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Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki got a legal smackdown from a federal magistrate judge this week. Psaki has been subpoenaed to provide a deposition under oath regarding a lawsuit filed by the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana, alleging that the Biden White House colluded with social media and big tech to censor or silence conservatives and political opponents.
Late last week, Psaki attempted to quash the subpoena through a filing in a Virginia federal court, but Magistrate Judge Ivan Davis kicked the case back down to Judge Terry Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana in Louisiana, where the suit was originally filed, while also expressing ire at Psaki’s legal team.
According to Politico, Davis’ ruling signaled he was “roundly rejecting and even ridiculing arguments Psaki’s attorneys and the Justice Department presented.”
The outlet added:
During a brutal argument session that stretched to more than an hour Friday morning, Davis accused Psaki’s high-powered lawyers and the Justice Department of trying to make an “end-run” around U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty, a Monroe, La.-based appointee of President Donald Trump.
Psaki’s lawyers argued that the deposition would be an “undue burden” on her, in part because it would take her away from her family for several days and interfere with her new job at MSNBC. But during a series of prickly exchanges with Psaki’s lead attorney, Jeannie Rhee, Davis said the filings in the case didn’t demonstrate any unusual impact she was likely to suffer.
“I don’t see any. I’m finding it difficult to see how that’s different than any other deponent,” Davis said in court, according to Politico.
The outlet added: “Rhee told Davis that Psaki would have to be prepared for the deposition by two different sets of attorneys: Rhee’s team and Justice Department lawyers. DOJ would not permit Rhee’s team to be present while the preparation with the government lawyers took place, said Rhee, a former federal prosecutor and veteran of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation team.”
But Davis rejected claim as well, saying: “How much does it take to prepare a witness for a deposition where she doesn’t have anything to say? That’s confusing.”
The case was filed in May by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, the former of which is now a U.S. Senator-elect from the Show Me State. Psaki’s motion to bar her from providing a deposition was supported by the Justice Department.
In his ruling, Doughty, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, wrote that there is definitely a public interest in “determining whether First Amendment free speech rights have been suppressed” by the White House and the social media companies.
“As discussed, Psaki’s reasons for having to prepare for and give the deposition are not undue burdens. Second, because there is no undue burden, there is no irreparable harm to Psaki,” the judge noted, according to the Washington Examiner.
The suit alleges that the Biden administration colluded with Meta, Twitter, and YouTube “to censor and suppress free speech — including truthful information — related to COVID-19, election integrity, and other topics, under the guise of combating misinformation.”
A number of current administration officials have been sent a subpoena, including Psaki, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of White House Digital Strategy Rob Flaherty, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly, and FBI Special Agent Elvis Chan.
Last month, Doughty ruled that written testimonies would not be enough, and all subpoenaed parties had to testify under oath.
“After finding documentation of a collusive relationship between the Biden Administration and social media companies to censor free speech, we immediately filed a motion to get these officials under oath,” Schmitt said in a statement at the time.
“It is high time we shine a light on this censorship enterprise and force these officials to come clean to the American people, and this ruling will allow us to do just that. We’ll keep pressing for the truth,” he added.