FCC Commissioner Mike O'Rielly. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Republican Federal Communications Commissioner Mike O'Rielly said he's unsure whether his agency has the authority to carry out President Trump's executive order targeting tech firms' legal protections.

Why it matters: Trump's order seeks to have the FCC craft regulations limiting the scope of legal immunity that online platforms have under federal law. All three commission Republicans would need to support such regulations for them to pass, as the FCC's two Democrats are certain to oppose them.

Details: In an interview Wednesday for C-SPAN's "The Communicators," O'Rielly told Axios he sympathizes with the president's claims that conservatives have been unfairly stifled online, but "what we do about that is a different story."

  • O'Rielly questioned whether Congress gave the FCC the power to regulate based on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which immunizes platforms from legal action over user-posted content and moderation decisions.
  • "I have deep reservations they provided any intentional authority for this matter, but I want to listen to people," O'Rielly said, later adding, "I do not believe it is the right of the agency to read into the statute authority that is not there."
  • The executive order directs the Commerce Department to petition the FCC to review the issue. Assuming it gets to that stage, O'Rielly wants the FCC to put the matter to the public for comment.

Context: O'Rielly has been nominated by the White House for another term on the commission. The Senate Commerce Committee has a hearing on his renomination scheduled for Tuesday.

  • FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has stayed relatively quiet on the executive order, while the third Republican on the commission, Brendan Carr, has been vocal in his support.

Go deeper...Scoop: White House taps Hawley to take aim at tech shield

Go deeper

Updated 15 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 p.m. ET: 18,614,542 — Total deaths: 702,330 — Total recoveries — 11,181,018Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 p.m. ET: 4,793,950 — Total deaths: 157,416 — Total recoveries: 1,528,979 — Total tests: 58,239,438Map.
  3. 2020: Joe Biden will no longer travel to Milwaukee for Democratic convention.
  4. Public health: Florida surpasses 500,000 confirmed casesModerna skirts disclosures of vaccine costs.
  5. Sports: The return of high school sports hangs in the balance — UConn becomes first FBS team to cancel football season.
  6. Education: Chicago Public Schools to begin school year fully remote.
Updated 25 mins ago - World

Beirut explosion: Death toll rises to 135, officials under house arrest

Photo: Anwar Amro/AFP via Getty Images

The death toll from Tuesday's explosion in Beirut, Lebanon has now surpassed 130, including at least one U.S. citizen, amid a search for answers as to why a huge store of ammonium nitrate was left unsecured near the city's port for nearly seven years.

What we know: The government says around 5,000 people are injured. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said current indications are that the massive explosion was accidental, despite President Trump's puzzling claim on Tuesday evening that it appeared to be a bomb attack.

Exclusive: Trump campaign seeks early September presidential debate

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Image

The Trump campaign is asking the Commission on Presidential Debates to move up the last presidential debate to the first week in September to get ahead of an expected surge in early voting.

Driving the news: President Trump's personal attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, made the request in a letter dated Wednesday and obtained by Axios.