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Should the House Jan. 6 committee be able to investigate phone and social media records?

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy warned communications companies that if they turn data over to the House select committee, the GOP would remember

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. McCarthy has threatened revenge if telephone and social media companies aid the House Jan. 6 select committee’s investigation in the Capitol attack.
J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has threatened revenge if telephone and social media companies aid the House Jan. 6 select committee’s investigation in the Capitol attack.

“A Republican majority will not forget,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said Tuesday, warning the communications companies not to comply with the House’s Jan. 6 select committee’s request for records relating to the attempted insurrection, Politico reported.

  • In a statement Tuesday, McCarthy alleged the request by House Democrats was an effort to “strong-arm private companies to turn over individuals’ private data,” and that doing so would lead to a “surveillance state run by Democrat politicians.”
  • He also alleged that any forfeiture of records by the telephone companies would break federal law and the companies could “lose their ability to ability to operate in the United States.”

Why the House Jan. 6 committee wants phone records

In its own statement Tuesday, the Democrat-led Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capital said it had requested that businesses keep “records that may help answer questions for the America people.”

  • “The committee’s efforts won’t be deterred by those who want to whitewash or cover up the events of January 6th, or obstruct our investigation,” they added, in response to the GOP minority leader’s warning to the communications companies.

The investigative committee requested that 35 businesses — which included social media and phone companies — retain and share with the committee emails, phone records and communications data of those involved with the “Stop the Steal” rally, The Hill reported.

  • The request included information from some lawmakers and those close to former President Donald Trump who were involved in the rally, CNN reported.
  • “The letter to Google asks for all email messages, Google Drive files, and location history and deletion records. The request to Facebook and Twitter likewise asks for all communications. The phone companies included in the request have been asked to retain all text messages, cell site location data and call data, which would show who called whom and detail how long they spoke. Letters to the other websites ask more broadly for user data,” according to The Hill.

McCarthy, other GOP members talk to Trump on the phone on Jan. 6

On Jan. 6, Congress was scheduled to certify the November 2020 election of now-President Joe Biden. But ahead of the formal certification, then-President Trump spoke at the “Stop the Steal” rally for his supporters.

After the rally, and as Trump’s supporters began to storm the Capitol, Republicans lawmakers phoned the White House asking for help. Nearly eight months after the attack, the details of those conversations remain somewhat unclear.

Ohio Republican Jim Jordan and McCarthy both separately called Trump on Jan. 6 asking that he call off the mob of rioters, MSNBC reported.

  • “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Trump told McCarthy, said Washington state Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler of the call, according to MSNBC.

Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee also briefly spoke to Trump during the insurrection, although, Lee told Deseret News at the time, the call was accidental.

  • Moments before Capitol security ordered senators to evacuate, Lee answered what appeared to a be a phone call from the White House, but the president was trying to call Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville, according to Lee.
  • Lee told the Deseret News that he gave his phone to Tuberville, who then spoke with Trump for five to 10 minutes because Lee asked for the phone back as they evacuated the chamber.

Rudy Giuliani, who was one of Trump’s lawyer at the time, also mistakenly called Lee and left a voicemail on Lee’s phone for Tuberville, Deseret News reported.

  • “Sen. Tuberville, or I should say coach Tuberville, this is Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer. I’m calling you because I want to discuss with you how they’re trying to rush this hearing and how we need you, our Republican friends, to try to just slow it down,” Giuliani said on the voicemail.