Sen. Ted Cruz calls for criminal investigation of Twitter over alleged sanction violations

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    U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) takes questions from reporters on January 29, 2020 in Washington, DC.

    Samuel Corum | Getty Images

    Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called on the Treasury and Justice departments to launch a criminal investigation into Twitter for alleged violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran. 

    In a letter on Friday to Attorney General William Barr and Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, Cruz centered on the accounts of Ali Khamenei, supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. 

    Twitter allows top Iranian leaders to have accounts on its platform, which Cruz said violates sanctions in place to prevent providing services or goods to that nation’s officials. Twitter is blocked in Iran. 

    “The cohesion and legitimacy of our laws rest on their equal application to all citizens and entities, no matter how large or how powerful,” Cruz wrote. “The Department of Treasury and the Department of Justice should investigate what appears to be Twitter’s blatant and willful violation of IEEPA and E.O. 13876 by providing services to Khamenei, Zarif, and other designated Iranian entities, and, to the extent appropriate, enforce any violation through sanctions and by seeking civil and criminal penalties.”

    IEEPA and E.O. 13876 refer to the International Emergency and Economic Powers Act and Executive Order 13876, which imposes sanctions, respectively.

    Axios first reported news of the letter. 

    Cruz called on Twitter to revoke the leaders’ access in early February, though the company said it was not violating sanctions.

    Twitter declined to comment on Friday’s letter. 

    The call to investigate Twitter comes against the backdrop of an already tense week between the White House and Twitter. Twitter fact-checked misleading claims made by President Donald Trump on Tuesday regarding mail-in voting. The company also placed a “public interest notice” on a tweet from Trump, later copied by the White House, saying it violated its rules regarding the glorifying of violence.

    The White House later pushed back on Twitter by pointing out that Khamenei has an account, claiming Twitter “has determined that it will allow terrorists, dictators, and foreign propagandists to abuse its platform.”

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