Federal court Judge Terry Doughty Monday denied a request from former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki to evade deposition in a high-profile lawsuit alleging collusion between tech companies and the Biden administration.
The lawsuit, brought by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, is based on previous complaints Schmitt brought successfully against the Biden administration. The communications produced from the discoveries recently revealed a “Censorship Enterprise” between the federal government and social media platforms, who have been working closely together to censor unapproved speech.
But communications involving the highest officials and agencies have not been produced.
“The Department of Justice is cowering behind executive privilege and has refused to turn over communications between the highest-ranking Biden Administration officials and social media companies,” Schmitt said in a September statement announcing the suit. “That’s why, yesterday, we asked the Court to compel the Department of Justice to produce those records. We’re just getting started – stay tuned.”
Judge Doughty ordered top-level agencies and officials in the Biden administration to produce all communications they have had with social media platforms about “misinformation, disinformation, or malinformation, and/or censorship or suppression of speech or social-media.”
The “Government Defendants” named in the complaint include National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, former Press Secretary Jen Psaki, the State Department, the Justice Department, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Census Bureau, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the U.S. Treasury Department, the FBI and key officials at the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department.
Last week, Psaki filed a motion to quash the subpoena requiring her to testify in a deposition, complaining it would be “extremely burdensome”.
“Sitting for a deposition in this matter would be extremely burdensome for me,” read the motion. “Among other things, I understand that I would need to devote several days to preparing for the deposition, as well as attending the deposition itself, and that would be highly disruptive to both my work and my family.”
But the judge disagreed, especially since “Plaintiffs have moved the deposition twice and requested Psaki’s presence during normal business hours close to her residence and work.”
“Having to prepare for the deposition and to give the deposition are examples of ‘burdens,’ not ‘undue burdens.’ Were the Court to find Psaki has an undue burden here, every person subject to a deposition subpoena would have grounds to quash. Preparing for and giving a deposition is part of the normal process for every person subpoenaed for a deposition. It is not an undue burden,” ruled Judge Doughty.
The attorneys general brought the lawsuit based on communications between social media giants and the Biden administration, as reported by America’s Frontline News. For example, Facebook’s parent company, Meta, disclosed that at least 32 government officials – including senior officials at the FDA, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, and the White House were in communication with the social media giant about “content moderation”. Google-owned YouTube made similar disclosures.
In one email to U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on July 16, 2022, Facebook officials refer to a meeting between the social media company and HHS officials.
“I know our teams met today to better understand the scope of what the White House expects from us on misinformation going forward.”
That day, Biden had accused Big Tech of “killing people” for not doing enough to censor “misinformation”.
In another series of emails, Facebook executives share the steps they’ve taken to make unapproved speech about COVID-19 “harder to find on our platform.” They also note that any content about COVID-19 that fact-checkers declare is “partly false” and “missing context," Facebook treats as completely false. The company also divulged that any user or “entity” simply connected to an “entity” de-platformed for wrong speech is deemed “non-recommendable".
The emails also make reference to hunting “the disinfo dozen”.
Another email shows an invitation to a Zoom meeting between Twitter executives and Rob Flaherty, Andrew Slavitt, and Kelsey Fitzpatrick, officials of the Executive Office of the President/White House Office (EOP/WHO). Flaherty states in the email that Twitter will brief the White House “on vaccine misinfo”.
Other emails reveal that Twitter and Facebook executives asked CDC officials for help in debunking claims including criticism of injecting infants with the COVID-19 injections. The CDC was happy to oblige, deeming nearly every single claim false, often without explanation except “it is reasonable to assume these statements may lead to vaccine refusal.”
“Thank you so much again, I can’t reiterate enough how helpful this is for us to remove these misinfo claims ASAP!” a Facebook executive gushed obsequiously.
In other emails, the CDC and Facebook officials agree to have monthly meetings in addition to their weekly meetings to further help them debunk “misinformation”.
Another email shows White House COVID-19 Response Team Digital Director Clarke Humphrey asking Facebook to remove a Fauci parody account.
“Yep, on it!” the Facebook employee replied within minutes.