The Republican National Committee must turn over internal communications that were sent to supporters in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 riot after a federal judge rejected its lawsuit seeking to block access.
As part of the ruling issued late Sunday night, U.S. District Court Judge Tim Kelly sided with the Jan. 6 House committee, arguing the data were necessary for lawmakers to understand how fundraising emails sent to Trump supporters may have instilled violence that led to the Capitol attack.
“The Select Committee seeks reasonably relevant information from a narrow window during which the RNC sent emails promoting claims that the presidential election was fraudulent or stolen,” Kelly wrote in the 53-page ruling. “The material being demanded is not overbroad because even information about those email campaigns the RNC argues are irrelevant will provide helpful ‘context’ that will ‘materially aid’ the Select Committee.”
The House select committee had subpoenaed Salesforce, a third-party platform used by the RNC to send campaign emails, to produce internal records that showed how the RNC profited from fundraising off claims that the 2020 election was stolen. The subpoena sought data from ads sent between Nov. 3, 2020, and Jan. 6, 2021, with lawmakers arguing the emails helped lead to the violence at the Capitol riot.
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The RNC sued the committee on March 9 in an effort to block the subpoena, arguing the request was excessively broad and would undermine strategic advantages the Republican Party had spent years establishing. It also argued that handing over the data would give Democrats access to sensitive information on commission donors.
“While the RNC strongly disagrees with this ruling, our lawsuit compelled Nancy Pelosi's Jan. 6 committee to dramatically narrow the subpoena's scope. Nancy Pelosi's attempted seizure of her political opponents' campaign strategy cannot be allowed to stand, and we appreciate Judge Kelly continuing to temporarily block the subpoena," RNC Chief Counsel Matt Raymer told the Washington Examiner. "The RNC will continue to fight for the constitutional rights of Republicans across the country and will appeal this decision.”
However, Kelly rejected those arguments as speculative, maintaining that access to the documents outweighed any possible competitive disadvantage.
“Nothing suggests that the Select Committee is demanding, or that Salesforce is preparing to produce, internal RNC memoranda laying out its digital strategy,” he ruled. “Obviously, information that shows which email campaigns attracted more attention, and which attracted less, has some strategic value.”
The subpoena requires the RNC to produce email documents that falsely suggested the election was stolen and insisted that “Congress needed to be pressured to overturn the results to keep Trump in power,” court filings said. These emails could help explain how several people who were charged with crimes in connection to the Capitol attack were motivated by “false claims about the election,” the committee argued.
Salesforce raised concerns in the days following the Jan. 6 attack, noting some of the fundraising campaigns sent through its system may have played a role in instilling unrest in Trump supporters — eventually leading to violence on Jan. 6, 2021. As a result, the committee has also requested the company’s data analysis that led to these concerns.
The decision could prove to be a landmark ruling used to dismiss several other lawsuits seeking to block subpoenas from the Jan. 6 commission, including arguments that the committee is improperly managed because there are no members appointed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
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“The House views the Select Committee to be duly constituted and empowered to act … even though the Select Committee has only nine members,” Kelly wrote. “This understanding is reflected by the House’s adoption of the Select Committee’s recommendations to find witnesses in contempt of Congress for their refusals to comply with Select Committee subpoenas.”
The RNC has until May 5 to appeal Kelly’s ruling.