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RNC's 'legitimate political discourse' claim comes back to bite it

Tuesday's Jan. 6 hearing revealed the RNC was more involved in Trump's election schemes than we previously knew. That could — and should — mean legal trouble.


The Republican National Committee is treading into dangerous legal territory, a reality underscored by Tuesday’s House Jan. 6 committee hearing.

The hearing focused heavily on the victims of Trump’s attempt to force state election officials to illegally alter the 2020 results in his favor. But focusing on the victims meant focusing on the fake electors scheme they were instructed to follow, in which Trump’s campaign tried to use fake, pro-Trump Electoral College voters in place of states’ actual votes cast for Joe Biden. We learned the RNC was more intimately involved in that plot than we knew previously, and that could mean a world of trouble for the organization. 

Here’s RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel testifying that the RNC was “helping” Trump lawyer John Eastman with the scheme, which a federal judge has already suggested was part of a criminal plot

This revelation is ripe for more investigation by the Jan. 6 committee. RNC officials who played a role in this fake electors scheme could find themselves on the hook for aiding and abetting an illegal plot to interfere in the election or overthrow the government. And depending on how systematized this relationship was, the organization as a whole could be in trouble also. 

The Jan. 6 committee has provided ample evidence to show Trump had no reason to believe he’d actually won the election, and evidence showing the Trump campaign was well aware the fake electors scheme was illegal. I’ve previously written about the potential legal liability for people who echoed and fed those lies — and the RNC is high on that list. 

Learning what RNC officials knew about these false claims and half-baked strategies, and when they knew it, could be critical for determining whether any officials should face criminal or civil penalties.

But the prospects for the organization aren't good.

Publicly, the RNC has already supported the violence committed in the name of Trump's election lies. In February, the RNC voted to censure Republican Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois for serving on the Jan. 6 committee. At the time, the RNC called what happened on Jan. 6 “legitimate political discourse.”

Today, we know with more clarity what we knew on Jan. 6: The deadly riot certainly wasn’t discourse, and it certainly wasn’t legitimate. 

And the RNC clearly doesn’t want the committee digging into its involvement with Trump’s election schemes. Earlier this year, the RNC unsuccessfully tried to block the committee from accessing internal data and messages concerning the organization’s fundraising emails touting Trump election conspiracies.

An RNC attorney argued at the time: “How we try to win elections is our secret sauce. … That’s what I think the congressional committee truly wants.”

As it turns out, the "secret sauce" is… *reads label*... fascism. And the Jan. 6 committee is right to investigate the RNC’s role in doling it out. 

The House Jan. 6 committee is holding its fifth public hearing on Thursday, June 23 at 3 p.m. ET. Get expert analysis in real-time on our liveblog at