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Ducking 1/6 committee, fake electors get temporary high court reprieve

The chair of Arizona's Republican Party and her husband face a subpoena over their false claims that Donald Trump won their state in the 2020 election. 

WASHINGTON (CN) — Within hours of asking the Supreme Court for emergency intervention, two of the 84 fake electors who falsely claimed that Donald Trump won their states in the 2020 election managed Wednesday to block a subpoena stemming from the Jan. 6 insurrection probe. 

Justice Elena Kagan granted the stay order to Kelli Ward, an ardent Trump supporter who is also chair of Arizona’s Republican Party, and Ward's husband, Michael.

When the House Committee Investigating the Jan. 6 Attack subpoenaed the couple earlier this year, they quoted a message that Kelli Ward had sent to state election officials about the election results in Arizona.

"We need you to stop the counting," she wrote, according to lawmakers.

In a Dec. 15, 2020, video where the she held herself out as a doctor — neither of the Wards went to medical school but instead are doctors of osteopathy — Kelli Ward also called herself one of the "true electors for the presidency."

“We believe that we are the electors for the legally cast votes here in Arizona,” she said.

Ward argued Wednesday to the high court, however, that she is being persecuted for her politics, "as if any such involvement [in the events leading up to January 6] would have been unrelated to her role as chair of the Republican Party of Arizona."

The Wards sued as soon as the Jan. 6 committee subpoenaed their telephone carrier T-Mobile, but a federal judge dismissed the case in September. A divided panel of the Ninth Circuit affirmed that dismissal on Oct. 22, but the order from Kagan stays that decision pending further proceedings. The committee has until Friday to respond to the Wards' application. Kagan is the assigned justice for cases out of the Ninth Circuit.

Ward and her husband, Michael, applied for the stay together earlier Wednesday. Represented by Laurin Mills, an attorney with Samek Werther Mills in Alexandria, Va.; Miami attorney Brant Hadaway; and Phoenix attorney Alexander Kolodin, they claim the subpoena is unprecedented and will shape future congressional investigations. 

“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,” the emergency application states.

The Wards claim that opening up their phone records to the committee would reveal a broad swath of communications from the weeks surrounding the 2020 election. Citing a "60 Minutes" interview, the couple also warn that the committee would use this information to connect political actors to the White House. 

“The precedent set here will be applied in the opposite direction if control of the House changes and Republicans initiate their own investigations or refocus the Committee itself for their own purposes,” the application states. 

Attorneys for the Wards consider the litigation “one of the most important First Amendment cases in history.” They also argue that Ward's work as chairperson of the Arizona Republican Party is protected by the First Amendment. 

“There can be no greater chill on public participation in partisan politics than a call, visit, or subpoena, from federal Investigators,” Mills wrote. 

The application includes several points from the dissent penned by U.S. Circuit Judge Sandra Ikuta, a Bush appointee. Citing a 2021 ruling, the Wards' lawyers also say there is uncertainty in the courts over how to determine if someone has proven their rights to political association have been violated.

While the Jan. 6 committee is presumed to wrap up by January, the information-gathering phase appears to be ongoing. In its most recent hearing, the committee subpoenaed former President Donald Trump. The committee also recently interviewed Virginia “Ginni” Thomas. Lawmakers say the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas still maintains that the 2020 election was stolen. 

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