House Judiciary Committee sues an FBI agent for defying a subpoena to testify on alleged efforts by the federal government to suppress free speech online.
The House Judiciary Committee is suing an FBI agent for defying a subpoena to testify on alleged efforts by the federal government to suppress free speech online.
On Tuesday, the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for Washington D.C., seeking a judge’s order compelling FBI agent Elvis Chan to appear before the committee.
An employee with the FBI for 17 years, Mr. Chan currently serves as the assistant special agent in charge of the cyber branch for the San Francisco Division. The House committee had identified Mr. Chan as a central figure in the FBI’s interactions with major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter (now known as X) and a potentially knowledgeable source for allegations that elements of the federal government pressured social media platforms to suppress certain online content.
Mr. Chan was previously named as a co-defendant in Missouri v. Biden, an ongoing federal lawsuit brought by Republican attorneys general for Missouri and Louisiana.
According to the lawsuit, members of the Biden administration have been accused of violating First Amendment rights by exerting pressure on social media platforms to censor content that raises doubts about the COVID-19 vaccines and policies aimed at controlling its spread. They have also allegedly targeted posts that question the security of the 2020 election and the legitimacy of its outcome, as well as online content that is critical of the Biden administration and parody accounts that mock his family members.
Mr. Chan’s interactions with Facebook and Twitter also coincided with efforts by those social media platforms to suppress the New York Post’s reporting about the contents of a laptop President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, reportedly abandoned at a Delaware computer repair shop. The laptop’s contents indicated some level of interaction between Mr. Biden’s international business partners and his father, despite President Biden’s claims on the 2020 campaign trail that he never discussed business matters with his son.
According to Mr. Shellenberger’s reporting, attorneys representing Mr. Biden became aware of the New York Post’s laptop reporting at around 7 p.m. ET on the evening of Oct. 13, 2020, the day before the New York Post published its first report on the laptop’s contents. According to the internal Twitter files, by 9:22 p.m. on Oct. 13, 2022, Mr. Chan reached out to Mr. Roth to share documents with Twitter. It’s unclear what documents Mr. Chan shared with Twitter in the hours before the New York Post’s first laptop story was published.
Twitter took action the day the New York Post published its first article about Mr. Biden’s laptop contents, including locking then-President Donald Trump’s White House press secretary out of her account for sharing a link to the article. When asked to explain the account action, Twitter notified the White House that the New York Post article violated the company’s “hacked materials” policy.
According to the complaint, when technology companies began asking the FBI more questions about the Hunter Biden laptop articles, the FBI decided to answer with “no comment.”
“The Committee intends to ask Chan about this decision, including if the FBI considered whether and how its answer would affect the way the technology companies treated the New York Post story, especially in light of its prior warnings to the companies about Russia,” the complaint reads.
Though the FBI officially adopted a “no comment” stance when asked about Hunter Biden’s laptop story, the complaint alleges Mr. Chan did continue to share at least some information about the matter with an FBI employee on Oct. 15, 2020.
“The Committee intends to ask Chan about that topic, including how he decided what information to share and whether he expected that information to influence Facebook,” the complaint continues.
Lawsuit Comes After Multiple Requests for Testimony
The House committee first reached out to the FBI in January of last year, asking that he be allowed to testify voluntarily before the committee. The committee reiterated these requests to the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI again in March, April, and May. The DOJ responded to the testimony requests in August, a full seven months after the Republican-led committee first reached out.
The House Judiciary Committee allows Executive Branch employees who voluntarily appear for a transcribed interview to do so with either a lawyer they personally retained or a lawyer chosen for them by the executive branch component they work for, but not both.
After initially making Mr. Chan available for voluntary testimony, the FBI and DOJ later intervened on Sept. 12, three days before his scheduled Sept. 15 testimony, requesting that he be allowed to testify with both personal and agency counsel present. The House committee declined to make an exception to its policy, and Mr. Chan did not appear for his Sept. 15 testimony.
After Mr. Chan backed out of the voluntary hearing, the House committee issued a subpoena seeking to compel him to testify on Sept. 21., followed by a second subpoena for his testimony on Oct. 5. Mr. Chan’s personal lawyer and the DOJ both continued to request that he be allowed to testify with both personal and agency counsel, and the DOJ insisted the House subpoenas were unenforceable if they precluded agency counsel.
Because Mr. Chan ultimately missed the Oct. 5 hearing date, the complaint alleges he “violated his legal duty to comply with the Committee’s lawfully issued Subpoena, and his defiance is obstructing the Committee’s investigation.”
The House committee contends that it would prefer Executive Branch witnesses testify with only a personal lawyer “because a witness may be less forthcoming when a lawyer who represents his
employer is physically present in the room.”
The complaint further states that committee chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) believes he has uncovered evidence that contradicts Mr. Chan’s statements when testifying in the Missouri v. Biden case while represented by agency lawyers. According to the complaint, Mr. Jordan explained that he believes Mr. Chan “will be more veracious” in his testimony if agency counsel is absent.
No legal counsel is currently listed for Mr. Chan in this lawsuit.
NTD News reached out to the FBI and the DOJ with questions about the legal battles over Mr. Chan’s testimony. The FBI and DOJ both declined to comment on the matter.
From NTD News