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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Alex Woodward

Supreme Court rejects Arizona GOP chair’s attempt to block phone records from Jan 6 committee


The US Supreme Court has given the House select committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol the green light to access phone records from an Arizona Republican Party official who joined a scheme to falsely declare Donald Trump the winner of the 2020 presidential election.

In a 7-2 decision on 14 November, the court rejected Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward’s attempt to block the committee from obtaining her records.

The dissenting justices are Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, who was the lone dissenting vote earlier this year rejecting the former president’s bid to withhold documents from the committee.

His wife Virginia Thomas allegedly sent text messages to Trump aides as well as 29 state lawmakers in Arizona, pressing them to overturn Mr Trump’s defeat.

Dissenting votes from Justice Alito and Thomas mean they would have granted Ms Ward’s application for an injunction, effectively shielding Ms Ward and communication with Ms Thomas from the committee.

The so-called “alternate electors” plot from the former president and his allies relied on a bogus legal theory involving a slate of fraudulent certificates from key states that falsely asserted Mr Trump’s electoral college votes.

Ms Ward, among those electors, was subpoenaed by the committee along with her husband Michael Ward.

The House select committee – which is investigating the events leading up to and surrounding the attack on the Capitol on 6 January, 2021, when a joint session of Congress convened to certify the results of that election – has issued subpoenas for dozens of people involved with the scheme.

Among their arguments to reject their subpoena, the Wards, both of whom are doctors, claimed that disclosing their records to the committee would violate their medical privacy. The committee only is seeking Ms Ward’s records.

“If Dr Ward’s telephone and text message records are disclosed, congressional investigators are going to contact every person who communicated with her during and immediately after the tumult of the 2020 election. That is not speculation, it is a certainty,” lawyers for the couple wrote in legal filings last month.

The subpoena seeks information from a T-Mobile-linked mobile phone, along with phone numbers, IP addresses and other devices that connected with the phone in the election’s aftermath.

“Dr Ward aided a coup attempt,” lawyers for the House committee wrote in an earlier filing, adding that Ms Ward had participated in “several improper efforts” to overturn the election.

“At best, her arguments amount to a claim that she has an absolute right to attempt to overturn a presidential election, yet at the same time Congress cannot take reasonable investigative steps to learn more about that plan that had such disastrous consequences for our nation,” they wrote.

Two of the judges on a three-judge appeals court panel had previously rejected Ms Ward’s argument, writing that she had “participated in a scheme to send spurious electoral votes to Congress.”

Two of the judges at the US Court Appeals for the Ninth Circuit wrote that she invoked her Fifth Amendment rights when the committee initially tried to question her.

“The committee has a strong interest in pursuing its investigation by other means,” the judges wrote.

“There is little to suggest that disclosing Ward’s phone records to the committee will affect protected associational activity,” they added. “This subpoena does not target any organisation or association. The investigation, after all, is not about Ward’s politics; it is about her involvement in the events leading up to the Jan 6 attack, and it seeks to uncover those with whom she communicated in connection with those events.”

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