House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) threatened this week to retaliate against telecom and tech companies that comply with a House committee’s request to preserve call records for certain people connected to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. McCarthy also warned ― incorrectly, according to legal experts ― that preserving such records would be illegal.
One of the lone voices publicly defending McCarthy’s dubious claim is Federal Communications Commission member Brendan Carr, who has oversight over telecom companies.
But neither Carr nor McCarthy have mentioned their clear conflict of interest as they echo each other’s arguments: Carr is married to McCarthy’s general counsel, Machalagh Carr.
She has been McCarthy’s general counsel since March 2019, per her account on Legistorm, a database of biographical information on Capitol Hill staffers. And as the GOP leader’s counsel, she almost certainly had a hand in crafting a statement by McCarthy on Tuesday claiming that the telecom companies would be engaging in illegal behavior ― the same claim her husband has echoed in his capacity as an FCC commissioner.
Companies that comply with the House committee’s request “are in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States,” McCarthy tweeted Tuesday. “If companies still choose to violate a federal law, a Republican majority will not forget and will stand with Americans to hold them fully accountable under the law,” he threatened.
McCarthy didn’t cite any statute supporting his contention that this is illegal. In fact, several experts have said it is perfectly legal for Congress to ask companies to preserve records of calls and that they don’t know what McCarthy is talking about. The House committee didn’t ask for call logs to be turned over, either; it asked companies to avoid destroying records in the event there are future subpoenas for them.
Still, on Thursday, McCarthy pressed on with his legal claim. He retweeted a Wall Street Journal editorial board piece featuring comments from Brendan Carr backing up his argument.
“Federal law requires telecommunications carriers to protect the privacy and confidentiality of Americans’ call records,” the FCC commissioner said, warning that his agency “has brought enforcement actions against carriers to ensure their compliance.”
Brendan Carr also tweeted out the Wall Street Journal piece, adding, “The claim that a single Member of Congress has unchecked power to secretly obtain the private data of any and all Americans they choose is as sweeping as it is chilling. Thankfully, that claim is wrong.”
Not only does it appear that Brendan Carr is using his position to protect his wife’s boss, but the fact that he’s echoing the GOP leader’s claims in his role as an FCC commissioner could certainly be seen as an effort to intimidate telecom companies ― the same ones he has oversight over ― from complying with the House committee’s request.
Carr did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why he did not disclose his direct connection to McCarthy’s office.
McCarthy’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
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