Former White House Press Secretary Jennifer Psaki, much like her old boss, is a big fan of investigations.
From her perch at the podium in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, Psaki routinely endorsed criminal, civil, and congressional inquiries into the events of January 6 and warned the individuals targeted—including Donald Trump and his former aides—that they must comply with the legal process.
A reporter asked Psaki during her first briefing whether Joe Biden believed Trump should “be held accountable for the Capitol insurrection” on January 6. Calling the four-hour disturbance that afternoon an “horrific event,” Psaki said Joe Biden had spoken with lawmakers about how to proceed. “He is going to leave it to members of Congress to carry out their constitutional duty and determine what the path forward is,” Psaki announced on January 21, 2021.
Psaki later announced that Biden would not extend executive privilege to his predecessor related to the January 6 select committee’s inquisition, giving investigators carte blanche access to all of Trump’s records for most of 2020—most of which had nothing to do with January 6. “We are, we have been working closely with congressional committees and others as they work to get to the bottom of what happened on January 6th, an incredibly dark day in our democracy,” Psaki said in September 2021.
And anyone who defied congressional subpoenas, Psaki noted, could face criminal charges.
But Psaki, unsurprisingly, is taking a different approach now that she’s a defendant in a sprawling civil lawsuit seeking to uncover the federal government’s deep collaboration with Big Tech to suppress free speech and promote Biden’s political interests.
Psaki is one of more than five dozen current and former federal officials—including Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy—being sued by the states of Missouri and Louisiana for violating the First Amendment rights of American citizens.
“Having threatened and cajoled social-media platforms for years to censor viewpoints and speakers disfavored by the Left, senior government officials in the Executive Branch have moved into a phase of open collusion with social-media companies to suppress disfavored speakers, viewpoints, and content on social-media platforms under the Orwellian guise of halting so-called ‘disinformation,’ ‘misinformation,’ and ‘malinformation,’” the complaint reads. “Under the First Amendment, the federal Government should play no role in policing private speech or picking winners and losers in the marketplace of ideas. But that is what federal officials are doing, on a massive scale—the full scope and impact of which yet to be determined.”
The lawsuit cited numerous occasions when Psaki gloated about the White House’s partnership with social media platforms to ban content contradictory to the official narrative on COVID-19 and vaccines. For example, during a July 2021 press briefing with Surgeon General Murthy, Psaki publicly urged Facebook to deplatform accounts she considered purveyors of “health misinformation,” an alleged scourge that Murthy described as an “urgent public health threat.” Psaki made her expectations quite clear. “[We] engage with [social media companies] regularly and they certainly understand what our asks are,” Psaki bragged.
A few days later, Facebook banned the accounts Psaki had accused of spreading “misinformation.”
In March, Psaki expressed displeasure that Spotify only added a warning label to Joe Rogan’s popular podcast featuring guests who questioned the efficacy of COVID mitigation policies, including vaccines. “There’s more that can be done,” she said.
Now all of a sudden, Psaki doesn’t want to boast about how she strong-armed Silicon Valley to do the regime’s bidding—especially under oath.
Judge Terry Doughty from the western district of Louisiana last month ordered Psaki to sit for a deposition, finding that the ex-spokeswoman “has personal knowledge about the issue concerning censorship across social media as it related to COVID-19 and ancillary issues of COVID-19.” Doughty further concluded that “any burden on Psaki is outweighed by the need to determine whether free speech has been suppressed.” On November 1, Psaki was served with a subpoena, ordering her to appear for a sworn deposition in Arlington, Virginia, near her home.
Psaki, however, doesn’t have time. The newly minted MSNBC contributor—Psaki is slated to host her own show on the network starting next year—is simply too swamped.
“The burdens of preparing and sitting for any wide-ranging deposition are significant, let alone the deposition of a former senior administration official,” Psaki’s legal team wrote in a November 3 motion to quash the subpoena. “And imposing that burden on Ms. Psaki, a nonparty private citizen, is entirely unwarranted on this record.”
In a separate statement to the court, Psaki claimed that “sitting for a deposition in this matter would be extremely burdensome for me. Among other things, I understand that I would need to devote several days to preparing for the deposition, as well as attending the deposition itself, and that would be highly disruptive to both my work and my family.”
You don’t say!
Psaki’s interview also would create a big job for government lawyers who would need to determine “which of her conversations or recollections might be subject to executive privilege,” her legal team argued.
Setting aside the laughable hypocrisy of Psaki now invoking her status as a “private citizen” and “former senior official” when she offered no such consideration to Donald Trump, and further noting the hollowness of her complaints that a deposition would be far too time-consuming—the notion that somehow she is entitled to executive privilege, but a former president and his top aides including legal counsel are not is astonishing.
Further, Psaki’s lawyers warned they will fight the production of “any Documents and Communications that relate to any member of the White House Communications Team or any other Federal Official communicating with Social-Media Platforms about Content on those Platforms.”
Funny how Psaki had no similar objection when she announced in October 2021 that the White House had ordered the transfer of thousands of Trump’s official records to the January 6 select committee.
Psaki’s lawyers attempted to bypass Judge Doughty. They filed a motion to quash the subpoena in the eastern district of Virginia, where Psaki lives and likely will sit for the deposition. But the Virginia judge wasn’t having any part of it, ordering the matter returned to the Louisiana court where the lawsuit originated.
In other words, the judge told Psaki to “circle back.”
Her lawyers immediately filed another motion to halt her deposition. On Monday afternoon, Judge Doughty denied her second motion to quash, accusing Psaki of “making an ‘end-run’ around this Court’s prior ruling.” Doughty also mocked Psaki’s argument that she’s too busy—she means too important, of course—to be bothered with legal matters. “Were the Court to find Psaki has an undue burden here, every person subject to a deposition subpoena would have grounds to quash,” he wrote. “Preparing for and giving a deposition is part of the normal process for every person subpoenaed for a deposition. It is not an undue burden.”
It looks like Psaki has run out of options to avoid her scheduled December 8 video-recorded deposition.
Which, by the way, Psaki wants under seal. Lawyers representing the eight officials ordered to be deposed asked Judge Doughty to issue a protective order on all recorded interviews, insisting that “civil servants—do not reasonably expect that they will be subjected to video-recorded, publicly disseminated cross-examination about the way that they carried out their job duties.”
Publicly releasing the videos, the lawyers said, creates a “significant likelihood that audiovisual recordings of federal employee depositions taken in this case will be manipulated or abused” and cherry-picked clips “will expose the deponents to undue harassment and invasions of privacy.”
Doughty partially granted their motion, sealing the taped depositions only until the interviews are docketed as discovery evidence before trial. “The public’s interest in access of this information is especially strong because this matter involves the [First] Amendment right to freedom of speech,” he wrote in a November 17 order.
It goes without saying—or should, at any rate—that a coordinated effort between the most powerful government officials and the most powerful information providers to silence and punish political dissent is a far greater “threat to democracy,” as they like to say, than what happened for a few hours on January 6.
And it’s beyond ironic that the mouthpiece for a regime proceeding with yet another punitive and vengeful investigation into Donald Trump wants to be shielded from an inquiry into her own misdeeds. Proof once again that accountability, transparency, and consequences only runs one way in Washington.