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Supreme Court allows Jan. 6 subpoena for Arizona GOP leader

But a new lawsuit from Donald Trump is poised to delay enforcement of the House panel's subpoena for the former president

The Supreme Court is seen in October.
The Supreme Court is seen in October. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol to get phone records from the chair of the Arizona Republican Party — even as the panel’s most high-profile potential witness, former President Donald Trump, appeared out of reach.

The high court, in a brief unsigned order, declined a request from Kelli Ward to pause enforcement of the committee subpoena while her appeal worked its way through the courts.

The committee had sent T-Mobile a subpoena for Ward’s phone records in January, which Ward and her husband challenged through the courts for the last nine months. While she argued that the subpoena would have a chilling effect on her First Amendment rights, lower courts did not stop the request.

The committee, in a brief, told the justices that Ward “aided a coup attempt” in advance of the attack and her involvement in Trump’s effort to overturn the election results in Arizona, including participation in a meeting of fake electors for the state who then voted and transmitted a false result for Arizona stating Trump had won, were “central to the events of January 6.”

Two justices, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr., indicated they would have granted Ward’s application but did not write dissents to the decision. Thomas’ wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, appeared for a voluntary interview in front of the Jan. 6 committee in September for her reported involvement in Trump’s push to change the 2020 presidential election outcomes in key states.

Monday was also the day the committee requested Trump sit for sworn testimony in a subpoena issued last month. But Trump instead sued in federal court in Florida on Friday, arguing he has absolute immunity from testifying before Congress.

“Long-held precedent and practice maintain that separation of powers prohibits Congress from compelling a President to testify before it,” the lawsuit said.

Earlier this month, Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said they had engaged with Trump in negotiations for him to produce documents and appear for testimony.

Committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., told CBS on Sunday that “the people have a right to the truth,” when asked about Trump’s defiance of the subpoena, but didn’t say whether the panel would fight it out in court.

Raskin emphasized that the panel would lay out the facts of the attack on the Capitol, as well as Trump’s role in the effort to overturn the election, in its final report.

Trump is also expected to launch his reelection campaign on Tuesday at an event at his Mar-a-Lago club.

The committee seeks from Trump 19 categories of documents, including communications or notes about the Jan. 6, 2021, joint session of Congress, former Vice President Mike Pence and witnesses before the panel. The subpoena also includes communications that Trump had with prominent allies such as Roger Stone, Michael Flynn and Rudy Giuliani.

The letter called for Trump’s testimony on interactions with witnesses like Stone and Flynn who have since asserted their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Trump’s suit is one of dozens lobbed against the committee by allies of the former president. While it won many of those court fights, the panel likely does not have the time to slug it out with the former president. The panel dissolves at the end of the current Congress and Republicans who will likely control the House next year won’t continue the probe.

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