Supreme Court says House Jan. 6 committee may obtain Kelli Ward’s phone records

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) listens during Jan. 6 committee hearing.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) listens during a Jan. 6 committee hearing Oct. 13.
(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

Turning away a plea from Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward to keep her phone records private, the Supreme Court on Monday let stand a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

The decision came in a one-line order, with dissents by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Ward was not at the Capitol when a mob tried to stop the certification of President Biden’s victory, but the House committee alleged she “played a significant role in attempting to overturn the 2020 election.”


The committee said she refused to accept President Trump’s loss in Arizona, and instead created a slate of “fake” state electors for Trump, which was transmitted to Washington. Trump allies hoped to stall Congress from certifying Biden’s victory by arguing the outcome was in doubt because there were now competing slates of electors.

In March, Ward invoked her 5th Amendment right to remain silent. In response, the committee sought records from her mobile phone provider detailing incoming and outgoing calls between November 2020 and early January 2021.

Ward went to court to block the subpoena, arguing it violated her free-speech rights.

She lost before a federal judge and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. They ruled that the targets of a lawful investigation do not have a 1st Amendment right to refuse to participate.

Then Ward lodged an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court .

Her lawyers characterized the investigation as a political attack.

“In a first-of-its-kind situation, a select committee of the United States Congress, dominated by one political party, has subpoenaed the personal telephone and text message records of a state chair of the rival political party relating to one of the most contentious political events in American history — the 2020 election and the Capitol riot of January 6, 2021,” they said.

As precedent, they cited a decision last year in which the high court blocked California from obtaining the names of big donors who sponsored tax-exempt charities. The 6-3 conservative majority ruled that the forced disclosure of private information violated the donor’s rights to the freedom of association.


In that decision, however, the court said the state could issue a subpoena to obtain the names of donors if a fraud was suspected.