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House Jan. 6 panel asks Supreme Court to allow Kelli Ward subpoena

Delay in getting phone records from the Arizona GOP chair would make it ‘extremely difficult’ to use them before the committee ends, House argues

Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson is seen during a hearing of the House Jan. 6 select committee in July.
Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson is seen during a hearing of the House Jan. 6 select committee in July. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol urged the Supreme Court on Friday not to delay a subpoena for phone records of the leader of the Arizona Republican Party.

The committee told the justices in a brief that its subpoena for state GOP Chair Kelli Ward’s phone records would not infringe on her rights and the committee needs the records before it ends in January to account for actions leading up to the violence at the building on the day of the attack.

Any further delay in getting the records would, “practically speaking, make it extremely difficult for the Select Committee to obtain and effectively utilize the subpoenaed records before that date,” the brief said.

Ward filed an emergency request that asked the Supreme Court to pause enforcement of the subpoena while her appeal worked its way through the courts. The Supreme Court granted a temporary pause Wednesday while the parties litigated over Ward’s request.

In the brief, the committee said Ward took actions that factored into the broader effort to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election, including telling Maricopa County officials to stop counting votes and encouraging officials to get in contact with Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell.

Ward also took part in an effort to create false electors for Arizona, which she privately worried about the legality of, according to the brief. The brief said Ward participated in a meeting of fake electors for the state who then voted and transmitted a false result for Arizona stating Donald Trump had won — a key part of the committee’s investigation.

The brief said the fake electors were “central to the events of January 6” and pointed out the fake electors put forward by Ward and others were used to justify Trump’s claims that Arizona and other states’ votes should be thrown out by Congress on Jan. 6.

“The false narrative of a stolen election motivated violence on January 6th, and publicly available evidence shows that Dr. Ward played an important role in many of these actions,” the brief stated.

Delay might deny

A further delay now such as granting full review of the case, the brief argued, would effectively let Ward effectively duck an otherwise valid subpoena. The committee is slated to end along with the current Congress, as would the subpoena.

Ward launched the request after a U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruling last weekend would have had her phone provider, T-Mobile, hand over her records. In the opinion issued Oct. 22, Judges Barry Silverman and Eric Miller found that concerns about airing Ward’s political associations did not override the panel’s interest in investigating the attack.

T-Mobile, Ward’s telephone provider and the subject of the subpoena, declined to weigh in on the application in a Supreme Court filing Friday.

The case started in January when the committee sent T-Mobile a subpoena for Ward’s records, which she and her husband challenged in federal court. In her initial challenge and subsequent appeals, Ward attacked the bipartisan committee, arguing that it would use the records obtained in the request to attack her politically.

“In a first-of-its-kind situation, a select committee of the United States Congress, dominated by one political party, has subpoenaed the personal telephone and text message records of a state chair of the rival political party relating to one of the most contentious political events in American history — the 2020 election and the Capitol riot of January 6, 2021,” Ward’s Supreme Court request stated.

Ward was one of more than a dozen Trump allies, including the Republican National Committee, to challenge subpoenas sent directly or to third parties such as phone or business record companies.

The panel held its possibly final hearing earlier this month, during which it alleged Trump orchestrated a broad effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and voted to subpoena him for testimony and documents. The panel plans to issue a report before then on its findings and legislative recommendations to prevent another attack.

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