In a legal filing submitted Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s norm-breaking Committee on Jan. 6 claimed its open pursuit of opposition records in what is being called a modern-day “digital Watergate” is above the law.
An opposition memo filed in response to an RNC lawsuit over the committee’s broad subpoena demanding sensitive personal information on the party’s donors and supporters asserts Pelosi’s weaponized probe designed to persecute political dissidents is not subject to any executive or judicial oversight.
“The RNC cannot demonstrate a likelihood of success because the Speech or Debate Clause bars its lawsuit and its application for injunctive relief,” the committee wrote arguing the Constitution’s protection of congressional independence. “The Clause provides that ‘any Speech or Debate in either House, [Senators and Representatives] shall not be questioned in any other Place.'”
Citing case law wherein the Supreme Court protected outside interference with the legislative process, the probe’s lawyers argued the legislative branch’s independence is absolute. The Jan. 6 Committee, however, is operating with no legitimate legislative purpose, lacks any minority-appointed lawmakers, and is operating without a ranking member. The only Republicans serving on Pelosi’s Select Committee are Reps. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., both of whom were hand-picked by the speaker. Pelosi notoriously barred GOP appointments from Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, blowing up her own committee. In Wyoming, the state party no longer recognizes Cheney as Republican. The Republican National Committee censured Cheney for her obsessive work on behalf of Pelosi. She laughed about her alienation from Republican voters earlier this week.
The Jan. 6 Committee’s claims to be above the law as it executes a “digital Watergate” demanding supporter data from the National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC) conjures memories of former President Richard Nixon’s insistence that “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”
Five decades apart, the two cases of political warfare are different only by way of method and ability to conduct illegal opposition research openly.
In 1972, a team of political operatives broke into the Watergate complex to steal confidential strategic information from the DNC. When the operation became public, the scandal led to the first and only resignation in presidential history.
In 2022, Democrats on the Jan. 6 Committee, who’ve admitted the partisan probe is all about the midterms, are seeking confidential strategic information from Republicans in the form of a subpoena issued under questionable authority. The subpoena targets Republican financial records housed with the database firm Salesforce, requiring the party to hand over detailed personal information about Republican supporters and their engagement with the party.
“What the Salesforce subpoena demands is for the company to hand over the ‘Holy Grail’ of the RNC’s internal digital playbook,” the NRSC wrote in an amicus brief to the RNC lawsuit, with millions spent to compile its treasure trove of data. The NRSC calls the Jan. 6 Committee’s operation a “digital-age Watergate.”
While the Jan. 6 Committee claimed in its opposition memo the subpoena is “narrowly tailored,” its compliance would require the Republican Party to reveal its digital strategy and identification of its supporters to ideological state actors running the partisan probe with an explicit vengeance. The committee has already selectively leaked private communications obtained through its subpoenas to smear dissidents to friendly media while manipulating other texts to promote a political narrative.