Court Temporarily Blocks Jan. 6 Committee Subpoena for RNC Records

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
May 20, 2022 Updated: May 20, 2022

A federal court on May 20 temporarily blocked a House of Representatives subpoena for Republican National Committee (RNC) records.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, rejected the RNC’s motion for an injunction against the subpoena pending appeal. But Kelly entered a brief injunction to allow Republicans to ask an appeals court for the same relief he denied.

At issue is a subpoena from the House panel charged with investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the U.S. Capitol.

The panel subpoenaed documents and testimony from Salesforce, which the RNC and former President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign utilized to send emails and perform other services.

The House panel wants data from Salesforce to see whether the platform was used “to disseminate false statements about the 2020 election in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 attack,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the panel’s chairman, said when the subpoena was issued.

The RNC sued House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the panel members over the subpoena, asserting it was unconstitutional. Kelly rejected the arguments on May 1.

The RNC filed an appeal to the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, then asked Kelly to block the subpoena pending the outcome of the appeal.

Plaintiff “seeks an injunction pending appeal while the D.C. Circuit considers the novel constitutional questions presented in this case regarding challenges to congressional subpoenas issued to a political party’s third-party vendors,” the RNC said in its motion.

The court should “maintain the status quo while higher courts examine the important issues presented in this case,” it added.

The House members named as defendants said that the court should deny the motion, arguing the RNC will likely not succeed in its appeal.

Kelly, the judge, said that the RNC “has shown that its appeal presents a ‘serious legal question'” and that “without doubt, the RNC has shown that it will suffer one sort of irreparable harm absent an injunction pending appeal.”

But the party has not shown that it is in the public interest to block the subpoena, he said, because delaying its enforcement will interfere with the House panel’s investigation, which defendants say is at a “critical juncture.”

Nevertheless, Kelly entered a brief administrative injunction to allow the RNC to ask the appeals court for an injunction pending appeal. The judge said the House members agreed to the request. He said the circuit court “is better positioned” to weigh the merits of the case.

The injunction will automatically dissolve on May 25.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.