in the crosshairs of a surveillance state run by Democrat politicians.”

“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,” he said. “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.”

In its letters to the 35 companies, the House panel asked them to preserve information they may possess about people charged for their roles in the assault, or those potentially involved in “discussions of plans to challenge, delay or interfere” with Congress’ tallying of state electoral votes on January 6. 

The panel also requested the entities hold on to records about people “involved in organizing, funding or speaking” at rallies on January 5 and January 6 claiming the 2020 presidential election was rigged, which could include GOP lawmakers and people close to former President Donald Trump.

Congressman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi leading the committee, told company heads in the letters that their firms must keep records dating from April 1, 2020, to January 31, 2021. A committee spokesperson said the panel is “at this point gathering facts, not alleging wrongdoing by any individual.”

It’s unknown which individuals are covered by the request. The companies were asked to preserve the “content of communications, including all emails, voice messages, text or SMS/MMS messages, videos, photographs,” as well as phone numbers and metadata.

Among the entities that received letters are telecommunications companies like AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, as well as encrypted messaging services Proton Technologies and Signal. Social media platforms like 4chan, Facebook, Twitter, Parler and Gab also received the orders, as did Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

In response to McCarthy’s warnings to the companies, the select committee argued it has only asked the companies “not to destroy records that may help answer questions for the American people.”

“The committee’s efforts won’t be deterred by those who want to whitewash or cover up the events of January 6, or obstruct our investigation,” the panel continued.

Republican Congressman Jim Banks of Indiana sent Thompson a letter objecting to the requests from the committee, saying that “rifling through the call logs of your colleagues would depart from more than 230 years of congressional oversight.”

“This type of authoritarian undertaking has no place in the House of Representatives and the information you seek has no conceivable legislative purpose,” he said. “It is a desperate partisan act that would only further reveal the political nature of the select committee.”

The House select committee has started to ramp up its investigation into the events surrounding the January 6 assault. The panel last week requested a trove of documents from eight executive branch agencies, including communications from the Trump White House surrounding January 6. On Friday, the committee also sought records from 15 social media companies related to the spread of misinformation, efforts to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election and foreign influence in the presidential contest.