By BOB CHRISTIE
PHOENIX (AP) — A federal judge has rejected an effort by Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward and her husband to block a subpoena of their phone records issued by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
The ruling from U.S. District Judge Diane Humetewa issued late Thursday said none of the reasons the Wards cited for blocking the congressional demand passed legal muster. She noted that Congress is generally immune from lawsuits, and none of the exemptions applied to the Wards’ case.
Their attorneys appealed the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday. Ward did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and a request for comment from the committee was also not immediately returned.
The House committee is seeking phone records from just before the November 2020 election to Jan. 31, 2021. That would include a period where Ward was pushing for former President Donald Trump’s election defeat to be overturned and while Congress was set to certify the results.
Kelli Ward and Michael Ward were presidential electors who would have voted for Trump in the Electoral College had he won Arizona. Both signed a document falsely claiming they were Arizona’s true electors, despite Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the state.
The Wards argued the subpoena should be quashed because it violated their First Amendment rights, violated House rules and exceeded the authority of the Jan. 6 committee. Humetewa rejected each argument in turn, and noted that the federal appeals court in Washington has rejected similar arguments raised by Trump during his unsuccessful effort to block a committee subpoena. The U.S. Supreme Court let those rulings stand.
Ward and her husband, who are both physicians, also argued that turning over their phone records could compromise the private health information of their patients. But Humetewa said the records are being sought from a phone provider not covered by health care privacy laws. She did encourage the Wards and congressional investigators to discuss how to protect any patient information that might be revealed.
Kelli Ward is a staunch Trump ally who has aggressively promoted the false claim that the election was stolen from him. In the days after the election, she pressured Republicans on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to investigate unsupported claims of fraud before election results were certified, according to text messages released by the county.