Although DHS Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas gave his testimony in May claiming that the Disinformation Governing Council had not yet met, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) uncovered DHS records indicating that the board’s “Steering Group” had met on many occasions prior to that.
Hawley grilled Mayorkas during his May 4 appearance before the Homeland Security as well as the Government Relations Committee about the Disinformation Governing Board and the selection of Nina Jankowicz as their executive director.
“I’m sure there are records related to this board – meeting minutes, communications concerning who will serve on the board. Will you make those available to this committee?” Hawley inquired.
“There is not yet – this governance…” Mayorkas started speaking before Hawley pushed him.
“Wait a second. Are there no meetings for this board? You haven’t made any records?” he inquired.
“It hasn’t started yet,” Mayorkas explained.
“You hired her; you obviously considered hiring her,” Hawley asserted.
“The board hasn’t yet met,” claimed the DHS secretary.
Hawley persisted in pressing him until Mayorkas agreed to turn over records to the committee. Six months after finally getting the heavily redacted records, Hawley made them public in a news release on Wednesday. DHS employees’ email correspondence demonstrates that the Disinformation Governance Board Steering Committee “convened” many times beginning in February, two months prior to Mayorkas’ testimony. In light of the records, Hawley wrote Mayorkas a letter on Wednesday, calling his statement “untrue.”
According to the records, Samantha Vinograd, the DHS’s assistant secretary for Antiterrorism and Threat Prevention, emailed Richard Silvers and Kelli Ann Burriesc – the DHS’s undersecretary as well as deputy undersecretary for the Headquarters of Strategy, Policy, and Plans, respectively – on February 4 about a Disinformation Governance Board Steering Group session that day.
Furthermore, a news statement issued on May 2 referred to the board as a “working group” with “no operational power or capabilities.” Hawley fought back against this classification in his letter to Mayorkas, citing Jankowicz’s statements from a March 25 message to colleagues.
“Despite your representations to the contrary,” Hawley wrote, “the board seemed to have operating authorities: Ms. Jankowicz stated that it was the job of Disinformation Board members to “guarantee that their respective parts adopt, execute, and obey Board decisions.”
Later, he chastised Mayorkas for the severe redactions and asked for unredacted copies of the records, as well as others relevant to other review requests:
“The records you sent over to my office six months after I asked for them are so highly redacted that the majority of them are unintelligible.”
“Please send unredacted versions of any papers provided to Congress in addition to all documents responsive to my review requests dated April 28, May 23, July 7, July 13, September 21, and November 14 so that Congress can pursue remedial legislation.”
Jankowicz withdrew from the board in May after receiving harsh criticism from journalists that cited “a plethora of problematic opinions on free expression and government control, in addition to cringeworthy TikTok videos,” according to Breitbart News.
Following the recommendation of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, the DHS terminated the board on August 24.