Lawyers for Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward and her husband Michael Ward filed an emergency motion with the Supreme Court on Wednesday asking the justices to block a subpoena from the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, for phone and text records.
Hours after the filing, Justice Elena Kagan – who supervises the appeals court that ruled in the case – issued a temporary order blocking the subpoena. The administrative stay was likely issued to give the justices more time to consider the matter and may not reflect the court’s final disposition. Kagan also asked for a response from the House committee by Friday.
The move is the latest dispute concerning January 6 to come before the conservative-leaning court.
Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday similarly agreed to temporarily freeze a lower court order requiring the testimony of Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham in front of an Atlanta-area special grand jury that is investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in the state.
The Wards served as fake electors for Donald Trump in Arizona, one of the states the former President lost but where Republicans gathered to put forth a pro-Trump slate of electors.
According to a committee letter seeking Kelli Ward’s testimony, she also spoke with Trump and members of his staff regarding the election certification in Arizona. The committee also sought Ward’s testimony. She invoked her Fifth Amendment rights during the deposition.
The Wards argued the subpoena was too intrusive and violated their First Amendment rights, potentially exposing political connections.
The subpoena from the House select committee directs T-Mobile USA, Inc., to release call records from Kelli Ward’s phone for the period of November 1, 2020, through January 31, 2021, and only sought times and durations of calls when Ward served as an elector for Trump.
The records do not include content or location information. A district court judge ruled against Ward and the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.
“The subpoena is substantially related to the important government interest in investigating the causes of the January 6 attack and protecting future elections from similar threats,” the appeals court said.
“The investigation, after all, is not about Ward’s politics; it is about her involvement in the events leading up to the January 6 attack, and it seeks to uncover those with whom she communicated in connection with those events. That some of the people with whom Ward communicated may be members of a political party does not establish that the subpoena is likely to reveal ‘sensitive information about [the party’s] members and supporters,” the court added.
In the emergency application filed with Kagan, Ward’s attorneys argue the case is “unprecedented” with “profound precedential implications for future congressional investigations and political associational rights under the First Amendment.”
If Ward’s telephone and text messages are disclosed, they add, “congressional investigators are going to contact every person who communicated with her during and immediately after the tumult of the 2020 election.”
Additionally, federal investigators, as part of a probe into efforts to subvert the 2020 election, have been pursing information in seven battleground states that Trump lost and where his campaign convened fake electors, a person briefed on the matter previously told CNN. The Wards were also subpoenaed as part of that probe.
The fake certificates were sent to the National Archives in the weeks after the election and had no impact on electoral outcome.
This story has been updated with additional details.