High court rules against Arizona GOP leader in records fight
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has cleared the way for the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to get phone records belonging to the leader of the Arizona Republican Party.
The high court on Monday rejected GOP state chair Kelli Ward’s request to halt the turnover of records while a lawsuit proceeds. The court lifted a temporary order that had been put in place by Justice Elena Kagan that had paused anything from happening while Ward’s emergency request was at the Supreme Court.
Ward has said 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.
As is common in situations involving emergency requests to the high court, the justices did not explain their reasoning in their three-sentence order. Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito said they would have sided with Ward but also did not elaborate.
Thomas’ wife Virginia “Ginni” Thomas is one of the people who was interviewed by the Jan. 6 committee and has stood by the false claim that the 2020 election was fraudulent. She had urged Republican lawmakers in Arizona after the election to choose their own slate of electors.
“We’re glad that two justices thought that the First Amendment associational interests implicated by the case were serious enough to warrant even the drastic step of a Supreme Court emergency stay,” said Alexander Kolodin, Ward’s attorney. ”And we hope that lawmakers and officials that might think of targeting people for engaging in First Amendment protected political association will hear this as a warning shot and think twice before doing it.”
A federal appeals court panel previously ruled 2-1 against Ward and said the committee should get records of calls she made and received from just before the November 2020 election to Jan. 31, 2021. That includes 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.
Ruling against Ward at the appeals court level were judges appointed by presidents of different parties. Barry Silverman, an appointee of Democratic President Bill Clinton, and Eric Miller, a Trump appointee, both ruled against Ward. Judge Sandra Ikuta, an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush, dissented.
The appeals court ruling followed a September decision by a federal judge in Phoenix who also ruled against Ward.
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.