Julie Kelly writes at American Greatness Jen Psaki: Investigations for Thee, But Not for Me. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.
It’s beyond ironic that the mouthpiece for a regime proceeding with yet another punitive and vengeful investigation into Donald Trump wants to be shielded from an inquiry into her own misdeeds.
Former White House Press Secretary Jennifer Psaki, much like her old boss, is a big fan of investigations.
From her perch at the podium in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, Psaki routinely endorsed criminal, civil, and congressional inquiries into the events of January 6 and warned the individuals targeted—including Donald Trump and his former aides—that they must comply with the legal process.
Psaki announced that Biden would not extend executive privilege to his predecessor related to the January 6 select committee’s inquisition, giving investigators carte blanche access to all of Trump’s records for most of 2020—most of which had nothing to do with January 6. “We are, we have been working closely with congressional committees and others as they work to get to the bottom of what happened on January 6th, an incredibly dark day in our democracy,” Psaki said in September 2021.
And anyone who defied congressional subpoenas, Psaki noted, could face criminal charges.
But Psaki, unsurprisingly, is taking a different approach now that she’s a defendant in a sprawling civil lawsuit seeking to uncover the federal government’s deep collaboration with Big Tech to suppress free speech and promote Biden’s political interests.
Psaki is one of more than five dozen current and former federal officials—including Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy—being sued by the states of Missouri and Louisiana for violating the First Amendment rights of American citizens.
“Having threatened and cajoled social-media platforms for years to censor viewpoints and speakers disfavored by the Left, senior government officials in the Executive Branch have moved into a phase of open collusion with social-media companies to suppress disfavored speakers, viewpoints, and content on social-media platforms under the Orwellian guise of halting so-called ‘disinformation,’ ‘misinformation,’ and ‘malinformation,’” the complaint reads. “Under the First Amendment, the federal Government should play no role in policing private speech or picking winners and losers in the marketplace of ideas. But that is what federal officials are doing, on a massive scale—the full scope and impact of which yet to be determined.”
The lawsuit cited numerous occasions when Psaki gloated about the White House’s partnership with social media platforms to ban content contradictory to the official narrative on COVID-19 and vaccines. For example, during a July 2021 press briefing with Surgeon General Murthy, Psaki publicly urged Facebook to deplatform accounts she considered purveyors of “health misinformation,” an alleged scourge that Murthy described as an “urgent public health threat.” Psaki made her expectations quite clear.
“[We] engage with [social media companies] regularly and they certainly understand
what our asks are,” Psaki bragged.
A few days later, Facebook banned the accounts Psaki had accused of spreading “misinformation.”
Now all of a sudden, Psaki doesn’t want to boast about how she strong-armed
Silicon Valley to do the regime’s bidding—especially under oath.
Judge Terry Doughty from the western district of Louisiana last month ordered Psaki to sit for a deposition, finding that the ex-spokeswoman “has personal knowledge about the issue concerning censorship across social media as it related to COVID-19 and ancillary issues of COVID-19.” Doughty further concluded that “any burden on Psaki is outweighed by the need to determine whether free speech has been suppressed.” On November 1, Psaki was served with a subpoena, ordering her to appear for a sworn deposition in Arlington, Virginia, near her home.
Psaki, however, doesn’t have time. The newly minted MSNBC contributor—Psaki is slated to host her own show on the network starting next year—is simply too swamped.
In a separate statement to the court, Psaki claimed that “sitting for a deposition in this matter would be extremely burdensome for me. Among other things, I understand that I would need to devote several days to preparing for the deposition, as well as attending the deposition itself, and that would be highly disruptive to both my work and my family.”
You don’t say!
Psaki’s interview also would create a big job for government lawyers who would need to determine “which of her conversations or recollections might be subject to executive privilege,” her legal team argued.
Setting aside the laughable hypocrisy of Psaki now invoking her status as a “private citizen” and “former senior official” when she offered no such consideration to Donald Trump, and further noting the hollowness of her complaints that a deposition would be far too time-consuming. The notion is astonishing: That somehow she is entitled to executive privilege, but a former president and his top aides including legal counsel are not.
Further, Psaki’s lawyers warned they will fight the production of “any Documents and Communications that relate to any member of the White House Communications Team or any other Federal Official communicating with Social-Media Platforms about Content on those Platforms.”
Funny how Psaki had no similar objection when she announced in October 2021 that the White House had ordered the transfer of thousands of Trump’s official records to the January 6 select committee.
Psaki’s lawyers attempted to bypass Judge Doughty. They filed a motion to quash the subpoena in the eastern district of Virginia, where Psaki lives and likely will sit for the deposition. But the Virginia judge wasn’t having any part of it, ordering the matter returned to the Louisiana court where the lawsuit originated. In other words, the judge told Psaki to “circle back.”
It looks like Psaki has run out of options to avoid her scheduled
December 8 video-recorded deposition.
Which, by the way, Psaki wants under seal. Lawyers representing the eight officials ordered to be deposed asked Judge Doughty to issue a protective order on all recorded interviews, insisting that “civil servants—do not reasonably expect that they will be subjected to video-recorded, publicly disseminated cross-examination about the way that they carried out their job duties.”
Publicly releasing the videos, the lawyers said, creates a “significant likelihood that audiovisual recordings of federal employee depositions taken in this case will be manipulated or abused” and cherry-picked clips “will expose the deponents to undue harassment and invasions of privacy.”
Doughty partially granted their motion, sealing the taped depositions only until the interviews are docketed as discovery evidence before trial. “The public’s interest in access of this information is especially strong because this matter involves the [First] Amendment right to freedom of speech,” he wrote in a November 17 order.
It goes without saying—or should, at any rate—that a coordinated effort between the most powerful government officials and the most powerful information providers to silence and punish political dissent is a far greater “threat to democracy,” as they like to say, than what happened for a few hours on January 6.
And it’s beyond ironic that the mouthpiece for a regime proceeding with yet another punitive and vengeful investigation into Donald Trump wants to be shielded from an inquiry into her own misdeeds. Proof once again that accountability, transparency, and consequences only runs one way in Washington.
Background from previous post
Fed Govt./Big Tech Censorship Lawsuit Update: Senior Biden People Will Be Deposed
Zachary Stieber reports at Epoch Times Judge Rejects Biden Administration’s Attempt to Block Depositions in Big Tech-Government Censorship Case. Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.
U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty, a Trump appointee, rejected a request for a partial stay of his Oct. 21 order authorizing the depositions of eight officials, including President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Government lawyers asked the judge to impose the partial stay as an appeals court weighs a request to vacate the part of his order that enables the depositions of Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a Biden appointee; Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly, a Biden appointee; and Rob Flaherty, a deputy assistant to the president.
Absent a stay, “high-ranking governmental officials would be diverted from their significant duties and burdened in both preparing and sitting for a deposition, all of which may ultimately prove to be unnecessary if the Court of Appeals grants” their request, the government said.
Doughty ruled that the government failed to show how the officials would be irreparably harmed apart from referencing a diversion from “significant duties.” That didn’t meet the standard for showing irreparable harm, he said.
From the Judge’s MEMORANDUM ORDER
For the reasons set forth herein, Federal Defendants’ Corrected Motion for Partial Stay is DENIED. (Excerpts in italics with my bolds.)
1. Surgeon General Murthy
Details regarding the allegations as to Murthy are set forth in the Memorandum Order Regarding Witness Depositions. Murthy was found to have first-hand knowledge by (1) publicly criticizing tech companies by asserting they were responsible for COVID-19 deaths due to their failure to censor “mis-information”; (2) issuing a Request for Information on March 2, 2022, requesting tech companies to provide him with “mis-information”; and (3) engaging in communication with high-level Facebook executives about greater censorship of COVID-19 “misinformation.”
Although Murthy was a high-ranking official, the potential burden imposed on Murthy was outweighed by the need to determine whether First Amendment rights of free speech have been suppressed. The Court found exceptional circumstances were present and that the substantive reasons for taking the deposition were sufficient.
2. CISA Director Jen Easterly
Details of the allegations as they relate to Easterly are set forth in the Memorandum Order Regarding Witness Depositions. Easterly was found to have first-hand knowledge by (1) supervising the “nerve center” of federally directed censorship; (2) directly flagging alleged “misinformation” to social media companies for censorship; (3) stating that social media speech by Americans is a form of infrastructure that allows the CISA to police online speech; (4) being involved in extensive oral communications and meetings between CISA officials and social-media platforms; and (5) being personally involved in text messages specifically discussing how greater censorship of social-media platforms would be done by exerting federal pressure on social-media platforms to increase censorship.
The Court also conducted its analysis of Easterly as if she were a high-ranking official and found that her personal knowledge required her deposition. The Court further found that the burden upon her was outweighed by the need to determine whether First Amendment free speech rights are being suppressed. The Court found exceptional circumstances were present and that the substantive reasons for taking the deposition were sufficient.
3. White House Director of Digital Strategy Rob Flaherty
Details of the allegations as to Flaherty are set forth in the Memorandum Order Regarding Witness Depositions. Flaherty was found to have first-hand knowledge by (1) having extensive oral meetings with social-media platforms including Twitter, Meta and You-Tube on vaccine hesitancy and combatting “mis-information”; (2) directly communicating with Meta’s director of U.S. Public Policy through “Covid Insight Reports” (which details trends/posts by social media users on Meta); (3) Meta’s reporting to Flaherty about Meta’s intentions to censor disfavored opinions about vaccine effectiveness for new groups for which vaccines were authorized; (4) having specific knowledge on Meta’s attempts to censor groups referred to by Flaherty as the “Disinformation Dozen”; and (5) being aware of the President-Elect-Joe Biden transition team’s efforts to stifle “mis-information” through Meta.
The Court also assumed that Flaherty was a high-ranking official and conducted its analysis
as such. It found special circumstances were present to take his deposition. The Court further found the burden upon Flaherty was outweighed by the need to determine whether First Amendment free speech rights are being suppressed; therefore, the substantive reasons for taking his deposition were sufficient.
For the reasons set forth herein, the Court also finds Federal Defendants are not likely to
succeed on the merits of their mandamus petition.
Background from previous post: Fed Govt./Big Tech Censorship Lawsuit: 47 New Biden People Added
Zachary Stieber writes at Epoch Times 47 New Biden Administration Defendants Named in Government–Big Tech Censorship Lawsuit. Excerpts in italic with my bolds.
Nearly 50 new government defendants have been added to the lawsuit that alleges the government induced censorship of state officials and others on social media.
The second amended complaint in the case, Missouri v. Biden, includes six new agencies, bringing the total to 13, and 41 new individual defendants, bringing the total to 54.
Altogether, 67 officials or agencies are accused of violating plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights by participating in a “censorship enterprise” through pressuring Big Tech firms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter to take action against users offering alleged misinformation.
Evidence backing the claims has been produced in discovery, including exchanges between White House officials and Meta, Facebook’s parent company and messages showing meetings between administration officials and the firms.
The new defendants include the FBI; former White House senior COVID-19 adviser Andrew Slavitt; Dana Remus, counsel to President Joe Biden; Elvis Chan, an FBI special agent based in San Francisco; Janell Muhammed, deputy digital director at the Department of Health and Human Services; Allison Snell, an official at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency; the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); the State Department; and Mark Robbins, interim executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
One or more of the Big Tech firms that were subpoenaed in the case identified the officials as possibly communicating with them on content moderation relating to “COVID-19 misinformation,” the New York Post’s story about Hunter Biden’s laptop, the administration’s since-disbanded Disinformation Governance Board, and/or “election security, integrity, outcomes, and/or public confidence in election outcomes (not to include issues of foreign interference or related issues).”
Slavitt was named because emails show he was in communication with Facebook regarding the combating of alleged misinformation. The messages show that Facebook was committed to censoring and de-emphasizing posts that were “departing from the government’s messaging on vaccines,” plaintiffs said. Slavitt also called for Twitter to ban Alex Berenson, an independent journalist, previously released messages show.
Muhammed, meanwhile, was in touch with Facebook to ask the company to take down pages and accounts that were allegedly misrepresenting themselves as representing the government. “Absolutely,” one of the Facebook employees responded.
Other discovery suggests the FDA “has participated in federally-induced censorship of private speech on social media about questions of vaccine safety and efficacy, among other subjects,” plaintiffs said.
The agencies that were added to the case did not respond to requests for comment.
U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty, a Trump appointee overseeing the case, recently ordered defendants named in earlier complaints to comply with demands, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top medical adviser to Biden. The new documents do not include any more information from Fauci or the White House press secretary’s office.
The four groups in question – Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO), the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, and social media analytics firm Graphika – comprise the “Election Integrity Partnership,” which exists as a ‘concierge-like’ service for federal agencies such as Homeland’s Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and State’s Global Engagement Center to flag online content for censorship or monitoring by Big Tech using a “ticket” system.
Unsurprisingly, the head of Stanford’s Internet Observatory is a Clinton donor who previously served as Facebook’s Head of Security – while the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public is largely funded by the Knight Foundation, whose board exclusively contributes to Democrat or Neocon entities.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration empowered three liberal groups to file tickets seeking censorship; the Democratic National Committee, Common Cause and the NAACP.