PHOENIX (AP) — A federal judge in Phoenix on Friday refused to put on hold her order requiring phone records of the Arizona Republican Party leader to be turned over to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, pending an appeal.
U.S. District Judge Diane Humetewa said state GOP Chair Kelli Ward had failed to show that she would suffer irreparable harm if congressional investigators for the records. And she again rejected Ward’s claims that her First Amendment rights would be chilled if investigators were able to learn whom she spoke with while trying to challenge former President Donald Trump’s 2020 election defeat.
Humetewa said she found Ward’s “alleged concern speculative — and in light of disclosures made during oral argument — dubious.”
She noted that Ward’s lawyers pointed out at a Tuesday hearing that she had written a book about sending an alternate slate of fake presidential electors to Congress and filmed multiple videos of her actions and posted them on YouTube.
“These actions belie Ms. Ward’s concern that her communications with her constituents or colleagues will be chilled by (the phone company’s) possible disclosure of who she spoke with during that time,” Humetewa wrote.
The House committee investigating the Capitol attack is seeking phone records from just before the November 2020 election to Jan. 31, 2021. That would include a period when Ward was pushing for Trump’s election defeat to be overturned and Congress was set to certify the results in favor of Democrat Joe Biden.
Kelli Ward and her husband, 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 Biden’s victory in the state.
During Tuesday’s hearing, the attorney representing the congressional committee noted that Kelli Ward had refused to answer questions during a deposition, citing her Fifth Amendment not to incriminate herself.
Ward’s attorney urged the judge to briefly block the subpoena while her appeal is pending. But Humetewa noted that the appeals court won’t get to the case until after the committee must dissolve when the current Congress ends Jan. 3, 2023.
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.