House Republicans are furious that their Democratic colleagues investigating the failed, Donald Trump-incited insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 are seeking data on people tied to the riot and now they have a response: “No, u.”
Late last month, a Democratic-led committee asked 35 tech and telecom companies to preserve records of certain individuals involved in or linked to the riot, including Trump, his family, and Republican members of Congress. As first reported by Fox Business, GOP Representative Andy Biggs has now led several House Republicans in writing a letter to 14 firms demanding that they, in turn, preserve phone records and other data from 16 Democrats so that “future Congresses can investigate alleged infractions.”
According to Business Insider, the list of Democrats includes Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Representative Eric Swalwell. Recipients of the letters included Amazon, AOL, Apple, AT&T, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Snap, Inc., T-Mobile, US Cellular, Verizon, Signal, Telegram, and Twitter.
There has been vehement opposition to the commission from Republicans. They successfully blocked the Senate from holding its own investigation, and the top Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy, threatened to strip GOP members of their committee assignments if they participated in the House inquiry. Just two Republican representatives have joined it.
Republicans have already lobbed vague threats of reprisal at companies that choose to comply with the Jan. 6 committee’s data requests. McCarthy claimed handing over the data would be a federal crime and vowed the firms could be “subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States” under a future GOP majority. McCarthy never specified what supposed law the companies would be breaking, or any kind of mechanism whatsoever by which the Republicans could make good on their threats of revenge.
Experts interviewed by the Washington Post agreed that while there may be federal laws preventing the companies from handing over records voluntarily, no such law exists that would hinder them from preserving them in anticipation of a forthcoming subpoena. A former lawyer for the office of the House counsel, Mike Stern, told the paper the companies would have to comply with those subpoenas when they’re served: “Even if there is arguably a competing legal obligation or privilege that might trump the subpoena, I know of no principle that requires any subpoena recipient to risk contempt to protect the interests of their customers.”
In the letter, House Republicans doubled down on the claim that the preservation requests were illegal under “the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court precedent,” adding “neither the Committee nor you have the legal authority to provide those records.” The letter continued that “having said that,” they want the records of Democrats to be preserved. This all obviously makes perfect sense.
Republicans have good reason to be anxious about the data requests. Some 147 GOP members of the House and Senate voted to refuse to recognize the 2020 election results, effectively declaring their support for baseless conspiracy theories about voter fraud and installing Trump for a second term. Those votes happened alongside the Jan. 6 riot, when a swarm of Trump supporters broke into the Capitol in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying the results. Every single one of the Republicans named by CNN as part of the data-preservation requests voted against recognizing the election, and it’s clear the Democrats on the commission want to investigate their actions around the time of the attack:
... Republican Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Paul Gosar also of Arizona, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Jody Hice of Georgia and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.
McCarthy has particular reason to be worried. CNN previously reported that he called Trump in the middle of the assault on the Capitol, urging him to call off the crowds, to which Trump responded “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” McCarthy reportedly shot back, “Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?” The House leader has since packed away his spine, never to be seen again.