On the afternoon of Jan. 6, 2021, about a half-hour before rioters breached the U.S. Capitol, tens of millions of emails went out from Donald Trump’s reelection campaign asking supporters to “step up right now” to defend against election fraud.
The emails went out with a stamp of approval from the Republican National Committee (RNC) and were disseminated to the masses through a company now owned by software giant Salesforce.
Last month, the Jan. 6 committee hit Salesforce with a subpoena. It asked the company to hand over its information or records relevant to how it used its platform to “disseminate false statements about the 2020 election in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 attack,” committee chairman Bennie Thompson wrote on Feb. 23.
The demand was issued without an announcement by the committee. Its existence only came to the surface when the RNC opted to sue to stop the subpoena on Wednesday—the same day as Salesforce’s deadline to cooperate with Congress.
Salesforce Subpoena From Jan. 6 Probe by Daily Kos on Scribd
In their lawsuit, the RNC lashed out, slamming the request as unconstitutional and a violation of the First Amendment that could spur “reprisals and harassment” on the RNC’s millions of supporters.
The RNC insists the subpoena would serve as “an all-access pass” to the committee’s review of confidential RNC political strategies, fundraising appeals, and responses, volunteers, coalition members, and more, their lawyers argued in the 29-page filing.
RNC v. Jan 6 Cmte by Daily Kos on Scribd
In a statement Wednesday night, a spokesman for the committee, Tim Mulvey, responded to the lawsuit.
“The Select Committee is investigating a violent attack on the Capitol and an attempt to overturn the 2020 Election. Between Election Day 2020 and Jan. 6, the RNC and the Trump campaign 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 subpoena was issued so investigators could understand “the impact of false, inflammatory messages in the weeks before Jan. 6, the flow of funds and whether contributions were actually directed to the purpose indicated,” he said.
Mulvey then reiterated: “This action has absolutely nothing to do with getting the private information of voters or donors.”
As the Department of Justice has made over 700 arrests related to Jan. 6 and continues its work unabated, the committee noted in its subpoena letter to Salesforce that evidence in those cases has time and again shown how those who attacked the Capitol were motivated by the false claims Trump made and the RNC platformed.
”Further, in the aftermath of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, Salesforce acknowledged that there ‘remains a risk of politically incited violence across the country,” Thompson wrote last month. “In light of that risk, Salesforce stated ‘The Republican National Committee has been a longstanding 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.”
On the same day that the RNC sued, the Washington Post reported that RNC chair Ronna McDaniel appeared before the Jan. 6 committee.
It is unclear if McDaniel appeared voluntarily and she did not immediately return a request for comment.
Historically, the committee will not comment on the nature of witness appearances.
In the end, getting the information from Salesforce could help the committee piece together something essential to its probe: The records could indicate whether those individuals spewing claims of election fraud in 2020 were doing so—knowing all the while that the “fraud” wasn’t real.
Salesforce did not return a request for comment Thursday but according to Axios, a source familiar with the situation “proactively informed” the RNC that the subpoena was issued.
The Jan. 6 committee has divided its huge workload into a variety of subcategories, one of which is focused on the money train that kept Trump’s election fraud lies running before coalescing into the insurrection.
In an interview with the Washington Post, panel member Rep. Stephanie Murphy said the scrutiny was obligatory, in part, because “people were swindled financially and psychologically.”
“People’s convictions were cynically exploited for Trump’s gain,” Murphy said.
Following the money, according to the committee, could also lead to determinations about whether federal wire fraud laws were broken when the RNC fundraised off the blatant lie that the election was stolen.
Former Treasury Department and Justice Department prosecutor Amanda Wick is leading the committee’s review of the money trail.