In the past three days, five targets of House select committee subpoenas have rushed to court to try to stop the sweeping January 6 investigation from obtaining their phone records. They include right-wing media personalities Mike Lindell and Sebastian Gorka, a married couple accused of taking part in a conspiracy among the Oath Keepers to storm the Capitol on January 6, and a person who’s so far remained anonymous.
The four new lawsuits, all challenging the House committee’s ability to collect the information, are in their earliest stages, before the House has responded, and they come as more than a dozen other witnesses close to former President Donald Trump attempt to stymie the committee as well, including by asking courts for help.
Many of the lawsuits have revealed that the House has been remarkably successful in gathering information about January 6 and Trump’s interest in overturning the 2020 presidential election result. And they appear to represent only a small fraction of the subpoenas the House panel has sent, meaning many crucial records are already or about to be in the committee’s hands.
Nearly all of the lawsuits challenge the House committee’s demands to phone companies for records such as subscriber information and logs of calls – though the panel has not sought the content of the communications.
The four new lawsuits this week appear to come after the House committee issued its latest round of phone record subpoenas, prompting Verizon to inform its customers they would need to file in court by Wednesday if they wanted to try to block the panel from getting the records, according to some of the filings.
My Pillow’s Lindell, a Trump supporter who continues to falsely claim there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election, dropped the latest suit into the federal court system on Wednesday.
“The Subpoena improperly demands that Verizon produce private communications without first providing Mr. Lindell a reasonable opportunity to review the communications” for conversations that could be protected, his lawyer wrote to the federal court in Minneapolis, claiming Lindell may have had conversations with his lawyer and that he could be protected as a journalist because he had produced movies claiming election fraud.
Gorka, a radio host and Trump ally, had filed a similar lawsuit in Washington, DC’s US District Court against the January 6 committee and Verizon on Tuesday in an attempt to block a subpoena for his cell phone records.
“Unlike other targets, the Committee has not asked Dr. Gorka to answer any questions or to produce any documents, nor does he have any information to provide,” his lawsuit said. He is “seeking relief from his political adversaries’ abuse of congressional power to intimidate and stifle his political speech,” the filing added.
Gorka said the committee had issued a subpoena on December 15 to Verizon for the production of his phone records, to be produced by December 29.
Gorka acknowledged he had been scheduled to speak outside the Supreme Court during the January 6 rallies but his speech was canceled and he watched Trump’s rally at the Ellipse as a spectator, according to his filing. The committee has previously made clear to witnesses that it is interested in learning about the planning and decision-making around pro-Trump rallies before the crowd turned on the Capitol.
“He has committed no crime, and he has done nothing, and has no information, that could provide the basis for new laws,” his attorneys wrote.
Connie and Kelly Meggs of Florida are challenging a committee request for their phone records related to their Verizon family plan, arguing that the subpoena is too broad and the committee’s work is invalid. The Meggses have pleaded not guilty in a separate case in the DC District Court, in which the Justice Department has accused them of taking part in a massive January 6 conspiracy.
Another plaintiff also sued Verizon on Wednesday, obscuring their name and offering few other details, following a House select committee subpoena for personal cell records in December.
Verizon did not respond to a request for comment.
Other witnesses who previously sued, following an earlier round of House subpoenas to phone companies, include former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, attorneys Cleta Mitchell and John Eastman, and right-wing figures Michael Flynn, Ali Alexander and Alex Jones.
Bank records subpoena too
Also this week, a spokesman for Trump reupped an attempt to block the House select committee’s subpoena for banking records, though the emergency court action appears to be too late.
The House select committee obtained financial records for Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich from the bank JPMorgan in late December as part of its probe, according to a new court filing this week.
Budowich had previously sued the committee, asking a federal court for emergency help the week of Christmas, to stop the bank from turning over his records. He said he had already given hundreds of documents to the committee, including about his finances, and the panel’s demand of the bank was a step too far.
But it was already too late. A judge initially denied his request for help, saying it was moot.
Budowich went back to court on Tuesday, however, asking for emergency intervention to “disgorge, promptly return, sequester, or destroy private financial records” from his bank that the committee has, according to his latest filing.
In addition to drawing Budowich’s fight with the committee into the open, the court filings have highlighted how extensively the panel has already gathered information from or about people close to Trump at the end of his presidency. They also confirmed that the House committee’s recent pursuits have included subpoenas to banks – the types of requests that courts have previously allowed, though Trump himself has tried to stop them through litigation.
House General Counsel Douglas Letter, at a short court hearing on Wednesday, made clear he believes that appeals court precedent says the judiciary has no power to do what Budowich is asking.
Budowich, the House committee and JPMorgan will be back before a judge on January 20.
CNN’s Mary Kay Mallonee contributed to this report.