Plaintiffs hope videotaped depositions will shed light on ‘vast censorship enterprise’
Missouri attorney general and senator-elect Eric Schmitt has vowed to make the depositions of top Biden officials in a big tech censorship case public.
Schmitt’s comment was made Saturday on Fox News’ “Unfiltered with Dan Bongino.” It came one day after U.S. magistrate judge Ivan Davis turned down a bid by former White House press secretary Jen Psaki to quash a subpoena ahead of her scheduled deposition in the case, something Bongino called “a major victory.”
Schmitt and Louisiana attorney general Jeff Landry filed the lawsuit in May, accusing the Biden administration of collusion with social media companies to censor free speech. According to Schmitt, the administration “has coordinated and colluded with Big Tech to censor speech, essentially outsourcing something to Big Tech that they can’t do themselves.”
“We’re going to videotape these depositions,” Schmitt told Bongino.
He called the move “an important part of our case to prove that the government actually is engaged in illegal activity with big tech.” He added, “We’re going to do everything we can to get them out in public.”
The incoming Republican senator elaborated on findings related to the censorship case.
He stressed that the lawsuit involves “a vast censorship enterprise that goes to the highest levels of government.”
“Here’s what we know so far,” he said. “First of all, during COVID, we know that high-ranking Facebook officials were text messaging the surgeon general of the United States saying, ‘Hey, we took that down, what more can we do?’ We also know that there was a special portal created for Big Tech with the government to take down people and have them de-platformed.”
The attorney general revealed that his evidence pointed to “weekly censorship meetings.”
According to Schmitt, at least one high-ranking FBI official worked with big tech companies “to talk about and to censor the Hunter Biden laptop story.”
He pointed to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s August interview with podcast host Joe Rogan. In that interview, Zuckerberg confirmed that he suppressed the reach of reports about a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden, following warnings from the FBI about possible Russian propaganda.
“He was on a podcast talking about this himself,” Schmitt said. “Joe Rogan, you know, had Zuckerberg on and kind of alluded to this anyway.”
Schmitt contended that the legal fight he and his counterpart have taken on aims to uphold the First Amendment.
“It’s important to take a step back and recognize that the First Amendment protects our fundamental, God-given right to express ourselves, the right to state an opinion, even if somebody doesn’t like it,” Schmitt said. “That’s what the First Amendment’s all about.”
Besides Psaki, the attorneys general and their fellow plaintiffs sought to depose Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser; FBI special agent Elvis Chan; surgeon general Vivek Murthy; director of White House digital strategy Rob Flaherty; and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency director Jen Easterly; among others.
The Biden administration appealed the deposition order for Murthy, Easterly, and Flaherty, arguing that it would be burdensome as they are current administration officials. U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty rejected that request in a Nov. 2 ruling (pdf).
“The Court finds that both the public interest and the interest of the other parties in preserving free speech significantly outweighs the inconvenience the three deponents will have in preparing for and giving their depositions,” Doughty said.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.