House Republicans demanded Thursday that the head of the Department of Homeland Security’s controversial “Disinformation Governance Board” turn over records related to its creation and mission — as well as any “coordination” with Twitter and Facebook.
In a letter to Nina Jankowicz, Judiciary Committee ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and other GOP lawmakers said the panel “gives rise to considerable concerns about its effect on Americans’ fundamental civil liberties” and echoed comparisons to the propaganda agency in George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984.”
“The ability of Americans to engage in robust debate and conversation is the foundation of American politics, and there is no place for a de facto ministry of truth in our government,” they wrote.
“The very idea of a ministry of truth should be revolting to all Americans who hold our Bill of Rights in high regard.”
The letter gives Jankowicz two weeks to produce “all documents and communications” being sought, including those that involve “any coordination or other interaction between the Board and Twitter, Meta Platforms, or any other social media company.”
It also calls on her to appear before the House Judiciary Committee to answer questions that include whether she still stands by her October 2020 attack on The Post’s exclusive revelation of Hunter Biden’s emails.
At the time, Jankowicz — then a fellow at the Wilson Center think tank — told The Associated Press that disinformation experts doubted the authenticity of the emails and said of The Post’s reporting, “We should view it as a Trump campaign product.”
Both The New York Times and The Washington Post have since authenticated many of the emails amid a grand jury probe into potential tax fraud, money laundering and violations of lobbying laws by the first son.
The Republicans’ letter isn’t binding on Jankowicz because Democrats now control both chambers of Congress, but GOP lawmakers are expected to issue subpoenas next year if they win a majority of House seats in November, as many experts predict.
“Biden’s dystopian ‘Disinformation Governance Board’ is an abuse of taxpayer dollars and the federal government’s power in order to crack down on what Americans can say,” a congressional Republican aide who works on investigations told The Post.
“The board’s executive director has her own history of peddling disinformation from promoting the Steele Dossier to calling the Hunter Biden laptop story Russian disinformation,” the GOP aide said.
“This board is clearly a prop for the Biden Administration to attack Americans who simply disagree with their policies. Republicans will continue to fight against this un-American board.”
Republicans on the House oversight committee also are taking aim at the board. That committee’s ranking member, Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) organized a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas seeking information on the board’s creation.
That letter also demanded, “All documents and communications regarding any DHS definition of or criteria for determining what constitutes ‘disinformation,’ including a list of employees authorized to make a determination as to whether a particular claim constitutes ‘disinformation.’”
Jankowicz’s appointment as executive director of the board unleashed a flood of outrage after it was revealed last week, and a cringe-worthy, February 2021 video of her singing anti-disinformation lyrics to the tune of a “Mary Poppins” song went viral when it surfaced the following day.
On Wednesday, Mayorkas testified during a Senate hearing that he was unaware of the video or an October 2020 tweet in which Jankowicz amplified the unproven theory that “the laptop is a Russian influence op[eration].”
Meanwhile, the board itself remains shrouded in secrecy, with no information revealed about its members or exactly what they plan to do.
A DHS “fact sheet” released Monday called the board an “internal working group” that’s “co-chaired by the DHS Office of Policy and Office of the General Counsel, and includes other DHS leaders” who will protect “free speech and other fundamental rights when addressing disinformation that threatens the security of the United States.”
“The working group also seeks to coordinate the Department’s engagements on this subject with other federal agencies and a diverse range of external stakeholders,” the DHS said.
“The working group does not have any operational authority or capability.”
On Wednesday, Mayorkas testified that the board would establish “standards, definitions, guidelines and policies” to ensure DHS “does not infringe on freedom of speech, rights of privacy, civil rights and civil liberties,” even though the agency already has an office of civil rights and civil liberties.
Still, Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) on Thursday asked the Government Accountability Office to determine if the board’s creation violated the Antideficiency Act, which bars the executive branch from spending money unless it was appropriated by Congress.
Hagerty last week argued the board’s creation may qualify as a “regulation” under the Congressional Review Act, which would allow a simple majority in both chambers of Congress to strike it down.
Brian Murphy, a former director of DHS’ intelligence arm, told The Associated Press that the botched rollout was “just an episodic failure.”
“And it has set the true disinformation professionals, wherever they live, back,” Murphy added.
The DHS didn’t immediately return a request for comment.