WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan on Wednesday temporarily blocked enforcement of the Jan. 6 committee’s subpoena seeking the phone records of Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward.
The move by Kagan, a liberal justice who handles emergency applications that originate in Arizona, means the Supreme Court as a whole will decide how to proceed. The House committee has until Friday to respond to Ward's request to quash the subpoena, which was filed earlier Wednesday.
The committee declined to comment on the subpoena pause.
Ward’s case reaches the Supreme Court as the justices are weighing a separate emergency application brought by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., seeking to block a subpoena demanding his testimony in a Georgia prosecutor’s investigation into allegations of 2020 election interference. Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas issued a similar temporary stay while the court considers how to proceed.
Ward and her husband, Michael Ward, were among 14 of 84 so-called alternate electors subpoenaed this year by the Jan. 6 committee, which cited their association with bogus documents claiming President Donald Trump had won the 2020 election in their states.
Lower courts, including the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, rejected Ward's arguments to block the subpoena.
The couple, who are both doctors, have argued, among other things, that disclosing their records would violate medical privacy laws. The committee is pursuing only Kelli Ward's records. At the Supreme Court, Ward argued that the subpoena violates her right to freedom of association under the Constitution's First Amendment.
"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," the couple's lawyers wrote in court papers.
The subpoena focuses on a T-Mobile cellphone account linked with Ward. Among the information it seeks are all phone numbers, IP addresses or devices that had any communication with the phone in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.
Ward and fellow Republicans had created a competing slate of electors for Arizona declaring that Trump won, despite election results showing Joe Biden got more votes in the state. Those actions have come under scrutiny by the Justice Department, as well as the Jan. 6 committee.
Under the normal process, which Arizona government officials followed, certification of the state’s vote by a group of appointed electors is a formality after a winner is determined by the popular vote. Trump and his allies in 2020 pursued a far-fetched theory that if the states submitted competing election results to Congress, lawmakers meeting in the Capitol to certify the results on Jan. 6, 2021, could have prevented Biden from becoming president.
In addition to other faults in the plan, Vice President Mike Pence, who had a ceremonial role in the certification process, refused to go along with it. The attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob was intrinsically linked with efforts to overturn Biden’s victory.