The House committee probing the weaponization of government opened its second meeting with a fiery start on Thursday with Republicans and Democrats sparring over Hunter Biden's laptop, government interference with Big Tech, and the Twitter Files.
House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, started the hearing with his opening statement criticizing what he called the "cozy relationship" between Big Tech and government agencies, the Daily Mail reported.
On his hit list was Twitter's suppression of the New York Post's story on Hunter Biden's laptop just ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
"The information op was run on us, run on we the people. And if that's not the weaponization of government, I don't know what is," Jordan said, according to The Hill.
The laptop contained emails and photos of the son of Joe Biden, then the Democratic nominee, that most experts now say could have swung the election to then-President Donald Trump had they been more widely distributed.
Instead, Twitter locked the Post out of its account, claiming the story was false because Twitter executives at the time were tipped off by government officials that the Bidens would be the target of a "hack and leak operation."
"What a coincidence," Jordan said sarcastically.
Del. Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I., the ranking Democrat on the panel, returned fire, saying that Republicans, who formed the committee after taking control of the lower chamber in the 2022 midterms, had questionable motives for holding the hearings and were pushing a false narrative.
"There is something going on between Congressional Republicans and Elon Musk," the current owner of Twitter, she said. "Mr. Chairman, Americans can see through this. Musk is helping you out politically, and you're going out of your way to promote and protect him, and to praise him for his work" in providing journalists access to internal communications as well as with government agencies over suppression of stories they wanted tamped down.
"Ridiculous!" Jordan replied, as Plaskett said Democrats didn't receive access to pertinent letters from the Federal Trade Commission until 8 p.m. Wednesday night.
Republicans called Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger, two of the journalists who have reported on the Twitter Files.
"We just saw this with the COVID lab-leak theory," Taibbi testified. "Many of the institutions we're now investigating initially labeled the idea that COVID came from a lab 'disinformation' and a conspiracy theory. Now apparently, even the FBI takes it seriously."
Democrats on the subcommittee complained that another of Taibbi's reports dropped just ahead of the meeting, and they weren't given access to it, The Hill reported.
Plaskett at one point described Taibbi and Shellenberger as "so-called journalists," to which Taibbi pointed to his multiple journalism awards and list of New York Times bestselling books.
Plaskett can be heard laughing while he makes the statement, according to The Hill.
Taibbi has worked for the Associated Press and Rolling Stone among other outlets, and has been a regular contributor on shows ranging from "Imus in the Morning" on Fox Business to "The Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC.
Taibbi was repeatedly pressed by Democrats on who at Twitter gave him access to the documents he used in his reports, specifically whether it was Musk himself. But Taibbi refused to answer, saying only "sources at Twitter."
Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, finally said, "Either he is or he isn't. If you're telling me you can't answer because it's your source, then the only logical conclusion is that he is, in fact, your source."
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