A federal court denied former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s request Monday to avoid deposition in a lawsuit alleging coordination between Biden administration authorities and social media companies to suppress free speech.
The lawsuit first filed by Republican Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry in May accuses President Joe Biden and administration parties, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), of colluding with or coercing the companies to “suppress disfavored speakers, viewpoints, and content” on their platforms with “dis-information,” “mis-information” and “mal-information” labels.
Psaki filed a motion last week in a bid to avoid complying with the subpoena requiring her to testify, but Judge Terry Doughty of the Western District Court of Louisiana decided Monday to reject the motion and Psaki’s alternative request to stay her deposition.
The Republican attorneys general are suing Biden administration officials for colluding with social media and technology platforms to censor speech, particularly relating to COVID-19 and election “misinformation.”
The Louisiana court had ordered Psaki on Oct. 21 to cooperate with the request to depose her.
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The plaintiffs have argued that she made statements while serving as White House press secretary that “(1) attested to her personal knowledge of the participation of high- level White House officials in pressuring social-media platforms, and (2) reinforced the public threats of adverse legal consequences to social-media platforms if they do not increase censorship of views disfavored by federal officials,” according to the court’s memorandum order that day.
The Oct. 21 order also granted plaintiffs’ request to depose individuals including National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Elvis Chan and Surgeon General Vivek Murphy, despite their opposition.
The Louisiana court’s Monday memorandum said Psaki and the lawsuit’s federal defendants “were making an ‘end-run’” around its previous ruling by presenting arguments for quashing the subpoena.
It argued that Psaki’s reasons for having to prepare and give deposition were not “undue burdens” that justified exempting her, so she would not suffer irreparable harm.
“The public interest lies in determining whether First Amendment free speech rights have been suppressed,” presiding Judge Terry Doughty stated in the memorandum.