Kelly issued an injunction to allow the RNC to appeal his decision before May 5th.
The decision is a major victory for the select committee and could open the door to piles of internal RNC data contained by Salesforce, a third-party vendor that RNC used to run email fundraising campaigns and analytics. The select committee sued Salesforce for the minutes in February, and the RNC filed shortly after the lawsuit to prevent Salesforce from complying.
In a letter accompanying the subpoena, the select committee noted that Salesforce raised concerns within days of the January 6 attack on the Capitol that some of the fundraising campaigns that the RNC and the Trump campaign were running through its systems, may have played a role in inciting the unrest that led to violence on the Capitol. The select committee seeks Salesforce records that support the company’s analysis of these fundraising efforts, as well as data on how many RNC supporters saw these messages and which RNC employees logged on to Salesforce’s system to deliver them.
The RNC argued that a legal victory for the select committee could give Democrats access to the sensitive secrets of their political rivals and shed light on internal RNC digital strategies that the party has spent years formulating. That argument was endorsed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which presented its own brief comparison of the select committee’s subpoena to Watergate.
But Kelly rejected the idea that sensitive GOP data was at risk, described it as “speculative” and hinted at any competitive disadvantage as the results pale in comparison to the committee’s legitimate need for the documents in question.
“There is no indication that the Select Committee requires, or that Salesforce is preparing to produce, internal RNC memoranda outlining its digital strategy,” Kelly stated. “It is clear that information that shows which e-mail campaigns attracted more attention and which ones attracted less, has a certain strategic value. But in this case, the competitive damage that the RNC may suffer from revealing the current material is too ‘logically subdued’ and ‘speculative’ to defeat the weighty interests of the selected committee. “
Kelly stated that the select committee had only tailored its request for a set of records that would reveal the impact of the RNC’s efforts, along with Trump, to raise money from allegations that the 2020 election was stolen – a message that it select committee claims played a role in inciting the attack on the Capitol.
“This two-month period is clearly relevant to its investigation into the causes of the January 6 attack,” Kelly wrote.
Kelly also rejected an RNC argument that the select committee’s summons to Salesforce lacked a “legitimate legislative purpose” and was, in fact, a “law enforcement effort” that Congress was not allowed to pursue.
“The valid legislative purpose of the subpoena is clear enough to sustain it against this challenge,” he stated.
In his decision, Kelly swept aside a host of arguments from the RNC against the select committee on January 6, many of which have been put forward in dozens of lawsuits filed by Trump allies trying to frustrate the committee’s subpoenas. His decision could resonate in all of these ongoing legal battles.
For example, Kelly rejected the idea that the committee has malfunctioned because it has no members elected by GOP leader Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy initially recommended five members to the panel, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two of them – Reps. Jim Banks and Jim Jordan – and claimed they were too closely linked to Trump to be legitimate investigators. In response, McCarthy withdrew all five elections and boycotted the panel.
But Kelly argued that just because Pelosi disagreed with him – and then chose to allow the select committee to operate without his full contingent of 13 members – does not invalidate the committee. Kelly rather noted that Parliament had repeatedly voted to accept the committee’s recommendations to keep various Trump staffers in contempt of Congress.
“[T]Parliament considers the committee to be duly composed and empowered to act… even though the committee has only nine members, ”Kelly noted. “This understanding is reflected in Parliament’s adoption of the committee’s recommendations to find witnesses in contempt of Congress for their refusal to comply with the committee’s summons.”
Kelly also claimed that the rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), One of two Republicans nominated to the Pelosi committee, can rightly be considered the panel’s ranking GOP member. Many McCarthy allies in the House and reluctant witnesses have argued that Cheney could not be considered the ranking member because she was appointed by Pelosi.
“[T]”to the extent that there is any uncertainty as to whether she is fit for the bill, the court must in this case postpone the decision of the select committee to treat Representative Cheney as the rank of minority member,” he stated.