Jan. 6 committee subpoenas phone records of private citizens but not members of Congress
T he House select committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has subpoenaed the phone records of private U.S. citizens but has not subpoenaed the records of members of Congress, according to Indiana Republican Rep. Jim Banks and another GOP aide.
Subpoenas were issued several weeks ago. Telephone companies did send notice to the individuals affected, and none of them objected, according to the Republicans.
News of the subpoenas comes three months after a CNN report that the select committee requested that telecommunications companies preserve the phone records of members of Congress and members of former President Donald Trump’s family.
Following that Aug. 30 report, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement that the companies who complied would be “in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States,” warning that “a Republican majority will not forget and will be ready to hold them fully accountable under the law."
While no members' phone records have been subpoenaed yet, their communications could still appear in those of individuals who have. What happens to the subpoenaed material is then up to the committee.
That could set up a repeat of a controversy during the Trump-Ukraine impeachment investigation surrounding Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Devin Nunes, its ranking member.
Intelligence Committee Democrats' Trump-Ukraine impeachment investigation report released in 2019 included records of some phone calls by Nunes because it had obtained the records of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani from AT&T. Giuliani said he was shocked that AT&T turned over the records.
Banks, who McCarthy originally selected to sit on the committee but was then vetoed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said in a letter to the committee and telecommunication companies in August that any attempted collection of member records was an “authoritarian undertaking” with “no conceivable legislative purpose.”
With Giuliani being blindsided that his records were turned over in mind, Banks had also warned the companies “of their legal obligation not to hand over individuals' private records unless the subject of the subpoena consents to information being shared or the company has a court order to turn over the records.”
That makes the fact that companies sent notice to those whose records were subpoenaed by the select committee an important development, though it is not clear that every person actively read the notice.
Politico reported Tuesday that the Jan. 6 select committee still plans to subpoena lawmaker phone records.
The select committee did not return a request for comment.
Banks reiterated on Wednesday that he views the Jan. 6 committee's investigation as a sham.
“The most important fact about the select committee is that it's all based on a conspiracy theory. According to the committee, January 6 was an inside job. It was an attempted coup, disguised as a political rally that was secretly orchestrated by President Trump and his closest advisers. That is a lie,” Banks said.
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who was also selected by McCarthy to sit on the committee but was vetoed by Pelosi, elaborated on some of the actions that a Republican majority could take against telecom companies that McCarthy had mentioned months ago: Take away liability protections that telecom and internet companies have under Section 230, and “speed up the path to get antitrust cases to the Supreme Court.”
“This partisan committee is just — a chilling impact it has on our speech. But frankly, it shouldn't surprise us, because every single liberty we've enjoyed as Americans under the First Amendment has been assaulted by the Left over the last year,” Jordan said.
The Jan. 6 committee has “talked with more than 150 individuals who are engaging and cooperating with our probe.” It has issued 45 subpoenas and has held former Trump adviser Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress over his refusal to cooperate and will vote on doing the same for former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark.
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