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House Jan. 6 committee seeks information from tech giants regarding attack on Capitol, attempts to overturn election

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection asked technology giants Friday for information that could be helpful to its probe as it prepares to tell telecommunications companies early next week to retain relevant phone and text records, including for some members of Congress.

The letters sent Friday went out to Facebook, Twitter, Google and several other tech titans.

The committee requested “all reviews, studies, reports, data, analyses, and communications” regarding misinformation generated by foreign and U.S. actors, “domestic violent extremists” associated with the attack, and other efforts to overturn the election results.

In addition, the committee said it is focusing on how social media companies policed their own platforms, such as whether their algorithms helped speed the spread of misinformation, how they identified which posts to take down and what information has already been requested by law enforcement agencies.

Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) gave the companies a two-week deadline to produce materials.

“The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol is examining the facts, circumstances, and causes of the attack and relating to the peaceful transfer of power, in order to identify and evaluate lessons learned and to recommend corrective laws, policies, procedures, rules, or regulations,” Thompson wrote in his letters to the companies.

41 minutes of fear: A video timeline from inside the Capitol siege

Earlier this week, Thompson said the committee was also planning to ask communications companies to preserve phone and other records that could be helpful to the investigation.

“We have quite an exhaustive list of people,” Thompson said at the time. “I won’t tell you who they are, but it’s several hundred people that make up the list of individuals we plan to contact.”

A letter requesting information from telecom companies has been drafted and is expected to go out next week, according to people familiar with the committee’s plans. The letter is expected to contain a private list of names and numbers for which information is requested, including phones used by members of Congress, among many others, a person familiar with the request said. The individual spoke on the condition of anonymity ahead of the formal request.

For months, House legal experts have been discussing their ability to gather information on lawmakers’ telephone communications related to Jan. 6.

The committee released its first request for information Wednesday, issuing sweeping demands for records from federal agencies pertaining to the attack on the Capitol and President Donald Trump’s efforts to subvert the election. Earlier this year, the House impeached Trump on charges that he inspired the attack with his false claims about the election, but he was acquitted by the Senate.

In the letters asking for materials from the National Archives and seven other agencies, Thompson signaled that an expansive investigation is underway, touching not only on what happened Jan. 6 but also on matters such as “the former President’s knowledge of the election results and what he communicated to the American people about the election.”

The committee also asked the archivist for records of communication within the White House with “any Member of Congress or congressional staff” on Jan. 6, which drew an angry response from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), a potential witness in the inquiry because of a call he had that day with Trump.

“They come for members of Congress, they are coming for everybody,” McCarthy said, adding that he had already talked publicly on three television networks about his discussions with Trump.

The violence on Jan. 6 was the most serious attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812, and was carried out by a mob of Trump supporters who echoed his false claims about the 2020 election while seeking to stop Congress’s efforts to certify its results and declare Joe Biden the president-elect.

Republicans opposed creating a special panel to investigate the assault — whether independent or composed of lawmakers — arguing at first that such a committee should also look at violence at racial justice protests in the summer of 2020 and that such an inquiry could impede law enforcement investigations of the insurrection. Later they said an investigation would amount to a partisan attack by Democrats on Republicans and Trump.

But the panel includes two Republicans — Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) — who have broken with the party over whether the former president bears responsibility for inspiring the mob that attacked the Capitol and over the threat posed by his continued spread of falsehoods about the results of the 2020 election.

“Honorable men and women have an obligation to step forward,” Cheney said during the committee’s first public hearing. “If those responsible are not held accountable and if Congress does not act responsibly, this will remain a cancer on our constitutional republic.”

Jan. 6 committee faces unprecedented choice of whether to call Republican lawmakers to testify

It is unclear which lawmakers the committee may call as witnesses. But several members are known to have spoken to Trump on Jan. 6 during the attack or to administration officials that day.

Thompson has said the committee has not ruled out any investigative avenues, including who could be a potential witness.

John Wagner contributed to this report.