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The RNC’s January 6 committee strategy seeks some distance from Trump’s election lies

In a document obtained by Vox, the RNC recommends pushing back on the select committee while taking care not to be seen as explicitly speaking on behalf of Trump.

Trump supporters storm the US Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021.
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Republicans’ strategy ahead of the first public hearings of the select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol reveals a rare glimpse of daylight between the aims of the party and the desires of former President Donald Trump.

In a document obtained by Vox, a coordinated communications plan apparently sent from the Republican National Committee (RNC) recommends pushing back on the select committee as “partisan” while also taking care not to be seen as explicitly speaking on behalf of Trump or embracing his lies about the 2020 election’s legitimacy. The RNC declined to comment on whether it created or sent the document.

Trump, according to the same document, is focused on amplifying that message, both in the mainstream media and in conservative media.

The committee, formed in July 2021, has spent the past 11 months working behind closed doors, taking depositions and fighting legal battles to obtain information from Trump allies about the events leading up to January 6, 2021. A series of public hearings, scheduled to begin on June 9, marks a major escalation in the committee’s public-facing actions and represents a challenge for Republicans hoping to move past the turbulent final days of the Trump administration.

The document from the RNC, intended to help party operatives respond to the public hearing, is divided into two sections. The first explicitly includes “RNC goals,” such as defining “Democrats as the real election deniers” and “remind[ing] voters that law enforcement investigations have taken place.”

The other section includes “Requests from FPOTUS” — an abbreviation for “former President of the United States” — as the document labels Trump. Trump’s requests include “shaping coverage on networks” through surrogates as well as especially using conservative media to “control and drive messaging using the channels we control” while also checking if there were trackers available to “ask members of congress about what their priorities should be” and get them on the record about the hearings.

The difference between what Trump desires and what the RNC hopes to achieve is made clear under RNC goals, where it is explicitly said its recommendations are “Not one size fits all. We won’t provide air cover for all but don’t want to be seen as speaking for FPOTUS.”

“We haven’t seen a copy of this document, so it would be ridiculous to comment on its authenticity. However, the RNC plans on aggressively responding to the partisan attacks and political theater the Democrats are engaging in with Nancy Pelosi’s illegitimate January 6 Committee,” spokesperson Emma Vaughn said.

Trump has remained adamant that the election in 2020 was rife with fraud based on a list of claims that have all proven false, and demanded that his political allies do the same to secure his political support in advance of the 2022 midterms.

But the first hearing comes at a moment in which Trump is as vulnerable as he has been within the Republican Party in more than half a decade. Earlier in May, a slate of Trump-backed candidates in Georgia was almost entirely wiped out in the state’s Republican primary. In particular, incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp swatted away former Sen. David Perdue by a 50 percentage-point margin, and incumbent Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger easily fended off Rep. Jody Hice in races that focused on Trump’s lies about the 2020 election as he sought to elect allies who echoed his false claims that he won Georgia.

The document displays the challenges for the GOP as they seek to aggressively push back at the select committee and appease the former president without explicitly endorsing the “Big Lie” or all of Trump’s actions in the final days of his administration.