WASHINGTON (AP): Former Twitter employees are expected to testify next week before the House Oversight Committee about the social media platform’s handling of reporting on President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.
The scheduled testimony, confirmed by the committee Monday, will be the first time the three former executives will appear before Congress to discuss the company’s decision to initially block from Twitter a New York Post article on Hunter Biden’s laptop in the weeks before the 2020 election.
Republicans have said the story was suppressed for political reasons, though no evidence has been released to support that claim. The witnesses for the Feb. 8 hearing are expected to be Vijaya Gadde, former chief legal officer; James Baker, former deputy general counsel; and Yoel Roth, former head of safety and integrity.
The hearing is among the first of many in a GOP-controlled House to be focused on Biden and his family, as Republicans wield the power of their new, albeit slim, majority.
The New York Post first reported in October 2020 that it had received from former President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, a copy of a hard drive of a laptop that Hunter Biden had dropped off 18 months earlier at a Delaware computer repair shop and never retrieved. Twitter initially blocked people from sharing links to the story for several days.
Months later, Twitter’s then-CEO Jack Dorsey called the company’s communications around the Post article “not great.” He added that blocking the article’s URL with “zero context” around why it was blocked was “unacceptable.”
The Post article at the time was greeted with scepticism due to questions about the laptop’s origins, including Giuliani’s involvement, and because top officials in the Trump administration had already warned that Russia was working to denigrate Joe Biden ahead of the 2020 election. The Kremlin had interfered in the 2016 race by hacking Democratic emails that were subsequently leaked, and fears that Russia would meddle again in the 2020 race were widespread across Washington.
“This is why we’re investigating the Biden family for influence peddling,” Rep. James Comer, chairman of the Oversight committee, said at a press event Monday morning. “We want to make sure that our national security is not compromised.”
The White House has sought to discredit the Republican probes into Hunter Biden, calling them “divorced-from-reality political stunts.”
Nonetheless, Republicans now hold subpoena power in the House, giving them the authority to compel testimony and conduct an aggressive investigation. GOP staff has spent the past year analyzing messages and financial transactions found on the laptop that belonged to the president’s younger son. Comer has previously said the evidence they have compiled is “overwhelming,” but did not offer specifics.
Comer has pledged there won’t be hearings regarding the Biden family until the committee has the evidence to back up any claims of alleged wrongdoing. He also acknowledged that the stakes are high whenever an investigation centres on the leader of a political party.
On Monday, the Kentucky Republican, speaking at a National Press Club event, said that he could not guarantee a subpoena of Hunter Biden during his term. “We’re going to go where the investigation leads us. Maybe there’s nothing there.”
He added, “We’ll see.”