Judge dismisses Arizona GOP chair lawsuit to block Jan. 6 select committee subpoenaSeptember 23, 2022
A federal judge has cleared the way for the Jan. 6 select committee to access the phone records of Arizona GOP Chair Kelli Ward, dismissing Ward’s lawsuit to block a subpoena issued by the panel in January.
In an 18-page ruling issued late Thursday, Arizona-based U.S.District Court Judge Diane Humetewa said the committee has a legitimate reason to obtain Ward’s call logs during the weeks between Election Day 2020 and the end of Donald Trump’s term in office, a period in which Ward help organize a set of pro-Trump electors who claimed to be Arizona’s legitimate slate, even though Biden had won the state.
“That three-month period is plainly relevant to its investigation into the causes of the January 6th attack,” Humetewa ruled. “The Court therefore has little doubt concluding these records may aid the Select Committee’s valid legislative purpose.”
In addition to her work on the slate of false electors — which included both Ward and her husband, Michael — Ward used her perch atop the Arizona GOP to stoke false claims of election fraud in the weeks following the conclusion of voting. Both Wards also joined a lawsuit against then-Vice President Mike Pence in late December 2020, amid a campaign by Trump to pressure Pence to help subvert the election.
Ward indicated her intent to appeal the ruling in a notice filed with the district court Friday morning. An attorney for her did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The select committee is approaching the end of its yearlong investigation and intends to produce a final report by December. More than two dozen witnesses have sued to block the panel’s efforts to subpoena them for testimony and records or to obtain phone records from providers like T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T.
The committee has fought some of the subpoenas and won a string of rulings bolstering its probe, but it has also opted against mounting aggressive efforts in a large number of lawsuits, instead targeting those likely to have the greatest impact on its efforts. Those include lawsuits to obtain testimony and records from former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, attorney John Eastman and Trump himself, who unsuccessfully sued to block the National Archives from releasing his White House’s records to the panel.
In her lawsuit, Ward had argued that the select committee’s subpoena was improperly issued because the panel lacked a valid legislative purpose — rather that it was a law enforcement investigation in disguise — and that the panel lacked the required 13 members that it was supposed to include. Ward argued that the committee’s subpoena was really an effort to harass Trump supporters for exercising their First Amendment rights to petition the government and raise doubts about the election results.
But Humetewa, an appointee of President Barack Obama, said Ward’s evidence on both claims fell short.
The panel, she said, had repeatedly had its work ratified by votes of the full House, which notably approved the committee’s efforts to hold several defiant witnesses in contempt of Congress. Humetewa said she would not second-guess the House’s decision to permit the committee to function despite a smaller complement of members.
In addition, Humetewa cited the Washington, D.C.-based federal appeals court ruling that found the committee to serve a plainly valid legislative purpose.
“The Court finds this evidence falls short of the formidable bar Plaintiffs must overcome to show an invalid legislative purpose,” she wrote.