Democrats reject GOP inquiry into DHS ‘disinformation’ board

Democrats say Congress already knows everything there is to know about the now-defunct board

House Democrats on Wednesday rejected a Republican attempt to investigate the establishment of the controversial "Disinformation Governance Board" at the Department of Homeland Security.

The board was created to fight online disinformation that DHS said could affect the 2022 midterm elections. Backlash against the idea grew more intense after it was learned that DHS hired Nina Jankowicz as the board’s executive director. 

Jankowicz supported the now-debunked theory that Donald Trump colluded with Russia to win the White House in 2016 and called the Hunter Biden laptop story "disinformation."

DHS terminated the Disinformation Governance Board in August, but House Republicans say more information is needed about how the board was created.

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Nina Jankowicz stepped down as executive director of the Disinformation Governance Board, which was paused and later eliminated.

Nina Jankowicz stepped down as executive director of the Disinformation Governance Board, which was paused and later eliminated. (@wiczipedia Twitter account)

Over the summer, Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., proposed a resolution requiring DHS to send to the House all records and documents that describe how DHS and the White House may have communicated with each other about the board.

The resolution also asked for all information related to a National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin released on Feb. 7. That bulletin said the U.S. remains in a "heightened threat environment fueled by several factors, including an online environment filled with false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories." It said those narratives are meant to "sow discord and undermine public trust in government institutions to encourage unrest."

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But, in a Wednesday morning meeting of the House Homeland Security Committee, Democrats opposed the resolution and voted to adversely report it to the House over the objections of Republican members, effectively recommending a "no" vote on the resolution if it comes up on the House floor.

During committee debate, chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., argued the resolution is "completely unnecessary" because DHS has already eliminated the disinformation board. Thompson added that DHS was transparent about the board and met with several committees about it before pulling the plug on the idea.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas testifies before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee during a hearing on the Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request for the Department of Homeland Security on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 27, 2022.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas testifies before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee during a hearing on the Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request for the Department of Homeland Security on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Thompson also indicated he was sympathetic to the broader goal DHS was trying to achieve with the board.

"DHS has a long-standing, well-established and critical role in combatting disinformation," Thompson said. "When it comes to perfecting our homeland, we all have an interest in ensuring that the public has access to the information they need to keep their communities safe."

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Republicans argued the board was a serious misstep by the Biden administration to impose government control over the information that Americans can access.

"The botched rollout of this board appeared to be… an attempt by the Department of Homeland Security to forge a political tool headed by a nonpartisan operative to dictate the government’s definition of truth to the American people," said Rep. John Katko of New York, the top Republican on the committee.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. chairman of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, talks with the media after a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 16, 2022.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. chairman of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, talks with the media after a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

"The idea of a disinformation governance board within the Department of Homeland Security rightly chills the spines of Americans across our great nation," added Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss. "This is a blatant overreach of the Biden administration to suppress freedom of speech and dictate what is truth and what is fact."

The committee vote against the resolution doesn’t necessarily kill it in the House because it is a resolution of inquiry, and those can still be called up on the House floor even after an adverse committee vote. But the vote Wednesday shows Democrats are highly likely to vote it down if it is taken up on the floor.

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Also Wednesday, the committee adversely reported another resolution directing the president and DHS to give Congress all information about data it has collected about illegal entry across the southern U.S. border, including the number and type of all illegal entries.

The party-line vote was another recommendation from the Democratic-led committee to oppose the resolution on the House floor.