In a potentially devastating turn of events for the Biden White House, a federal judge on Friday issued an order requiring several top officials involved in the administration’s COVID-19 response to sit for depositions in a lawsuit filed as a means to expose coordination between the government and big tech firms to censor pandemic-related speech, as the Epoch Times reports.
According to the outlet, the development is likely to yield testimony from such prominent figures as Dr. Anthony Fauci, former White House press secretary Jen Psaki, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, former White House senior COVID-19 advisor Andrew Slavitt, FBI Supervisory special agent Elvis Chan, and others who may have played a role in colluding with social media giants to quash users’ First Amendment rights.
The decision from U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty comes in a case brought by the attorneys general of Louisiana and Missouri, which several other states ultimately joined, and it compels a host of current and former Biden administration officials to provide oral testimony under oath via deposition.
At issue in the lawsuit are claims that Fauci and others inside the White House colluded to pressure social media enterprises to “suppress disfavored speakers, viewpoints, and content” related to COVID-19.
In his Friday order, Doughty took each requested witness in turn, exploring whether the plaintiffs offered sufficient justification for him to require depositions, with his analysis of questions surrounding Fauci, in particular, proving particularly interesting to those skeptical of his role in the pandemic response from its earliest days.
Though, as the judge noted, Fauci had made a series of denials in written interrogatories that he had coordinated or communicated with social media firms regarding the dissemination of COVID-related speech, he also stated that there were numerous reasons why those representations could not be accepted as true on their face, and that answers under oath are necessary.
Doughty added that “the Court finds that Plaintiffs have proven that Dr. Fauci has personal knowledge about the issue concerning censorship across social media as it is related to COVID-19 and ancillary issues of COVID-19, and that “any burden that may be imposed on Dr. Fauci is wholly outweighed by the importance of Plaintiffs’ allegations of suppression of free speech.”
In the wake of Doughty’s decision, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt heralded the outcome, declaring in a statement, “It is high time we shine a light on this censorship enterprise and force these officials to come clean to the American people, and this ruling will allow us to do just that. We’ll keep pressing for the truth.”
Attorney Jenin Younes of the New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA), an advocacy group that joined the litigation over the summer, echoed Schmitt’s satisfaction with the ruling, telling the Epoch Times, “For the first time, Dr. Fauci and seven other federal officials responsible for running an unlawful censorship enterprise will have to answer questions under oath about the nature and extent of their communications with tech companies.”
“We look forward to learning more about just how far these government actors went in ensuring that Americans heard only one perspective about COVID-19: the government’s,” Younes added.
Noted legal commentator William Jacobson opined that the case itself is an important one with implications that go beyond the government’s pandemic-related conduct, writing, “The government pressure on social media to censor political and scientific opponents is a Biden scandal, but it’s more, it calls into question whether big tech can run and hide behind its claim to be private entities acting privately.”
The forthcoming depositions of the above-referenced administration figures will likely reveal shocking details about the scope and nature of government-sanctioned censorship during the pandemic, and precisely what impact they will have on the far-reaching probes pledged by Republican leaders in the event they regain control of Congress this November, only time will tell.