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The Supreme Court gave a green light on Nov. 14 to the congressional committee investigating the breach at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to obtain the telephone records of Kelli Ward, the head of the Arizona Republican Party.
Ward had asked the court to hold back the congressional subpoena, arguing that her First Amendment rights would be chilled if investigators were to learn whom she communicated with while she tried to aid former President Donald Trump’s efforts to stave off defeat in the 2020 election.
A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit voted 2–1 last month to deny Ward’s request to block her cellular provider from complying with the committee’s demand for records leading up to the election and through January 2021.
Ward argued in papers (pdf) filed with the Supreme Court that the Democrat-controlled committee was engaged in an evidentiary fishing expedition against political rivals. Trump and his supporters characterize the committee’s work as a political witch hunt.
“This is an unprecedented case with profound precedential implications for future congressional investigations and political associational rights under the First Amendment,” the document stated.
“In a first-of-its-kind situation, a select committee of the United States Congress, dominated by one political party, has subpoenaed the personal telephone and text message records of a state chair of the rival political party relating to one of the most contentious political events in American history—the 2020 election and the Capitol riot of January 6, 2021,” according to the filing.
“The subpoena was served on Applicants’ mobile telephone service provider, T-Mobile, in January 2022,” it added.
Ward’s “role in the 2020 election in Arizona and its aftermath is a matter of public record. The Select Committee has not alleged that she was in or even near the Capitol on January 6, 2021.”
The ruling (pdf) came after Justice Elena Kagan issued a stay on Oct. 26 preventing the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol from acting on its subpoena of Ward’s records. But in the new order the Supreme Court reversed Kagan’s stay of the subpoena, allowing the information-gathering process to move forward. The justices did not explain why they issued the order.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented from the order but also did not explain why.
The case is Ward v. Thompson, court file 22A350. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) is chairman of the committee.
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