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Arizona Republican Chair Kelli Ward must give phone records to Jan. 6 committee

Victor Calderón/KAWC
File photo of Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward.

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- A federal judge won't delay her order giving the phone records of the chair of the Arizona Republican Party to the Jan. 6 committee.
Judge Diane Humetewa said Friday that Kelli Ward failed to show there would be "irreparable harm'' from the release of the information about who was calling and texting her, and who she was calling and texting. And the judge, who last month ordered disclosure, rejected claims that release of the information would "chill'' the interest of party faithful in communicating with her.
But Humetwa said there's an even more basic reason she wants the records turned over -- and soon.
The judge pointed out that Ward wanted her to stay her order while she seeks review of the decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. That court has set a briefing schedule which runs into January.
Only thing is, the panel charged with investigating the events in and around the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol is authorized only through the end of the current congressional session. That occurs Jan. 3.
"An injunction would thus make it impossible for the Select Committee to obtain the subpoenaed records,'' Humetewa wrote. And the judge said that tips the legal balance in favor of Congress -- and against Ward.
"There is a strong public interest in Congress carrying out its lawful investigations,'' Humetewa wrote. "The public interest is heightened when, as here, the legislature is proceeding with urgency to prevent violent attacks on the federal government and disruptions to the peaceful transfer of power.''
Attorney Alexander Kolodin who represents Ward said he cannot comment on what will be the next legal move. But he said if the issue is timing, he would consider an expedited briefing schedule to ensure the case got before the appellate judges before the congressional session ends.
And Kolodin said the fact remains that the new Congress could continue the committee if it wanted.
The realistic possibility of that happening, though, is minimal give the chances Republicans will take over the House.
Panel members want T-Mobile to turn over her phone records from November 2020 through January 2021.
That includes the period where Ward prepared a slate of electors, herself included, who were pledged to vote for Donald Trump even though Joe Biden won the popular vote in Arizona and the state's 11 electoral votes. Documents backing that up were sent to Washington.
Douglas Letter, legal counsel to the House, said the committee, studying the events leading up to the Jan. 6 riot, needs to know how Ward's activities played into all that. That would include with whom she was in contact at the time.
"Dr. Kelli Ward participated in multiple aspects of these attempts to interfere with the electoral count in Jan. 6,'' he told the court. "She told officials in Maricopa County to stop counting ballots and promoted inaccurate allegations of election interference by Dominion Voting Systems.''
In sending the set of unauthorized set of electoral votes to Congress, Letter said Wake "mischaracterized (them) as representing the legal votes of Arizona.''
And that's not all.
"While Congress was recessed due to the mob's violence and attack on the Capitol, Dr. Ward continued to advocate for overturning the results of the election,'' Letter said, citing a Jan. 6 Twitter post. And even after the riot and congressional certification of Biden's win, he said, Ward continued to maintain that the slate of fake electors contained "the rightful and true presidential electors for 2020.''
The subpoena seeks only the phone numbers of those who were in contact with Ward, not the actual content of the texts or conversations. Despite that, Ward argued that just the disclosure of her political contacts will "chill'' the interest of members of the party in communicating with her.
Humetewa called that not just "speculative'' but also "dubious,'' particularly in light that of what Ward already had made public about her activities.
"Ms. Ward had written a book about how she participated in sending an alternate slate of electors to Washington,'' the judge noted, citing "Justified: The Story of America's Audit,'' about not just the Senate review of the 2020 vote in Maricopa County but also other legal developments.
"You will have the opportunity to see many of Kelli's internal and external communications,'' according to promotional material for the book.
And Humetewa said Ward filmed videos of the activities around this alternate slate and posted them to YouTube.
"These activities belie Ms. Ward's concern that her communications with her constituents or colleagues will be chilled by T-Mobile's possible disclosure of a record showing Ms. Ward called or received calls from persons during this time,'' the judge wrote.
An attorney from the committee revealed at an earlier hearing that Ward invoked her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when she was questioned by the panel's staff. The lawyer did not say when that interview took place.
On Twitter: @azcapmedia