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Senate Republicans demand answers from Mayorkas on scope of disinformation board, 'misleading' testimony

FOX News logo FOX News 6/14/2022 Kelly Laco
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EXCLUSIVE: Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee are demanding answers from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, alleging that he misled the committee regarding the "nature and scope" of the agency's controversial disinformation board.

Ranking Member Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, is leading colleagues in requesting that Chairman Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., hold a hearing with Mayorkas regarding his "misleading testimony" before the committee on May 4 on the department's Disinformation Governance Board.

The disclosure of the board ignited a wave of public backlash, forcing the DHS to put the board on pause and its appointed leader, Nina Jankowicz, to resign.

Last week, Fox News Digital first reported on internal DHS documents obtained by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., provided through a whistleblower "that illustrate how the DGB was designed to exert a powerful influence over the government’s efforts to crack down on disinformation in areas where there are ‘clear, objective facts.’" 

These purported documents, the senators say, further illustrate that DHS was not only focused on foreign disinformation but also on domestic issues like the validity of elections, COVID-19 vaccines and the efficacy of wearing masks. 

GRASSLEY, HAWLEY PRESS DHS FOR MORE DETAILS ON DISINFO BOARD AFTER WHISTLEBLOWER PROVIDES DOCS

The lawmakers state that the documents obtained by Grassley and Hawley directly contradict Mayorkas' testimony on the nature and scope of the board and DHS must come back to the Hill in order to "provide the oversight and transparency the American public deserve."

"We write to request you convene a hearing with Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas as soon as possible to answer critical questions about apparently misleading testimony before the Committee on May 4 on the Department of Homeland Security Disinformation Governance Board (the Board)," the senators write in the letter to Peters, first obtained by Fox News Digital.

They cite examples of contradictions, including that Mayorkas testified on May 4 that the board "has not yet begun its work." 

"Yet the documents indicate the Secretary had stood up the Board on February 24, 2022—more than two months earlier. The Board’s charter, signed by the Secretary, required the Board meet ‘regularly’ and "no less than once per quarter,'" the senators reveal.

In addition, the lawmakers reference Mayorkas' response to a question from a reporter asking if American citizens would be monitored by the board. The secretary responded "No," also elaborating that "We at the Department of Homeland Security don’t monitor American citizens" and detailing that the board would only concentrate of "foreign threats."

The Republicans point out the contradiction with talking points prepared by the board's then-director.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas has faced intense scrutiny over his handling of the disinformation board. AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana © AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas has faced intense scrutiny over his handling of the disinformation board. AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

"Yet talking points prepared by Ms. Jankowicz, the Board’s then–Executive Director appear to show that the Department does in fact monitor American citizens and that the Board’s work is concentrated on domestic threats. She writes that the Board’s initial work plan includes working with ‘industry on countering MDM [mis-, dis-, or mal-information] related to domestic violent extremism’ further noting that the Department recently established a ‘domestic terrorism branch’ within the Department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis—the Department’s office responsible for collecting and analyzing intelligence."

They conclude: "The American public deserves transparency and honest answers to important questions about the true nature and purpose of the Disinformation Governance Board and it is clear that Secretary Mayorkas has not provided them—to the public or this Committee. Therefore, we request you hold a hearing with Secretary Mayorkas and join us in insisting that all records related to the Board be provided to the Committee prior to the hearing."

DHS did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital's request for comment.

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