Hageman Grills FBI Director On Social Media Censorship, 'Weaponizing' Law Enforcement

U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman, R-Wyoming, grilled FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday about explosive evidence a federal judge summarized last week about the FBI’s efforts to censor and suppress election-related speech.

Clair McFarland

July 12, 20235 min read

Hageman and Wray 7 12 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Wyoming’s lone U.S. House member grilled FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday about explosive discovery evidence a federal judge summarized last week about the FBI’s efforts to censor and suppress some election-related speech.   

Hageman, a Republican, referred repeatedly to Louisiana U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty’s July 4 memorandum summarizing evidence from Missouri vs. Biden during the House Judiciary Committee meeting where she and Wray sparred.  

“We have established the FBI and other federal agencies met weekly with executives from major social media companies: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Verizon,” said Hageman. “Were you involved in any of those meetings — yes or no?” 

“I didn’t participate, I guess, in meetings like that,” answered Wray.  

But We Can’t Right Now 

Hageman asked if the FBI is still meeting with social media companies to shape public discourse. 

Wray referred to Judge Doughty’s order barring the agency from doing that.  

Doughty filed a preliminary injunction along with his memorandum, barring numerous federal agencies from pressuring social media companies into censoring or suppressing protected speech until the case is decided. President Joe Biden’s administration tried, unsuccessfully, to get Doughty to disable his own injunction during the government’s appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court.  

“We’ve been – and we’ve been very open about this – engaged with social media companies,” began Wray.  

“Does the FBI intend to continue to have such meetings leading up to the 2024 election to police election-related speech?” asked Hageman.  

“Well, we’re not going to be policing election-related speech,” Wray answered.  

“You previously did,” said Hageman.  

“I do not agree with that description,” said Wray.  

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A Harsh Accusation 

“This committee has learned the FBI acted to ‘discredit leaked information about Hunter Biden, before and after it was public,’” said Hageman during Wednesday’s meeting, citing a committee report.  

Twitter had “constant and pervasive” contact with the FBI, Hageman continued, and “a surprisingly high amount of requests by the FBI for twitter to take action on misinformation — even on joke tweets on low-follower accounts.”  

Wray said he is “not sure” he agrees with the findings of the report.  

Hageman accused the agency of using social media companies to violate the U.S. Constitution and its First Amendment “by using a surrogate to do your dirty work.”  

“I can’t help what people will believe or not,” Wray countered. “I can only speak to what the facts are.”  

Hageman asked who has been directing the FBI to suppress American citizens’ First-Amendment rights.  

“I don’t believe that’s what we did,” said Wray. “So, I’m not sure there’s anyone that would have made such a decision.”  

Hageman asked Wray if anyone in the FBI has been fired or disciplined for suppressing protected speech.  

Wray said the FBI has issued guidance to everyone in the organization who could be “affected,” but that he wouldn’t speak to personnel matters.  

Except For My Own Background 

Hageman accused Wray of working personally to weaponize the FBI against political conservatives.  

Wray claimed that was crazy.  

“I’d disagree,” he said. “The idea that I’m biased against conservatives seems somewhat insane to me given my own personal background.”  

He said he has “emphasized to all our folks we need to do the right thing in the right way … following the facts wherever they lead no matter who likes it.”  

A Lab Leak? 

Hageman pushed Wray to answer why he hadn’t responded to letters by Congressional delegates inviting his agency to discuss the origins of COVID-19. 

Wray said the agency is trying to respond to “all correspondence we get from the (Capitol) Hill,” and that the FBI was for a long time the only agency in the intelligence community to believe a lab leak may have caused COVID-19.  

The U.S. Department of Energy recently concurred with that theory as well, though Dr. Anthony Fauci discredited it in 2020 and 2021 and social media companies subsequently suppressed the theory, which occupies another major portion of Doughty’s evidentiary memorandum.  

That Laptop 

Doughty’s memorandum devotes nine pages specifically to the FBI’s involvement with social media companies. It references evidence gained from the Nov. 29, 2021, deposition of Elvis Chan, assistant special agent in charge of FBI’s San Francisco Cyber Branch. 

FBI and other federal officials repeatedly raised concerns in meetings with internet platforms that there could be a “hack and dump” operation during the 2020 election cycle.  

The New York Post published a story in October 2020, featuring the downloaded contents of a laptop linked to Hunter Biden. The photographs and other data implicated then-presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son in international corruption along with drug and sex crimes.  

Yoel Roth, former Site Integrity head at Twitter, wrote in a Dec. 17, 2020, declaration that federal officials had been focused earlier that year on warning of a potential “leak” about Hunter Biden.  

“I also learned in these meetings that there were rumors that a hack-and-leak operation would involve Hunter Biden,” wrote Roth.  

The judge found the admission important because the FBI had possessed Hunter Biden’s laptop for nearly a year when the story broke.  

“The mention of ‘hack-and-leak’ operations involving Hunter Biden is significant,” Doughty’s memorandum says, “because the FBI previously received Hunter Biden’s laptop on December 9, 2019, and knew that the later-released story about Hunter Biden’s laptop was not disinformation.” 

Social media platforms updated their policies in 2020 to state that “hacked materials” would violate their policies.  

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter