Thursday, September 2, 2021

The Democratic Norm Breakers

This is really something, even for the disgusting Democrats!

At WSJ, "The Jan. 6 committee wants to subpoena GOP phone records":

Critics feared that Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s probe of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot would be partisan, and the latest proof are subpoenas for the private phone records of House Republicans. This is a violation of political norms that Democrats will come to regret.

Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.), chair of the House special committee, sent letters Monday to 35 companies, from AT&T to Facebook to Parler, asking them to preserve information about account holders charged with crimes related to, or “potentially involved with discussions” in planning, the Jan. 6 riot. The companies are requested to preserve emails, and voice, text and direct messages in preparation for subpoenas to come.

he letters contained a list of individuals whose names haven’t leaked. But CNN reports that nearly a dozen House Republicans are on the committee’s “evolving” radar, including Jim Jordan, ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee.

Republicans are furious, and rightly so. Indiana Rep. Jim Banks noted in a letter to Mr. Thompson that this “authoritarian undertaking” would depart “from more than 230 years of Congressional oversight.” The move recalls California Democrat Adam Schiff’s public release of the call logs of Republican Rep. Devin Nunes in 2019.

At least Democrats claimed the collection of Mr. Nunes’s information was incidental to other records it targeted. The special committee is using its oversight power to snoop on political opponents. They’d gain access to information far beyond the events of Jan. 6.

Democrats say they need the call lists to see if Members of Congress fomented the assault on the Capitol. They hope to confirm their narrative that the riot was a planned “insurrection,” though Reuters reports that the FBI has found no such evidence in six months of looking. Conspiracy is a crime and matter for the Justice Department, not Congress.

The subpoenas are also legally dubious, coming after recent judicial warnings about the limits of Congressional fishing. The Supreme Court last year in Trump v. Mazars reminded Congress that subpoenas must have a “valid legislative purpose.” The Jan. 6 committee has offered no such rationale. Our legal sources say the subpoenas may violate the Constitution’s Speech and Debate Clause because Congress can’t pass a law that would limit Members’ speech.

The private companies may want to think twice about complying. In the Schiff affair, the telcos handed over call logs without even notifying the targets. Mr. Thompson’s letter is demanding the same, telling companies that if they “are not able or willing to respond to this request without alerting the subscribers or the accounts” to “please contact the Select Committee prior to proceeding.” The “please” part is an admission that the committee knows it lacks authority to make such a demand.

Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr says “federal law requires telecommunications carriers to protect the privacy and confidentiality of Americans’ call records.” He says his agency “has brought enforcement actions against carriers to ensure their compliance,” and Congress isn’t automatically entitled to anyone’s private records.

Even if the companies don’t want to fight the subpoenas in court, they have an obligation to alert targets so they can contest the subpoenas. Mr. Banks’s Friday letter reminded corporate general counsels of their “legal obligation not to hand over individuals’ private records unless the subject of the subpoena consents to the information being shared or the company has a court order to turn over the records.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also warned companies against rolling over to Democratic pressure, noting they could forfeit their “ability to operate in the United States.” Democrats and the media spun this as pressuring companies to ignore “duly” issued subpoenas. But Mr. McCarthy was pointing out that federal privacy law protects information, and that Democrats haven’t proved in court that their committee is entitled to these records.

If Democrats follow through and use their power to investigate GOP opponents, there will be no end to it. Republicans are likely to take the majority as early as 2022, and two can play at Adam Schiff’s nasty game.