A lawyer for the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol said Tuesday that Kelli Ward, the chair of Arizona’s Republican Party who posed as a fake elector for former President Donald Trump, refused to answer “substantive” questions when she testified before the panel.
“She declined to answer on every substantive question and asserted her rights under the Fifth Amendment,” lawyer Eric Columbus told a judge at a hearing regarding Ward’s efforts to stop the committee from accessing her phone records from Nov. 3, 2020, to Jan. 20, 2021, according to Politico.
Ward was one of six individuals subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 panel in mid-February for their involvement in the fake electors scheme Trump and his allies devised to overturn election results in key battleground states won by now-President Joe Biden in 2020.
U.S. District Court Judge Diane Humetewa previously denied Ward’s motion to block the release of her call logs and text messages, which the Arizona Republican appealed. At Tuesday’s hearing, Ward’s lawyers aimed to convince the judge to delay the release of the records until her appeal is decided.
Ward, who works as a doctor, appealed on the grounds that T-Mobile turning over the records to the committee would violate the privacy of her patients. In addition, she argued it would infringe on her own First Amendment rights as well as those of people “who were in contact with her for political purposes during one of the most contentious periods in American history.”
The subpoena cited reports that Ward pressured an Arizona state election official to “stop the counting” and was in contact with Trump’s campaign to discuss election-certification concerns. Ward also pushed baseless allegations of voter fraud and falsely accused voting machine company Dominion of meddling in the election.
“We would like to better understand these, and other, statements, events that you witnessed or in which you participated, and communications we believe you may have had with national, state, and local officials about the outcome of the November 2020 election,” committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) wrote to Ward in February.
Laurin Mills, Ward’s lawyer, told the judge this week that the subpoena was “designed to discourage political discourse,” according to the Arizona Republic.
“If you do this wrong,” Mills said, “you will set a precedent that is worse than the Capitol riot.”
But Columbus defended the probe, arguing that Ward’s records were important in helping piece together how the insurrection came about.
It’s an “investigation of a very political event, an attempt to overthrow and subvert an election,” Columbus said, according to Politico.
Along with the House select committee investigation, Ward was among the “alternate electors” subpoenaed by a grand jury as part of the Justice Department’s wide-ranging probe into the Jan. 6 riot.
Her lawyer mentioned the subpoena as part of a court filing justifying Ward’s appeal in her phone records case, adding that the department has not addressed their objections.
“The grand jury issued subpoenas to each of Arizona’s alternate electors. The recipients objected to the subpoenas on a wide variety of grounds in late June 2022 and the Government has not responded to those objections or taken any action to enforce those subpoenas,” Ward’s lawyer wrote on Sept. 30 in a court filing cited by Politico.
As a result of Hurricane Ian, the Jan. 6 committee postponed what was likely to be its final public hearing on Sept. 28. The panel has yet to announce a new date.