Government & Politics

Hawley’s CPAC debut: a moment in the spotlight and a subpoena in Missouri lawsuit

Trump stops in mid-Missouri to campaign for Josh Hawley

Supporters of President Donald Trump came out to the Columbia Regional Airport for a "Make America Great Again" rally in Columbia, Mo., Thursday. Trump campaigned for Josh Hawley, candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri.
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Supporters of President Donald Trump came out to the Columbia Regional Airport for a "Make America Great Again" rally in Columbia, Mo., Thursday. Trump campaigned for Josh Hawley, candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri.

Sen. Josh Hawley capped a tumultuous week Friday with his debut appearance at the American Conservative Union’s CPAC conference— and receiving a subpoena as he left the stage.

Elad Gross, a Democratic candidate for attorney general who is suing Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s office, said on Twitter that the Missouri senator was served moments after he completed his appearance.

“We got him,” Gross said. “After more than two weeks of evading service, Senator Josh Hawley was personally served with the subpoena at CPAC.”

Gross said in an email that a process server confirmed Hawley had been served shortly after he left the stage at the annual conference, an event where rising Republican stars dating back to Ronald Reagan have laid groundwork for presidential campaigns.

Gross is seeking to depose Hawley about his handling of the Missouri Sunshine Law as the state’s attorney general leading up to his 2018 Senate election. Hawley, who is not a party to the lawsuit, is seeking to quash the subpoena.

“This is another political stunt by a political candidate,” said Kelli Ford, Hawley’s spokesperson. “The reality is that Mr. Gross has been evading a court date to discuss the matter.”

It was the end to a week where the 38-year-old freshman dominated headlines both in Missouri and in Washington.

He joined Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel on stage at the CPAC conference at the Gaylord National Harbor Hotel in Maryland for a discussion on how to rein in the tech industry, an issue that Hawley has championed since his time as Missouri attorney general.

Hawley said individual tech users should have the power to control their data on the basis of property rights. “If they want to get it back from big tech, they should get it back,” he said.

“By the time my kids are my age, these companies are going to know more about them than they’ll know themselves,” he said.

Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of NetChoice, a group that represents the tech industry, said in an email that platforms make their privacy rules clear in user agreements.

Facebook’s Terms say, ‘You own the content you create and share on Facebook and the other Facebook Products you use, and nothing in these Terms takes away the rights you have to your own content,’” Szabo said in an email.

“When customers choose to trade their information for services, whether discounts at a supermarket or access to free online services, conservatives should respect that agreement. This transaction is at the heart of property rights and contracts law.”

Hawley’s interview with Strassel came days after her publication printed a pair of editorials slamming Hawley for his initial reluctance to back President Donald Trump’s nominee for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Neomi Rao.

Hawley, who ended up supporting Rao in a Senate Judiciary Committee vote, brushed off the backlash in the days leading up to his CPAC appearance.

During the interview, Hawley called for changes in the Telecommunications Decency Act to prevent alleged censorship of conservative speech.

Strassel noted that some Libertarians have warned that changing the law will actually cause online platforms to crack down further on controversial speech. Hawley dismissed that concern and said the law could be changed to prevent viewpoint discrimination.

His interview followed a speech from Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin, who asked those in the crowd who have been banned by Twitter and other online platforms to stand up.

Laura Loomer, a far right activist and conspiracy theorist who has been banned from Twitter for anti-Muslim rhetoric, waved her hands at Malkin from the media area.

Loomer is a former employee of Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe, a conservative provocateur who was listed as appearing on a panel with Hawley on the official CPAC schedule for CPAC distributed at the event.

CPAC organizers said earlier in the week this was a mistake.

Instead, Hawley took the stage for a one-on-one interview with Strassel. O’Keefe took the stage later for an interview with CPAC spokesman Ian Walters instead of Strassel.

O’Keefe’s organization planted a fake intern with Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill’s campaign and released damaging videos less than a month before her general election showdown with Hawley.

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Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.


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