WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan on Wednesday temporarily blocked enforcement of a subpoena seeking the phone records of Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward that was issued by the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot.
The move by Kagan, a liberal justice who handles emergency applications that originate in Arizona, means the Supreme Court as a whole will decide on how to proceed. The House committee that issued the subpoena has until Friday to respond to Ward’s request, filed earlier on Wednesday, seeking to quash the subpoena.
NBC News has reached out to the Jan. 6 committee for comment.
Ward’s case reaches the Supreme Court as the justices are weighing a separate emergency application brought by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., seeking to block a subpoena demanding his testimony in a Georgia prosecutor’s investigation into alleged 2020 election interference. In that case, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas issued a similar temporary stay while the court considers how to proceed.
Ward and her husband, Michael Ward, were among 14 of 84 so-called alternate electors subpoenaed earlier this year by the House Jan. 6 committee, citing their association with bogus documents claiming that then-President Donald Trump had won the 2020 election in their states.
Lower courts, including the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, rejected Ward’s arguments that the subpoena issued by the committee should be blocked.
The couple, who are both doctors, was subpoenaed and have argued among other things that disclosing their records would violate medical privacy laws. The committee is currently only pursuing Kelli Ward’s records. At the Supreme Court, Ward argued the subpoena violates her right to freedom of association under the Constitution’s First Amendment.
“If Dr. Ward’s telephone and text message records are disclosed, congressional investigators are going to contact every person who communicated with her during and immediately after the tumult of the 2020 election. That is not speculation, it is a certainty,” the couple’s lawyers wrote in court papers.
The subpoena focuses on a T-Mobile cellphone account linked with Ward. It seeks information including all phone numbers, IP addresses or devices that had any communication with the phone in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.
Ward and fellow Republicans had created a competing slate of electors for Arizona declaring that Donald Trump won, despite election results showing Joe Biden received more votes in the state. Those actions have come under scrutiny by the Justice Department as well as the Jan. 6 committee.
Under the normal process, which Arizona government officials followed, certification of the state’s vote by a group of appointed electors is a formality after a winner is determined by the popular vote. Trump and his allies in 2020 pursued a far-fetched theory that if there were competing election results submitted to Congress by the states, lawmakers meeting in the Capitol to certify the results on Jan. 6, 2021, could have prevented Biden from becoming president. In addition to other faults in the plan, Vice President Mike Pence, who had a ceremonial role in the certification process, refused to go along with it. The attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob was intrinsically linked with efforts to overturn Biden’s victory.
Zoë Richards contributed.