Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy vowed to use the power of a future Republican-dominated Congress to penalize tech companies that fulfill the January 6 committee’s requests for private user data.
If it consolidates control of both chambers in the 2022 midterms, the GOP “will not forget” that these firms forfeited this information, namely phone and email records, to the panel investigating the Capitol riot, McCarthy promised. He said that by surrendering the data, these companies would “put every American with a phone or computer in the crosshairs of a surveillance state run by Democrat politicians.”
He slammed Democratic Representatives Adam Schiff and Bennie Thompson as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, accusing them of trying to “strong-arm private companies to turn over individuals’ private data.”
On Monday, the commission started acquiring phone records associated with the January 6 incident from telecommunications and social-media companies. The body issued letters to over 30 companies, including tech giants like Microsoft and Google as well as major cell carriers like AT&T and Verizon, asking them to retain records from April 1, 2020, to January 31, 2021, CNN reported.
While specific individuals were not listed, it is expected that the committee will demand the records of Republican lawmakers, former President Donald Trump, as well as those involved in orchestrating or speaking at the “Stop the Steal” rally protesting the certification of the election results for Joe Biden.
“The Select Committee is at this point gathering facts, not alleging wrongdoing by any individual,” the committee said in a statement.
“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,” McCarthy said in Tuesday’s statement. “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.”
Born out of a congressional resolution, the largely partisan committee, which lacks any appointees made by McCarthy, technically has subpoena power to obtain data from private companies, although soliciting it from members of Congress is more unusual. After committee chair and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two of McCarthy’s more Trump-sympathetic picks for the commission, the minority leader pulled the remaining Republicans out. Pelosi then invited Republican representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, who expressed strong disapproval of Trump in the past, to participate in the panel.