The House Judiciary Committee is suing FBI agent Elvis Chan for defying a congressional subpoena for his deposition related to the federal government’s alleged collusion with social media companies to censor speech, Fox News Digital has learned.
Chan, according to the committee, led by Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, served ‘as the primary liaison’ between the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force and social media companies.
The committee first subpoenaed Chan in September 2023, after he refused to voluntarily appear for a transcribed interview in March 2023.
The deposition, or interview, was requested and later compelled as part of the committee’s investigation into ‘the extent and nature’ of the FBI’s involvement in alleged censorship of speech online.
The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday filed a 46-page lawsuit against Chan ‘in his official capacity as Assistant Special Agent’ at the FBI.
‘After public reporting revealed that the Executive Branch was coercing and colluding with technology companies and other intermediaries to censor online speech, the Judiciary Committee launched an investigation into how and to what extent agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were working to interfere with the marketplace of ideas and suppress the voices of the American people,’ the lawsuit states. ‘The ultimate purpose of this investigation is to develop legislative reforms, such as new statutory limits on the Executive Branch’s ability to work with social media companies and other entities to restrict the circulation of content online and deplatform users. And to do so, the Committee must first fully understand the nature of the problem.’
The lawsuit states that the committee ‘quickly identified Chan as a pivotal figure in its investigation,’ citing publicly available information that indicated Chan ‘was at the heart of the FBI’s interactions with technology companies, including Facebook and Twitter.’
‘Indeed, Chan described himself as ‘one of the primary people with pass-through information,’ information the companies used when deciding whether to restrict online content,’ the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit goes on to explain that Chan defied his subpoena, after the Justice Department ‘instructed him not to appear’ – a directive he complied with.
‘By refusing to comply with the Subpoena, Chan is frustrating the Committee’s ability to conduct oversight – a critical part of the legislative power that the Constitution vests in Congress,’ the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit explains that DOJ’s reasoning for instructing Chan not to appear was ‘only because, under House Rules, agency counsel (a lawyer who represents the Executive Branch’s interests, not Chan’s) cannot attend.’
‘DOJ contends that a subpoena compelling testimony about an agency employee’s official duties, without agency counsel present, is unconstitutional and thus unenforceable,’ the lawsuit states.
The committee is asking that the court declare that Chan’s refusal to appear ‘lacks legal justification,’ and hopes it issues an injunction ordering him to appear and testify ‘immediately.’
The Justice Department and the FBI declined to comment.
Fox News Digital obtained a letter the DOJ sent to Jordan in October, in which Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriarte states that the ‘underlying principles that inform the Department’s position are longstanding across administrations.’
Uriarte argued that ‘every other Department employee who has appeared before the Committee during this Congress has appeared with agency counsel.’ He also argued that there was ‘no need’ for the committee to issue a subpoena, saying Chan ‘is willing and ready to provide the requested testimony voluntarily—provided, of course, that he may be accompanied by both personal and agency counsel.’
‘A congressional subpoena that purports to compel testimony on matters within the scope of an agency employee’s official duties, including potentially privileged information, without the presence of agency counsel is without legal effect and cannot constitutionally be enforced,’ he wrote, citing a 2019 legal memo from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel.
Meanwhile, when asked Tuesday if the committee would move to hold Chan in contempt of Congress, a source familiar told Fox News Digital: ‘Everything is on the table.’
Chan was also referenced in Missouri v. Biden, and appeared for a civil deposition.
The House Judiciary Committee’s investigation is ongoing.
Last month, the committee subpoenaed Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines for documents as part of its investigation into the Biden administration’s alleged collusion with Big Tech companies and its intermediaries to ‘censor speech.’
Jordan said that through its investigation, the committee found that the federal government ‘has pressured and colluded with Big Tech and other intermediaries to censor certain viewpoints on social media in ways that undermine First Amendment principles.’
Jordan, last February, as part of the investigation, subpoenaed the CEOs of Google, Amazon, Facebook and others for documents relating to the government’s alleged ‘collusion’ with Big Tech companies to ‘suppress free speech.’
Also last year, Jordan subpoenaed the Justice Department and the FBI for documents related to the probe.
The investigation comes after Republicans have sounded the alarm for years on Big Tech censorship and bias against conservatives.
Separately, the Supreme Court agreed in October to review a court-ordered ban on certain communications between the Biden administration and Big Tech platforms after state attorneys general from Missouri and Louisiana accused high-ranking government officials of working with social media companies ‘under the guise of combating misinformation.’ They argued this ultimately led to censoring speech on topics that included Hunter Biden’s laptop, COVID-19 origins and the efficacy of face masks
Fox News’ Brianna Herlihy contributed to this report.