By Holmes Lybrand, Annie Grayer and Katelyn Polantz, CNN
The Republican National Committee on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection, revealing a recent effort by House investigators to unearth information about how the party and the Trump campaign used an email software to spread misinformation about the 2020 election and fuel violence that led to the US Capitol attack.
The lawsuit seeks to stop a subpoena for donor and supporter data from the software company Salesforce, and its public disclosure comes on the same day RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel met with the committee. The Trump campaign and Trump’s PAC in 2020 also used the software, according to the subpoena.
The House select committee issued the Salesforce subpoena on February 23, “seeking information from Salesforce regarding whether and how the Trump campaign used Salesforce’s platform to disseminate false statements about the 2020 election in the weeks leading up to the January 6th attack,” the subpoena states.
While the RNC’s court filing says the subpoena is too broad in scope and would cover information on “vast numbers” of donors and volunteers stored through the service, the committee says the subpoena is not about collecting information on private donors but about understanding how false claims about the election being stolen fueled Trump supporters to attack the Capitol.
Though the committee has faced dozens of lawsuits over subpoenas for the phone records of those close to former President Donald Trump and individuals involved in the events around that day, this may be the most significant lawsuit yet to challenge the subpoenas — with the national party now opposed in court to the House’s pursuits.
According to the lawsuit, the subpoena is seeking information from the company that “would give the Select Committee unprecedented access to the RNC’s internal political strategies and to private, personal information regarding its supporters.”
The subpoena directed Salesforce to hand over the requested documents by March 9 and to appear for depositions regarding the documents a week later, the RNC’s court filing says.
“It seeks information on vast numbers of Republican donors, volunteers, supporters, and coalition members,” the filing says. “All of this information is unquestionably political information of the RNC, without limitation to the events of January 6, and with no apparent nexus to any potential legislative activity. By any measure, the Salesforce Subpoena exceeds the scope of Congress’ limited subpoena power.”
In the filing, the RNC says the subpoena violates the Constitution and “would only serve to chill the RNC’s and its supporters’ First Amendment rights, while providing their political opponents with an all-access pass to confidential RNC political strategies and the personal information of millions of its supporters.”
In a statement issued Wednesday evening, the committee said the purpose of the subpoena was to learn more about the services used by Trump and the Republican National Committee that amplified false and inflammatory messages about the 2020 election being stolen in the lead up to the attack on the Capitol.
“Between Election Day 2020 and January 6th, the RNC and the Trump campaign solicited donations by pushing false claims that the election was tainted by widespread fraud,” select committee spokesperson Tim Mulvey said in announcing the subpoena letter.
“The Select Committee issued a subpoena to an email fundraising vendor in order to help investigators understand the impact of false, inflammatory messages in the weeks before January 6th, the flow of funds, and whether contributions were actually directed to the purpose indicated. This action has absolutely nothing to do with getting the private information of voters or donors,” Mulvey added.
The committee points to fundraising emails sent to Trump supporters that directly precede the violent attack on the Capitol.
On January 6, 2021, at 1:24 p.m. for example, the panel cites an email from the Trump campaign stating that “TODAY will be a historic day in our Nation’s history” and encouraging people to donate to “DEFEND the integrity of this Election.”
The breach of the gates of the Capitol occurred less than 30 minutes later.
In its subpoena letter, the panel cites how after the violent attack on the Capitol, Salesforce stated that “there remains a risk of politically incited violence across the country.” The panel also references that in light of the risk, Salesforce stated, “The Republican National Committee has been a long-standing customer, predating the [Trump] Administration, and we have taken action to prevent its use of our services in any way that could lead to violence.”
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