Senator Ted Cruz on Friday called for a criminal investigation into whether Twitter is violating U.S. sanctions against Iran by allowing Iranian officials to hold accounts on the platform.
In a letter to the Justice and Treasury Departments, obtained by Axios, the Texas Republican said the social media giant is committing a “blatant and willful violation” by allowing Iranian leaders including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to have Twitter accounts.
Cruz asked Attorney General Bill Barr and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to investigate whether Twitter is violating sanctions that bar U.S. companies from providing goods or services to Iran’s top officials.
“I believe that the primary goal of IEEPA and sanctions law should be to change the behavior of designated individuals and regimes, not American companies,” Cruz wrote, referring to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which allows the president to regulate international commerce in response to an outside threat to the country.
“But when a company willfully and openly violates the law after receiving formal notice that it is unlawfully supporting designated individuals, the federal government should take action,” Cruz continued.
The letter comes after Cruz joined fellow GOP senators Tom Cotton, Marsha Blackburn and Marco Rubio in writing another letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in February urging him to ban the accounts of Khamenei and Zarif.
In that letter, the Republican senators agreed that Twitter should not be censoring the political speech of Americans but argued that “as the leader of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism — directly responsible for the murder of hundreds of US citizens — the Ayatollah and any American companies providing him assistance are entirely subject to US sanctions laws.”
Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have spiked since the killing in early January of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, who perished in a drone strike authorized by the Trump administration.
Twitter is also facing backlash from the Trump administration over its Tuesday decision to fact-check two of the president’s tweets, a first for the company.
A day later, President Trump threatened social-media companies with regulation and even closure over past alleged election interference.