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Judge rules Jan. 6 committee can see phone records of Arizona Republican Party head Kelli Ward

Arizona Republic 9/23/2022 Richard Ruelas, Arizona Republic

A federal judge ruled Thursday that the select Congressional committee investigating the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan 6, 2021 may subpoena the phone records of the head of Arizona’s Republican Party.

The Select Committee, in January, sent a subpoena asking for phone records of Kelli Ward, the chairman the Arizona Republican Party, that would have covered activity from November 2020 through January 2021.

That span of time would include when Ward convened an uncertified and unauthorized slate of electors to grant Donald Trump the state’s electoral votes even though he lost Arizona.

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Those fake electoral votes were sent to Congress for members to consider counting during its Jan. 6, 2021, session, which was interrupted for hours after the U.S. Capitol was breached by rampaging Trump supporters.

Although it wasn’t apparent when it occurred, testimony and records obtained by the Select Committee have suggested the fake Arizona electors were part of a larger plot that would have weaved through byzantine election procedures and pronounced Trump the winner of the 2020 election.

The scheme would have required Vice President Mike Pence, tasked with officially counting the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, 2021, to either decide to count the alternate slates sent in by Arizona and seven other states. Or to say the election was in doubt and toss the question of the winner to Congress, through a procedure laid out in the U.S. Constitution.

More: The next Jan. 6 committee hearing is set. Here's how to watch it and what might come up

It is not clear exactly how the plan was hatched or who was involved.

The eight states that cast phony Electoral College votes on Dec. 14, 2020, sent remarkably similar paperwork to Congress and the National Archives. At least one Trump adviser, Stephen Miller, knew of the plan, saying in an interview on "Fox and Friends" that day, that alternate slates of electors were meeting and would send their votes to Congress.

Ward had filed a lawsuit in federal court in February asking that the subpoena sent by the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol to her cell phone provider, T-Mobile, be quashed.

Ward said, in arguments filed with the court, that the records would have included logs of calls of clients at her medical weight loss clinic, records she said were protected by federal privacy laws.

Ward also said the subpoena was overly broad and violated First Amendment rights of free association. In a August filing, her attorneys argued that forcing T-Mobile to produce the call logs could have a chilling effect on Republicans speaking with their party’s leader.

Republicans, according to the motion filed by Ward’s attorney, Alexander Kolodin, “will be made to feel that every time they communicate with party leadership, they risk having those communications disclosed to law enforcement followed by a knock on the door (or worse) from federal investigators.”

Diane Humetewa (Phoenix): U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Arizona. Formerly, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona and counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs. © Charlie Kaijo/The Republic Diane Humetewa (Phoenix): U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Arizona. Formerly, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona and counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs.

U.S. District Judge Diane Humetewa dismissed those arguments in her ruling Thursday, deciding that the Select Committee has a valid reason to seek the records and any argument about a chilling effect was “highly speculative.”

Humetewa also said the argument about medical privacy doesn’t pass muster since the records sought don’t include any medical information, just records of interactions.

Kolodin did not have an immediate reaction to the dismissal on Thursday.

Ward herself has been subpoenaed by both the Select Committee and the FBI.

She did not return an interview request sent through a spokesperson for the Arizona Republican Party.

The group of Republicans that met at party headquarters on Dec. 14, 2020, were the same 11 whose names appeared on the general election ballot as nominated electors for Trump. 

They included Ward and her husband, Michael, as well as Rep. Jake Hoffman, former Rep. Anthony Kern and Tyler Bowyer, the chief operating officer of Turning Point Action, an advocacy organization started by conservative personality Charlie Kirk.

Turning Point Action's Chief Operating Officer Tyler Bowyer speaks on stage at the Unite and Win Rally in Phoenix on Aug. 14, 2022. © Alberto Mariani/The Republic Turning Point Action's Chief Operating Officer Tyler Bowyer speaks on stage at the Unite and Win Rally in Phoenix on Aug. 14, 2022.

In an August court filing, Ward argued that the sending of the alternate slate of electors was done as a failsafe of sorts. Those fake electors “acted to send an alternate slate of electors to Washington in the event that the legal challenges to the Arizona results succeeded,” the motion read.

The motion said the connection between sending up fake electors and the Jan. 6, 2021 riot was “far from obvious.”

Footage shown during televised hearings by the Select Committee showed that the rioters became incensed upon hearing that Pence had decided to certify Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election and not consider any alternate scheme that would have kept himself and Trump in office.

In the footage, rioters started chanting: “Hang Mike Pence.”

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Judge rules Jan. 6 committee can see phone records of Arizona Republican Party head Kelli Ward

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