House Republicans are expected Wednesday to question former Twitter executives who censored the New York Post’s reporting on the President Biden’s family’s business schemes ahead of the 2020 election against Donald Trump based on information obtained from Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop.
Three former executives will be appearing Wednesday before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee to testify for the first time about the company’s decision in the weeks before the 2020 election to initially block the Hunter Biden laptop story from Twitter. The witnesses Republicans subpoenaed to testify are Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s former chief legal officer; James Baker, the company’s former deputy general counsel; and Yoel Roth, former head of safety and integrity.
Democrats have a witness of their own, Anika Collier Navaroli, a former employee with Twitter’s content moderation team. She testified last year to the House committee that investigated the Capitol riot about Twitter’s alleged preferential treatment of Trump until the then-president was banned from Twitter two years ago.
“In the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, Big Tech and the Swamp colluded to censor reporting about the Biden family’s shady business schemes. The U.S. intelligence community and the FBI frequently communicated with Big Tech and advised Twitter executives to question the validity of any Hunter Biden story – before the New York Post ever reported on it. We also know members of Twitter’s top censorship team debated how they could justify limiting the spread of the story. They landed on a policy that even some among them doubted,” Committee Chairman Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., said in a Feb. 2 statement, announcing the hearing.
“Americans deserve answers about this attack on the First Amendment and why Big Tech and the Swamp colluded to censor this information about the Biden family selling access for profit. Accountability is coming,” Comer added.
The hearing, titled “Protecting Speech from Government Interference and Social Media Bias, Part 1: Twitter’s Role in Suppressing the Biden Laptop Story,” is to begin at 10 a.m. ET.
It kicks off the GOP’s promise of a widespread investigation into President Joe Biden and his family, with the tech companies another prominent target of their oversight efforts.
The hearing also comes on the heels of Biden’s State of the Union address to Congress Tuesday night.
Afterward, Comer tweeted, “President Biden is filled with more hot air than the China spy balloon. The good news for the American people is that unchecked, one-party Democrat control in Washington is over. Republicans are conducting oversight over this admin and will hold @POTUS accountable.”
The New York Post first reported in October 2020, weeks before the presidential election, that it had received from Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, a copy of a hard drive from a laptop that Hunter Biden had dropped off 18 months earlier at a Delaware computer repair shop and never retrieved. Twitter blocked people from sharing links to the story for several days.
Months later, Twitter’s then-CEO, Jack Dorsey, called the company’s communications around the Post article “not great.”
He added that blocking the article’s URL with “zero context” around why it was blocked was “unacceptable.”
Just last week, lawyers for the younger Biden asked the Justice Department to investigate people who say they accessed his personal data. But they did not acknowledge that that data came from a laptop that Hunter Biden is purported to have dropped off at a computer repair shop.
The issue was also reignited recently after Elon Musk took over Twitter as CEO and began to release a slew of company information to independent journalists, what he has called the “Twitter Files.” The documents and data largely show internal debates among employees over the decision to temporarily censor the story about Hunter Biden.
Comer and other Republicans have used the Post story as the basis for what they say is another example of the Biden family’s “influence peddling.”
One of the witnesses on Wednesday, Baker, was the FBI’s general counsel during the opening of two of the bureau’s most consequential investigations in history: the Hillary Clinton investigation and a separate inquiry into potential coordination between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Republicans have long criticized the FBI’s handling of both investigations.
For Democrats, Navaroli is expected to counter the GOP argument by testifying about how Twitter allowed Trump’s tweets despite the misinformation they sometimes contained.
Navaroli testified to the Jan. 6 committee last year that Twitter executives often tolerated Trump’s posts despite them including false statements and violations of the company’s own rules because executives knew the platform was his “favorite and most-used … and enjoyed having that sort of power.”
The Jan. 6 committee used Navaroli’s testimony in one of its public hearings last summer but did not identify her by name.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.