Influential congressman says federal effort to facilitate censorship is 'abuse of tax dollars'
Rep. James Comer vows vigorous investigation into federal censorship if GOP wins House, has demanded evidence be preserved.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
The top Republican on the House Oversight Committee is declaring that a growing federal agency effort to censor speech on social media platforms is an "abuse of tax dollars" and has already sent letters seeking to preserve evidence for future hearings if the GOP captures control of Congress.
"The swamp continues to collude with Big Tech and woke private entities to censor conservative views and censor stories that would be damaging to their liberal beliefs, and this has to end," Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) told the "Just the News, No Noise" television show on Wednesday night.
Comer was reacting to a series of stories published by Just the News documenting how the Departments of Homeland Security and State collaborated with a private consortium to flag social posts, stories and Web sites as "disinformation" during the 2020 election and request that Big Tech censor or label such content.
The consortium's own after-action report showed the effort impacted 4,800 Web URLs, 20 news organizations, two dozen conservative influencers and thought leaders and nearly 22 million social media posts. The group said State Department officials actually filed tickets seeking to censor some content, while Homeland did not, instead letting the private coalition take the lead on its behalf.
The consortium has defended its work, saying in the end Big Tech companies made the final decision on what to censor based on its input.
In addition, Homeland collaborated for training and best practices with a Harvard University project cofounded by Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, who admitted that during the 2016 election he helped spread the now-discredited Russia collusion narrative that sullied Donald Trump's reputation.
The efforts are now expanding for the 2022 and 2024 elections, even as Homeland abandoned under pressure its plan to create a Disinformation Governance Board.
Comer, the likely House Oversight Committee chairman if Republicans win control of the House next month, said he is convinced that "now every government agency is trying to have a Ministry of Truth, so to speak, a division paid for with tax dollars to try to promote their disinformation and block factual conservative information.
"So when it pertains to tax dollars, then it's going to be in front of the House Oversight Committee ... It's a priority for my committee members. And we're sick and tired of having to battle with Big Tech and these government agencies over censorship. It's against our First Amendment rights. It's wrong. It's abuse of tax dollars, and it has to end, and the people who have been doing this, they were doing this, and they weren't authorized to do this. They need to be held accountable."
Comer also vowed a vigorous investigation of the Biden family business overseas, saying a recent report in The Washington Post suggesting Hunter Biden could be charged with tax violations and lying on a gun application was "small potatoes."
"These are things that we've known about for a long time," he said. "I don't really care about those things. "We're investigating Hunter Biden not to get Hunter Biden. We're investigating Hunter Biden because he's a national security threat" due to dealings with actors in adversarial nations like China and Russia.
Comer also reacted to revelations in Special Counsel John Durham's trial against Igor Danchenko, the primary source for the now-discredited Steele dossier who is charged with lying to the FBI.
Prosecutors divulged Tuesday that the FBI failed to validate any allegation in the dossier before submitting some of its claims in a "verified" FISA warrant application to spy on the Trump campaign and were so desperate to find proof they offered up to $1 million to former MI6 agent Christopher Steele if he could back up his allegations. He did not.
"We're going to have these people in front of the committee, and they're going to explain why they made the bad decisions that they made," Comer said. "Why did they put so much emphasis on the Steele dossier when we now know it was complete fiction? How did they not figure that out? Were they incompetent? Or did they just make a mistake? If so, who's going to be held accountable? These are the questions that we have."
Comer said the FBI's mistakes were then amplified to the public by "the Russian disinformation campaign, led by Adam Schiff," the longtime top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and its current chairman, who argued for years there was evidence of Trump-Russia collusion. Special Counsel Robert Mueller found otherwise, declaring there was no such conspiracy.
Comer and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, have raised numerous concerns about the FBI's conduct, bolstered by recent revelations by whistleblowers suggesting there is politicization of sensitive cases involving Hunter Biden and Donald Trump and Jan. 6 defendants. GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Ron Johnson (Wisc.) said they too have evidence of such abuses.
The concerns about the FBI — especially after Tuesday's blockbuster revelation in the Danchecnko trial — are spreading to rank-and-file Republicans in Congress.
Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.), an influential Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, told Just the News on Wednesday the $1 million offer the FBI admitted making to Steele was deeply troubling because it was proof the bureau did not have evidence that the dossier was credible before they submitted some of its allegations in a FISA warrant certified as verified.
"I think people need to go to prison for that," he told the John Solomon Reports podcast. "We need an FBI that functions in an apolitical manner. And they have brought tremendous amounts of shame to that institution."
Scott said Congress, if Republicans win control, also must look inward and fix the House Intelligence Committee, which has fallen from its neutral, bipartisan roots and been infected with overt partisanship since the Trump years, including fanning the flames for impeachment.
"Look what the Dems did with our Intel Committee," he said. "That's one of those committees that we very much need to be nonpartisan because they get to see a lot of things going on inside America and around the world. And look how the Democrats ran that committee and what they did with the whole Russian hoax and everything else. I mean, there has to be consequences for that.
"So I hope that when we take over, there'll be some members that are currently on the Intel Committee that the Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy will say, you know, 'You can't serve here because of the discredit that you've been to the committee in the past.'"