Ex-Twitter execs face GOP crickets in Hunter Biden laptop story
Former Twitter Deputy General Counsel James Baker, former Twitter Chief Legal Officer Vijaya Gadde, former Twitter Global Head of Trust & Safety Yoel Roth and former Twitter employee Anika Collier Navaroli say during a hearing on Capitol Hill on February 8 out. Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Republicans used a hearing on Wednesday they said was intended to highlight Twitter’s role in restricting access to the reports on President Biden’s son in 2020 to voice the party’s grievances about technology — while Democrats the constantly questioned the purpose of the meeting.
Push the news: Three former Twitter executives testified before a GOP-led House Committee on Wednesday about the company’s role in restricting the dissemination of a story about President Biden’s son Hunter’s laptop in 2020.
- Vijaya Gadde, former Chief Legal Officer of Twitter; James Baker, his former assistant general counsel; and Yoel Roth, his former global head of trust and safety, appeared before the House Oversight Committee.
The big picture: The hearing was an opportunity for House Republicans to argue that tech companies have historically favored Democrats and been unfair to the GOP.
- Republicans on the panel attempted to use Twitter’s handling of a New York Post article about Hunter Biden as a central example, along with examples of alleged censorship of COVID-19 vaccines.
- Aiming to shift the conversation to foreign misinformation campaigns and the Capitol riot, Democrats suggested that members of the GOP panel intimidated and threatened witnesses and questioned why the committee was wasting time on a “conspiracy theory.”
- They challenged a former Twitter staffer and whistleblower, Anika Collier Navaroli, who testified that Twitter’s decision not to remove tweets by former President Donald Trump helped spur the violence that day.
What you say: “In the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, Big Tech and The Swamp worked together to censor coverage of the Biden family’s shady business plans,” Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) said. “Americans deserve answers to this attack on the First Amendment… Accountability is coming.”
- Other Republicans questioned Roth and Gadde about previous meetings with the FBI while on Twitter and suggested that the agency had undue influence over the company; while other members complained about their accounts being banned or praised Musk for allowing previously banned GOP accounts back onto the platform.
- Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told Twitter staff they were “played” by the FBI, which Republicans have accused of ordering Twitter to shut down the New York Post story. Jordan said Twitter clearly wanted to delete the New York Post story and was looking for reasons to do so.
The other side: “I am not aware of any unlawful collusion with, or direction from, any government agency or political campaign on how Twitter should have handled the Hunter Biden laptop situation,” said Jim Baker, former Twitter assistant general counsel and former FBI attorney, during his Testimony Wednesday.
- “Twitter is a private media company. In America, private media outlets can choose what to publish or how to curate content as they please,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said at the start of Wednesday’s hearing.
- “The professional conspiracy theorists who berate and berate this private company have already received their precious apology. What more do you want? And why does the United States Congress have to be involved in this nonsense?”
In a statement ahead of Wednesday’s hearingThe White House called it “the latest effort by the most extreme MAGA members of the House Republican majority to challenge and re-establish the outcome of the 2020 election.”
- “This is not what the American people want their leaders to work on,” spokesman Ian Sams said in a statement. “As the President has said and emphasized, the American people expect their leaders to work bipartisanly on the issues that most affect their lives and… her Families, don’t attack be Family with conspiracy theories that have long since been disproved.”
The Intrigue: Republicans have repeatedly accused Twitter of collaborating with the federal government. But during questioning, Navaroli said the Trump White House asked the company to delete a tweet by model Chrissy Teigen that was critical of the former president.
Be smart: Gadde said Twitter originally got it wrong by suppressing the story out of fear the materials were hacked and stolen by a foreign entity. The decision was later reversed, and the New York Post was free to publish and share the article.
- Twitter’s handling of Hunter Biden’s laptop story was one of the topics covered in the “Twitter Files” series, based on internal corporate communications Musk shared with select journalists.
Our thought bubble: During the hearing, Republicans and Democrats raised the same issues with social media they’ve raised for years: Republicans think social media has censored too much information, and Democrats think social media hasn’t have removed enough dangerous information.
Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to note that Yoel Roth has resigned from Twitter (instead of being fired). The story has also been updated with new information and additional context.