Judge turns away Jen Psaki’s effort to quash subpoena

FILE — Jen Psaki said a deposition would place an undue burden on her.
FILE — Jen Psaki said a deposition would place an undue burden on her.
Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 4:24 PM CST
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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A judge refused Friday to quash a subpoena issued to former White House press secretary Jen Psaki that seeks her deposition in a lawsuit filed by Missouri and Louisiana, alleging that the Biden administration conspired to silence conservative voices on social media.

Psaki filed a motion in federal court in Alexandria seeking to quash the subpoena, saying that she had no relevant information to provide and that a deposition would place an undue burden on her. The Justice Department supported her efforts to quash.

U.S. Magistrate Ivan Davis said during a hearing Friday that he was unimpressed with Psaki’s arguments. But he did not reject her request outright. Instead, he transferred the case back to Louisiana, where the lawsuit was filed.

The Louisiana judge has already ordered that Psaki and other government officials can be deposed. That order is being appealed.

Psaki was allowed to file a separate opposition in Virginia because she lives in the state and would be deposed there.

Davis, though, said it makes no sense for him to wade into the questions of whether Psaki’s testimony is relevant when the judge in Louisiana is more familiar with the case.

He also said Psaki failed to show how sitting for a deposition in her home state would be an undue burden. In fact, he said that if Psaki has little information to contribute, as she alleges, it shouldn’t be much of a burden at all.

“How much time does it take to prepare a witness for deposition when she doesn’t really have anything to say?” Davis asked.

Justice Department lawyer Indraneel Sur indicated he would appeal Davis’ ruling to a district judge in Alexandria and asked the judge to stay his ruling to provide time to do so, but Davis declined.

The lawsuit filed by the attorney general in Missouri and Alexandria accuses President Joe Biden, former federal health official Anthony Fauci and others of conspiring with social media companies to restrict free speech by censoring conservative opinions about the COVID-19 response and other issues.

Missouri and Louisiana say they want more information about statements Psaki made during news conferences in which she urged social media platforms to do a better job of blocking disinformation on their sites. In one briefing, for instance, she said the administration was flagging problematic posts to social media companies.

“We engage with (social media companies) regularly and they certainly understand what our asks are,” she said.

Missouri and Louisiana say they want to know from Psaki who within the administration was engaging with social media companies and what they were asking.

Psaki’s lawyers say the states have already obtained the bulk of what they need from emails and other materials that have already been provided to them.

Eleven lawyers attended Friday’s hearing; Psaki did not.