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RNC sues Jan 6. committee over subpoena of data from software vendor Salesforce

The scene outside the Capitol the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

The Republican National Committee has filed a lawsuit against the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, seeking to block the congressional panel’s subpoena of data from Salesforce, an RNC software vendor.

According to a copy of the complaint, the Jan. 6 committee issued a subpoena to Salesforce on Feb. 23, seeking records on performance metrics and analytics related to email campaigns by or on behalf of President Donald Trump, his presidential campaign and the RNC. In its subpoena, the Jan. 6 committee said it needed the Salesforce data to investigate whether and how Trump and the RNC used the software vendor’s platform to disseminate false statements about the 2020 election, citing evidence that many rioters were motivated by those false claims.

The RNC’s lawsuit, filed Wednesday, argues that such a request goes beyond the scope of the congressional committee’s subpoena power. The bipartisan House panel is investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob trying to stop the confirmation of Joe Biden’s electoral college win, an attack that resulted in the deaths of one police officer and four other people and injured about 140 members of law enforcement.

The RNC’s complaint also names House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Jan. 6 committee’s individual members. It accuses them of “attempting to kneecap the RNC for political gain while trampling on free speech and freedom of political association” by requesting the Salesforce data.

“The RNC is challenging this unconstitutional overreach so that one of America’s two major political parties may not use the force of government to unlawfully seize the private and sensitive information of the other,” RNC chief counsel Justin Riemer said in a statement.

Texting through an insurrection (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: The Washington Post/The Washington Post)

According to the complaint, Salesforce was required to turn the subpoenaed documents over to the committee by Wednesday and appear for a deposition on March 16. A Salesforce representative said Thursday the company was not commenting on the lawsuit.

The RNC’s complaint argues that the Salesforce subpoena seeks “unquestionably political information of the RNC” that is not limited to Jan. 6 and that “by any measure … exceeds the scope of Congress’ limited subpoena power.”

“The RNC had nothing to do with the violence that occurred at the Capitol and has repeatedly condemned it,” the RNC said in a statement. “In fact, the RNC was a target of violence and had a bomb placed outside of RNC headquarters, which put our staff in immediate danger and is something the committee has yet to investigate.”

Select committee spokesman Tim Mulvey said the subpoena of Salesforce had “absolutely nothing to do with getting the private information of voters or donors” but rather was issued to investigate how claims about a stolen election motivated pro-Trump rioters to storm the Capitol.

Mulvey noted that between November 2020 and Jan. 6, 2021, both the Trump campaign and the RNC solicited donations by pushing false claims that the election was tainted by widespread fraud.

“These emails encouraged supporters to put pressure on Congress to keep President Trump in power,” Mulvey said. “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.”

Trump has baselessly claimed for more than a year that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, even though there has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud affecting the election’s outcome.

The House select committee investigating the attempted insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 faces an uphill battle with former Trump administration officials. (Video: Blair Guild/The Washington Post)

The Jan. 6 committee has ramped up its investigation in recent months, seeking voluntary cooperation from — and issuing subpoenas to — several high-profile members of Trump’s orbit, including members of his former legal team, Fox News host Sean Hannity and Ivanka Trump, the former president’s elder daughter and White House adviser.

The committee has also simultaneously been scrutinizing the money that Trump and his allies raised and spent on false claims that the election was stolen.

“People were swindled financially and psychologically,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), a member of the select committee, said this week. “People’s convictions were cynically exploited for Trump’s gain.”