Lock Him Up! Ranking Democrat Suggests Possible Criminal Charges Against Journalist Matt Taibbi

Below is my column in the New York Post on the recent call for a criminal investigation of journalist Matt Taibbi for perjury by the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. It all comes down to Taibbi’s mistake in adding an “A” to “CIS” – a group involved in the expanding censorship system.  The allegation is completely meritless but Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) did show that you cannot spell authoritarianism without “A.”

Here is the column:

As every elementary student is told, a single letter can change an entire thought.

Leave off an “S” and your dessert turns into a desert.

A missing “R” turns a friend into a fiend.

For journalist Matt Taibbi, the brief accidental addition of an “A” may not only have changed the identity of a group, but, according to a ranking Democrat, put the convict into the meaning of conviction.

Delegate Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, issued a letter that accused Taibbi of possible perjury because of an error that he made, not in testimony but in a tweet he later corrected.

At issue is Taibbi referring to CISA, the government’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, when he meant to refer to CIS, the Center for Internet Security.

Plaskett’s threatening letter to Taibbi was immediately pushed on MSNBC by host Mehdi Hasan, who was shocked by the added “A” and called for the journalist to be criminally investigated for having “deliberately & under oath misrepresented” the facts.

(It was an ironic moment, as writer Lee Fang noted, given past allegations made against Hasan over false statements.)

For Taibbi, this is only the latest such unnerving moment.

When he was testifying before Congress on government censorship efforts, the IRS sent an agent to his home to look into irregularities on his taxes from years earlier.

Plaskett also attacked Taibbi in the hearing as a “so-called journalist” and said he (and another journalist witness) were “a direct threat” to the safety of others for having reported the censorship story.

And she insisted he reveal his source for his Twitter Files reporting.

Taibbi and others also objected to a demand from Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Lina Khan for Musk to “identify all journalists” who had access to the Twitter Files.

I testified before this same subcommittee and warned the Democrats not to adopt McCarthy-like tactics in threatening and targeting critics.

Members seemed to take that warning as more of an invitation than an admonition. Immediately after the hearing, figures like former Sen. (and MSNBC contributor) Claire McCaskill denounced witnesses as “Putin lovers,” while current members accused free-speech advocates of supporting “insurrection.”

Democrats have continued to attack virtually every witness who has appeared to discuss the dangers to free speech or the need for transparency on the government’s censorship efforts.

They often attack witnesses and then refuse to let them respond. Recently, Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) used that tactic on a gun-rights advocate in cutting her off as she attempted to explain an answer.

Porter later demanded a perjury investigation as a result of the testimony.

Most chilling about Plaskett’s threatening letter and the MSNBC’s attacks is that they are entirely baseless.

Plaskett told Taibbi, “This mistake is important because, by adding an ‘A,’ you weren’t making a harmless spelling error. Rather, you were alleging that CISA — a government entity — was working with the EIP [Election Integrity Partnership] to have posts removed from social media.”

She added, “When presented with this misinformation, you acknowledged you had made ‘an error’ by intentionally altering the acronym CIS and you subsequently deleted your erroneous tweet.”

The claim that this error was “intentional” is ridiculous. Moreover, and here is the kicker, CISA is involved in the censorship efforts.

As Fang noted on Substack, the EIP listed CISA as one of its key government stakeholders and worked with CISA on censorship efforts.

But this is not about the added “A.” It’s about the loss of any sense of decency and civility in politics.

As someone who comes from a liberal Democratic family, the shock over the Democratic Party’s embrace of censorship is only exceeded by its vicious treatment of journalists and free-speech advocates attempting to expose government efforts.

Despite these attacks and the assistance of an enabling media, the evidence of the government censorship efforts has continued to mount.

We are learning of an array of grants and government-support programs to target, blacklist and censor citizens.

It’s clear Democratic members will continue to seek to intimidate witnesses and deter them from coming forward with free-speech concerns.

In these hearings, I got off light.

When I testified on the Twitter Files before the hearing with Taibbi, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) criticized me for offering “legal opinions” without actually working at Twitter.

It was akin to saying a witness should not discuss the contents of the Pentagon Papers unless he worked at the Pentagon. It was particularly bizarre because I was asked about the content of the Twitter Files.

The content — like the content of the Pentagon Papers — is “facts.” The implication of those facts are opinions.

As with an attack from Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY), I was cut off like other witnesses in attempting to explain.

Members can cut off, attack and threaten criminal prosecution, but it will not work.

Censorship systems have never succeeded in destroying ideas, and jailing journalists have never stopped reporting.

That does not mean these abusive attacks will not continue or escalate.

There is a whiff of panic in these efforts as House committees force greater transparency and greater public access to this evidence.

Now it appears these efforts to shield government censorship has come down to spelling. Indeed, if Delegate Plaskett has her way, that added “A” may prove the difference between a free press and authoritarianism.

Jonathan Turley is an attorney and a professor at George Washington University Law School.

98 thoughts on “Lock Him Up! Ranking Democrat Suggests Possible Criminal Charges Against Journalist Matt Taibbi”

  1. Its funny you picked fiend. Threatening to im prison those that seek to tell the truth is what a fiend would do

  2. Jonathan: Permit me to return to the subject of book banning around the country. A subject you have refused to address. Why? I don’t know because book banning is a serious attack on “free speech” and a sign of growing authoritarianism in this country. Your silence on the subject makes me wonder about your real commitment to “free speech” values.

    All of us are familiar with book banning and burning in Nazi Germany. In 1933 Nazi-affiliated university students went on a rampage of the burning of books. Between 80-90,000 books, deemed “un-German”, were burned in public displays around Germany. Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels led the purge. In a fiery speech in Berlin Goebbels declared: “No to decadence and moral corruption. Yes to decency and morality in family and state”.

    Fast forward to today. In Florida, Gov. DeSantis is leading the charge to ban books in public schools that contain “divisive concepts” or “pornography”. This is being replicated in other states. The latest episode took place this week in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. There the school board voted to remove what it considered “sexual explicit” books from school libraries. One school board member declared: “We should throw those books in a fire!”. School superintendent Mark Taylor, who was criticized for posting racist and homophobic remarks on social media, suggested shuttering all school libraries–as a “cost cutting measure”.
    Most of the books being banned around the country deal with subjects like race and the racist history of the country as well as LGBTQ+ issues. But some classics like Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” and James Joyce’s “Ulysses” have also been banned.

    The epidemic of book banning around the country is a serious threat to free expression. What the “family values” advocates of book banning are saying sounds eerily familiar to Goebbels’ words in 1933. Authoritarianism starts with book banning and burning. We all need to stand up and protest book banning before it is too late. That includes you!

    1. I assume, based on this comment, that you have not taken the time to look at some of the titles that are being banned from little children viewing in the public school library?

      I will give you just one title. I recommend you examine the book from cover to cover. It is called “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe.Do not read a comment about the criticism, look at the actual book. I am sure that most parents and grandparents would be clamoring to read it to their little ones. It is replete with explicit pornographic illustrations and encourages normalization of the underaged, vulnerable child into aberrant sexual activity. No child should be encouraged to engage in any form sexual activity. Period!

      The so called banned books are not works of literature, they (at least the ones I have seen) are part of a coordinated effort to indoctrinate little children who should otherwise be playing hopscotch or jump rope and making friends.

      I lived over a year in Mumbai and avoided certain areas. This article gives an intimate summary of what life is like in the world of child sex slavery and the sickness of pedophiles who pay huge sums to “break in” a child. What is even more shocking is this world is alive a well in our own country.

      This is not a game! This is a very serious matter. Every single citizen of this nation must ban together to protect our children. The consequences are enormous and once a child has been abused either physically or emotionally, they are forever changed.


      This material is not suitable for adults and certainly is never suitable for a child.

    2. Using your line of thought, it would be permissible to have an “adult section” of books that include erotic and/or pornographic materials available in elementary school libraries. I doubt if that is what you are proposing, but by staking this poorly worded claim against DeSantis’ policies, you display a lack of understanding of the concept of banning. DeSantis isn’t banning the publication of any book or the elimination of any book from the public marketplace. He’s only saying that there are age appropriate books, and those that are not age appropriate should not be permitted. Your argument smacks of similarity to a school board that refused to allow a parent to read excerpts of a book he found offensive in his child’s library, with the board stating that the words from that book would be inappropriate for a public meeting.

      1. Emy,
        You are correct. That is not what I would propose. I am, however, in shock at what is being foisted on our children. The public should know what is being taught and allowed in some classrooms, libraries and social media.

        “You’re Teaching My Child What?” By Miriam Grossman, M.D. is an eye opening book with a detailed view inside this question. She is a pediatric and adolescent psychiatrist with decades in the field sorting through this mess, especially what has been occurring in the past decade.

        The public should see and hear what our children exposed to in school and on social media.

  3. Dennis McIntyre, there are emails and Twitter posts from the leadership at Twitter that plainly state that the FBI requested censorship by Twitter and paid over three million dollars to see that it happened. The argument that one would have to work at Twitter to know what happened at Twitter is just plain stupid. You’ve done your good little soldier lock step duty for the day. Congratulations.

    1. Thinkitthrough: I am flattered. You appear to one of the few on this blog willing to try to confront me. But, as usual, you have fallen flat on your face!

      You claim “the FBI requested censorship by Twitter and paid three million dollars to see it happened”. Let’s start with the payment part. Yes, the FBI paid about $3.5 million according to an internal redacted Twitter email (2/10/21) from an unnamed employee to Twitter’s GC. That’s where your argument goes down hill.

      Under “The Stored Communications Act”, 18 USC 2703(d), the FBI has the authority to get stored communications from companies like Twitter. It usually requires a court order. And under the Act Twitter was entitled to be reimbursed for the costs to search and provide the requested information. Under the above section the FBI does not have the authority to request removal of any user accounts or posts. Nor is there any evidence the FBI did so. If you are so inclined you can get further info on this topic at FactCheck.org (2/6/23).

      Your problem is you are a gullible consumer of GOP and right-wing propaganda. Jim Jordan, the Washington Post (owned by Rupert Murdock and Prof. Turley have all been pushing the conspiracy theory that the Biden administration, through the FBI, have been censoring conservative critics. The FACTS don’t support that erroneous claim. But as a dutiful follower of right-wing conspiracy theories you took the bait–hook, line and sinker!

      But to give you the benefit of the doubt please provide copies of all the Twitter emails and other docs that prove your claim. Either put up or shut up! I am waiting………..

  4. So Dennis McIntyre, Taibbi makes us aware that the FBI and other government agencies forced Twitter and Facebook to ban people from voicing their opinions and you just think that it’s all hunky dory. We have known for a long time that you are in favor of centralized government control of all things and your post today provides further evidence of your support of a socialist state. What this is really is about is your being upset that your friends in high places have been exposed to be the totalitarians that you and they are. I know, you will tell us that you are just trying to protect Democracy. Somehow you can find it within yourself to speak in derision of Taibbi’s creditability. Surely you just mean it as a joke because a joke is what it is. You should rest assured that many people are laughing.

  5. Jonathan: I seriously doubt Matt Taibbi will be criminally charged for misspelling a word–unless it was intentionally. That said, Taibbi has lost any credibility he may have had as a journalist by signing up to try to help Elon Musk “prove” government agencies censored conservative critics. Despite all the hype the “Twitter Files” have not proved anything Musk and Taibbi have claimed. In your congressional testimony you admitted you did not yourself have access to the “Twitter Files”. As only a Twitter user that really doesn’t give you any particular expertise on the subject.

    What is more bizarre is that you think your credibility on the subject of government “censorship” is enhanced by the claim you are “someone who comes from a liberal Democratic family”. What does that have to do with anything? Whatever your family’s past party affiliation does not add to the credibility of your unproven claim of “the Democratic Party’s embrace of censorship…”. Besides, you turned your back on your family’s “liberal Democratic” leanings long ago when you embraced conservative causes and then went to work for Rupert Murdock.

    Apparently, you learned nothing from the Fox/Dominion settlement. Intentional lies have financial consequences. But you continue to work for an organization that makes money from spreading intentional lies and conspiracy theories. Do you think that enhances your credibility? If I were a respected legal scholar and academic, and I wanted to be treated seriously, I would have sent my resignation letter to Murdock the day after the settlement!

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