House Oversight Committee threatens to subpoena DOJ for TikTok and Al Jazeera documents

House Oversight Committee Republicans are threatening to subpoena the Justice Department if it does not willingly turn over documents related to any investigations of TikTok and Al Jazeera under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

In a new letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland sent on Monday, Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) wrote that the DOJ has “refused” to provide documentation on any FARA-related investigations into the two companies for eight weeks since it last sent its request on Feb. 8.

Comer pointed to a memorandum of understanding between TikTok and the Qatari Ministry of Communications signed in late February that seeks to “expand Qatar’s digital footprint” and will allow both organizations to operate in the United States without “proper transparency” in the U.S.

“The evidence that TikTok and Al Jazeera are operating at the behest of foreign principals
is substantial, but they continue to operate without registration,” Comer wrote. “The Department has not been responsive to the Committee’s inquiries regarding both Al Jazeera and TikTok’s internal status relating to FARA registration.”

“The Department’s lack of transparency continues to raise questions about its commitment to the objective enforcement of FARA,” he added.

House Republicans are giving the DOJ until April 15 to provide the requested document. Otherwise, the committee will consider subpoenas to force production.

Comer’s letter comes nearly a month after the House voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation that would force TikTok to separate from its parent company, ByteDance, or otherwise face a possible ban in the U.S. In the week leading up to the vote, TikTok had presented the legislation as a “complete ban” and encouraged users to call their members and protest the measure.

“The week prior, when the bill was introduced, TikTok blatantly engaged in ‘political
activities’ without registering under FARA, seemingly in violation of the law,” Comer wrote.

“TikTok’s content has been recognized as advancing a global pro-CCP agenda, influencing Americans at the behest of the CCP and constituting ‘political activities’ under FARA,” the chairman added.

Al Jazeera, a foreign news organization based in Qatar, has pushed back against Republican efforts in the past to force the network to register as a foreign agent, claiming that it is not directed or controlled by the Qatari government. However, Comer claimed in his letter on Monday that Al Jazeera continues to skirt FARA obligations “even though its entities are funded by and act on behalf of the Qatari government.”

“Al Jazeera journalists are increasingly being linked to Hamas-backed attacks, and Qatar has reportedly hosted a Hamas headquarters in Doha, paying the terrorist group $30 million per month since 2018,” the Kentucky Republican wrote, citing an article from Commentary Magazine.

Al Jazeera has faced increased scrutiny since the escalation of the war between Hamas and Israel in Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly seeking to “act immediately” and block the network, which he calls a “terrorist channel,” from broadcasting in Israel following a national security law passed by the Israeli parliament.

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The White House has pushed back against Israel’s pledge to block Al Jazeera, citing the “concerning” move as a detriment to the freedom of the press. In October last year, shortly after the Oct. 7 attacks perpetrated by Hamas against Israel, Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked the Qatari prime minister to tone down Al Jazeera’s rhetoric about the war in Gaza, per Axios.

The Washington Examiner reached out to Al Jazeera, the Justice Department, and TikTok for comment.

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