GOP threats to hurt companies complying with Jan. 6 committee have no teeth, lawyers say

GOP threats to hurt companies complying with Jan. 6 committee have no teeth, lawyers say
·4 min read

Republican threats against telecommunications and technology companies for cooperating with a congressional investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol have no legal basis and are fearmongering, lawyers say.

The investigation has, however, created a new era in which congressional subpoenas and investigations will be weaponized in a partisan fashion by each party, the lawyers added.

Earlier this week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California took aim at the companies complying with the Jan. 6 committee, saying that if they comply with orders to turn over private information and data, such as phone records and other information related to the Jan. 6 attacks, then such companies would be "in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States."

"If they pursue this path, a Republican majority will not forget and will be ready to hold them fully accountable under the law," he added.

Lawyers who focus on telecom and tech companies and government policies that affect them say McCarthy is making empty threats in regards to federal law.

“There is no legal basis for his threats whatsoever. These companies share this kind of information with the government after being subpoenaed all the time,” said Harold Feld, a tech policy expert and a lawyer at consumer group Public Knowledge.

“It’s pretty ugly what McCarthy is doing. You shouldn’t be threatening companies with government payback and blackmail. To say we will punish you if you comply with the investigation is not rule of law — that’s thug life,” Feld said.

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He added that if it was illegal for companies to comply with government information requests, then any entity cooperating with Congress or law enforcement regarding investigations into child molesters or terrorists would be breaking the law as well.

Other lawyers said McCarthy is afraid of what the Jan. 6 committee could find if companies cooperate with the congressional investigation.

“McCarthy is fearmongering without any legal foundation and using political vengeance because he’s afraid of what will come to the surface about Republicans and their potential complicity for what happened on Jan. 6th,” said Berin Szoka, a lawyer and the president of TechFreedom, a libertarian-leaning technology policy think tank.

He said that Republicans are likely to use the same investigative powers that Democrats are using for their own political gain and advantage if the GOP takes back control of the House in 2022.

“The irony is Republicans are decrying the use of subpoenas that they will use themselves against perceived enemies in the future. You could totally see them trying to subpoena anyone involved in the BLM protests, Democrats, and others,” Szoka said.

Szoka said that it would be fair for McCarthy to point out that the Jan. 6 committee investigation might unfairly use their subpoena powers to go overboard because there are no rules in place about how to conduct such inquiries fairly — and there is no precedent in the courts either.

Although McCarthy and Republicans don't have any legal mechanisms to hurt companies that comply with the Jan. 6 committee’s requests, Szoka said, the GOP in the near future could always use political pressure to push federal agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice to take aim at telecom and tech companies in an aggressive manner.

Conservative lawyers say that Republicans who threaten companies from complying with congressional investigations are not living up to their values.

“Republicans like McCarthy should realize that threatening companies for actions they dislike works counter to conservative principles. It's like trying to work the refs, and it's not right,” said Carl Szabo, a vice president and general counsel at NetChoice, an advocacy group that represents companies, including Amazon and Google, that oppose government regulation of online platforms.

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“Ultimately, telecom and tech businesses are forced to recognize statements by lawmakers but should do what’s best for their customers, investors, and advertisers — every business will have to weigh the political risks and do what’s in their best interest,” said Szabo.

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Tags: News, Telecom, Technology, Republican Party, January 6, January 6 Commission, Riots, U.S. Capitol Building, Kevin McCarthy, 2022 Elections, Law

Original Author: Nihal Krishan

Original Location: GOP threats to hurt companies complying with Jan. 6 committee have no teeth, lawyers say

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