Parler’s ownership offer to Trump and possible Russian ties probed by Congress
A congressional oversight committee is investigating whether Parler has financial ties to Russian entities, citing reports that the right-wing social network “allowed Russian disinformation to flourish” before the election and hosted calls for violence before a Trump-incited mob stormed the Capitol on January 6. The committee’s chairwoman sent a letter to Parler COO Jeffrey Wernick today, demanding documents on Parler’s ownership, potential ties to Russian individuals or entities, and reported negotiations between Parler and the Trump Organization.
“Parler reportedly allowed Russian disinformation to flourish on its platform prior to the November 2020 election, facilitating Russia’s campaign to sow chaos in the American electorate,” US Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, wrote in the letter to Wernick. “Although similar disinformation was removed by other social media platforms, it was allowed to remain on Parler. When US hosting services cut ties with Parler for repeatedly failing to moderate content advocating violence, Parler re-emerged on a Russian hosting service, DDos-Guard, which has ties to the Russian government and counts the Russian Ministry of Defense as one of its clients.”
Maloney also cited a BuzzFeed report that said, “The Trump Organization negotiated on behalf of then-president Donald Trump to make Parler his primary social network, but it had a condition: an ownership stake in return for joining.” Parler offered Trump’s company a 40 percent ownership stake but negotiations “were ultimately derailed by the events of January 6,” the report said.
“These negotiations reportedly occurred while President Trump was still in office, which experts have warned raise legal concerns regarding anti-bribery laws,” Maloney wrote.
Parler users called for “civil war”
In the weeks before January 6, “Parler users actively took to the platform to call for violence and even ‘civil war,'” Maloney wrote. She also described an increase in calls for violence on Parler just after Trump spoke at a rally on January 6, before his supporters stormed the Capitol.
“A recent analysis by USA Today shows a strong connection between President Trump’s speech at the January 6 rally and a significant uptick in calls for violence on Parler,” Maloney wrote to Wernick. “Immediately after President Trump exhorted his supporters to ‘show strength’ during his speech, the term ‘civil war’ surged into one of the top five most frequently used terms on Parler. One user wrote, ‘Be men fight back and f— them up. Civil war is upon us.'”
Maloney noted that “numerous Parler users have been arrested and charged for their roles” in the January 6 mob, “with the Department of Justice citing in several instances the threats that individuals made through Parler in the days leading up to and following the attack.”
Parler co-founder and CEO John Matze was recently fired.
Seeking Parler ownership info
Urging Parler to comply with her request for documents, Maloney pointed to the Oversight Committee’s “broad authority to investigate ‘any matter’ at ‘any time’ under House Rule X.” Maloney also referred to legislation she filed to help law enforcement agencies obtain “ownership information for opaque corporate entities as part of their investigations into the assault on the Capitol on January 6. Individuals with ties to the January 6 assault should not—and must not—be allowed to hide behind the veil of anonymity provided by shell companies.”
Maloney asked Wernick to respond by February 22 with the following documents:
- A capitalization table showing individuals and entities with direct or indirect ownership interests in Parler, and a shareholder register maintained by you or any third-party on your behalf;
- A list of all individuals and entities who have or had any control over Parler;
- A list of Parler’s creditors which hold or held a debt of at least $10,000, including the type of debt funding, amount owed, maturity, and applicable interest rate;
- All agreements, including but not limited to consulting, service, or business agreements, that Parler has with any Russian individual or entity;
- All documents and communications referring or relating to proposed or completed financing, gifts, or investment in Parler directly or indirectly by any Russian individual or entity; and
- All documents and communications referring to [or] relating to a proposal to provide President Donald Trump with an ownership stake in Parler.
We contacted Parler about Maloney’s letter today and will update this article if we get a response. Parler, which was cut off by Amazon Web Services on January 10, remains online only as a static webpage with a few posts and a note about “technical difficulties.”