The White House has pushed for a court ruling that would shield relevant officials from testifying in a case that alleges the Biden administration worked with social media platforms to limit the reach of political foes.
This week, however, a judge appointed by former President Donald Trump shot down the effort, which means Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, White House Digital Strategy Director Rob Flaherty, and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly are on the hook for upcoming depositions.
U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty of Louisiana’s Western District handed down his decision on Wednesday, thus dismissing the Biden administration’s request for partial stays for the aforementioned officials.
Attorneys General Jeff Landry and Eric Schmitt of Louisiana and Missouri, respectively, also want to hear from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, and former Disinformation Governance Board Director Nina Jankowicz.
The two top prosecutors claim that the White House pressured social media companies to effectively censor posts contrary to the administration’s agenda. In total, they identified nearly four dozen officials who allegedly formed a so-called “Censorship Enterprise” tasked with suppressing speech on social media platforms.
“Meta, for example, has disclosed that at least 32 federal officials — including senior officials at the FDA, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, and the White House — have communicated with Meta about content moderation on its platforms, many of whom were not disclosed in response to Plaintiffs’ interrogatories to Defendants,” Landry and Schmitt wrote. “YouTube disclosed eleven federal officials engaged in such communications, including officials at the Census Bureau and the White House, many of whom were also not disclosed by Defendants.”
Doughty agreed that testimony from relevant officials is a necessary component of the case, writing in his decision that “the public interest and the interest of the other parties in preserving free speech significantly outweigh the inconvenience the three deponents will have in preparing for and giving their depositions.”
Last month, the judge ruled that Fauci and other Biden administration officials could be compelled to testify, which drew a rousing response from the counsel representing multiple plaintiffs.
“For the first time, Dr. Fauci and seven other federal officials responsible for running an unlawful censorship enterprise will have to answer questions under oath about the nature and extent of their communications with tech companies,” wrote New Civil Liberties Alliance litigation counsel Jenin Younes. “We look forward to learning more about just how far these government actors went in ensuring that Americans heard only one perspective about Covid-19: the government’s.”