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Judge smacks down the RNC’s case against the Jan. 6 committee

Republicans have spent months arguing that the Jan. 6 committee’s investigation isn’t legitimate. Even Trump-appointed judges aren’t buying the claim.


It’s not exactly surprising that the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has taken an interest in the Republican National Committee. After all, as my MSNBC colleague Ja’han Jones explained in March, the RNC sent a series of emails to the party’s base after Donald Trump’s defeat, urging Republican supporters to reject the results of the 2020 election.

After the bipartisan congressional panel subpoenaed the RNC, the party sued the committee. Last night, as Politico reported, a federal district court rejected the RNC’s arguments in no uncertain terms.

In a landmark ruling rejecting an RNC lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge Tim Kelly said the select committee had demonstrated its need for the party’s data on its fundraising emails between Nov. 3, 2020, and Jan. 6, 2021 — when the RNC and Trump campaign sent supporters messages falsely suggesting the election was stolen. The committee contends those emails helped sow the seeds of the violence that erupted on Jan. 6.

The report added that the court ruling “is a major victory for the select committee and could open the doors to reams of internal RNC data held by Salesforce, a third-party vendor that the RNC used to run email fundraising campaigns and analyses.”

In his 53-page ruling, Kelly wrote, “[T]he 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.”

Though it shouldn’t matter, let’s note for context that Kelly was chosen for the federal bench by Donald Trump. He’s also a Federalist Society member who once worked as a Republican staffer in the Senate. It’ll be tough for the right to dismiss the ruling as the handiwork of a liberal judge.

But even more important was the question at the heart of the lawsuit: Is the Jan. 6 committee a legitimate investigatory panel with subpoena power? The RNC’s lawsuit said it’s not; the Trump-appointed judge came to the opposite conclusion. The Politico report added:

In his ruling, Kelly swept aside a host of arguments lodged by the RNC against the Jan. 6 select committee, many of which have been made in dozens of lawsuits filed by Trump allies seeking to frustrate the committee’s subpoenas. His ruling could resonate in all of those ongoing legal battles.

As far as the conservative judge was concerned, the panel was created through a legitimate legislative process, it’s properly constituted with members from both parties, and its subpoenas have a “valid legislative purpose.”

For those keeping score, Kelly is not the first federal judge to rule that the Jan. 6 committee is a legally valid panel conducting a legally valid investigation.

And for Republicans, that’s a problem. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has insisted, for example, “This committee is not conducting a legitimate investigation.” Much of his party has spent months making the same case.

But the more Republicans make this pitch in court, the more it fails.