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January 6 committee ramps up efforts to uncover funding behind Capitol riot

<i>Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP</i><br/>Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich sues the January 6 committee to block access to his financial records. The committee here meets on December 1 in Washington
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP
Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich sues the January 6 committee to block access to his financial records. The committee here meets on December 1 in Washington

By Katelyn Polantz and Mary Kay Mallonee, CNN

A new court challenge is revealing how the January 6 House select committee is demanding bank records, providing a new window into its effort to understand what propelled the violence that day.

The previously undisclosed records request, revealed in a new lawsuit, is the first confirmed subpoena issued by the committee for information directly from a bank. The committee, which has moved aggressively in recent weeks, is using its subpoena power to follow the money surrounding the pro-Donald Trump rallies leading up to the insurrection.

Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich disclosed in a lawsuit Friday night that the committee had demanded financial records, prompting him to sue in an effort to prevent the committee from obtaining them. The bank, JP Morgan, was planning to oblige, giving him a deadline of 5 p.m. ET on Christmas Eve to show he legally blocked the subpoena, according to a letter the bank sent to him that he included in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also discloses that Budowich has already supplied the committee with more than 1,700 pages of documents and provided about four hours of testimony.

It’s not presently known if the bank has already turned over the financial records, since Budowich’s lawsuit against the committee and the bank attempting to block the subpoena is already later than the deadline. The federal court in DC has not responded to his filings as of Saturday morning and his lawsuit may be a Hail Mary pass unlikely to succeed because of both the timing and federal appeals court rulings in the past.

“December 24th is federal holiday. The federal courts are closed. The Capitol is closed. National banks are closed,” Budowich’s lawyers wrote to the court on Friday, asking for emergency help. “Mr. Budowich’s counsel immediately reached out to JPMorgan to seek an extension. JPMorgan refused. Mr. Budowich reached out to counsel for the Select Committee for an extension. The Select Committee refused.”

The disclosures in the lawsuit mark what seem to be notable progress by the House in its pursuit of information and could signal a wider ongoing end-of-year effort by investigators to sweep in records from third parties, such as banks, that could help it understand the organization of rallies in Washington, DC, that catalyzed the insurrection.

Efforts to uncover financing tied to riot

CNN reported in October that the committee had set its sights on learning about the financing associated with January 6, including how organizers and vendors were paid, and how two rallies were funded. Sources told CNN at the time that investigators wanted to know if any funding came from domestic extremists or foreign sources.

The committee has divided its work into at least five teams, each with its own color designation. The “green” team is tasked with tracking the money.

Another witness in the House probe, “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander, previously speculated in his own court action against a phone records subpoena from the House Committee that the congressional investigation was pursing financial records directly from banks.

Alexander did not show any proof he knew the committee had sought such information. He, too, had turned over records he had to the committee and sat for a deposition.

Budowich’s lawsuit, which seeks emergency help from the court, argues that the House committee and its pursuit of records are illegitimate, though the federal appeals court in Washington already upheld the House Select Committee’s work. He also says the subpoena to his bank hurts his First Amendment rights and financial privacy because of the short window he had to respond after learning of the subpoena. Courts have repeatedly endorsed the House subpoenaing financial information from third parties like banks — even Trump’s — as it pursues possible legislation.

Nine other ongoing lawsuits are also challenging the House Select Committee’s requests for information, and Trump this week asked the Supreme Court to review his own case about records from his White House.

Rally organizers a key focus of probe

Budowich was a senior adviser for the Trump 2020 campaign, specifically working with Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle. He is a longtime right-wing political operative, working as senior communications adviser for Ron DeSantis during his successful campaign for governor of Florida in 2018 and once served as executive director of the Tea Party Express.

Budowich’s lawsuit comes after the committee last month subpoenaed him and other Trump allies involved in planning “Stop the Steal” rallies, including at the Ellipse in Washington before the US Capitol attack.

Budowich claimed the documents that he already provided “were sufficient to identify all account transactions for the time period December 19, 2020 to January 31, 2021 in connection with the Ellipse Rally.”

“The Select Committee wrongly seeks to compel Mr. Budowich’s financial institution to provide private banking information to the Select Committee that it lacks the lawful authority to seek and to obtain,” the suit said.

In its subpoena letter, the committee said Budowich “reportedly solicited a 501c(4) organization to conduct a social media and radio advertising campaign encouraging attendance at the January 6th Ellipse rally and advancing unsupported claims about the result of the election.”

The committee cited information on file with the panel to claim that Budowich directed approximately $200,000 from a source or sources to the 501(c)(4) that was “not disclosed to the organization to pay for the advertising campaign.”

This story has been updated to include additional reporting and background information.

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