WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday turned away an emergency request from the chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party who was fighting a subpoena for phone records as part an investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. 
Kelli Ward, an ally of former President Donald Trump, challenged a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack that was served on her cell phone provider in January. The inquiry, Ward told the Supreme Court, violates the right to freely associate under the First Amendment. 
The high court issued an order denying Ward’s request to block the subpoena without comment, as is often the case on the emergency docket. Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito would have granted Ward’s application.
Ward argued the First Amendment right would be chilled if House investigators were able to learn about her contacts in the run-up to Jan. 6, 2021. Associate Justice Elena Kagan, who handles emergency appeals from Arizona, had temporarily blocked the enforcement of the subpoena hours after Ward’s request to give the committee time to respond to the appeal. 
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled against Ward on a 2-1 vote on Oct. 22, asserting in part that the committee’s request was “not about Ward’s politics” but instead was “about her involvement in the events leading up to the January 6 attack.”
U.S. Circuit Judge Sandra Ikuta dissented, writing that the House committee had “not provided any explanation as to why the phone records are relevant to its investigation.”
Ward is one of six state officials the committee subpoenaed for information about fielding “alternate electors ” for Trump after the 2020 election in states that President Joe Biden had won. Ward allegedly spoke with Trump after the election about challenging the results and allegedly wrote texts to an Arizona election official after the Associated Press and Fox News declared Biden had won, according to the committee.
The committee is “seeking information about efforts to send false slates of electors to Washington and change the outcome of the 2020 election,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and the chairman of the committee, said in February. 
Two dozen federal lawsuits were filed to challenge committee subpoenas, though the panel so far has mostly won those cases. Many of the cases, including Ward’s, deal with phone metadata – numbers, date and duration of calls – not the content or substance of phone conversations themselves. 
Trump aides and other political figures resisting the committee have most often argued that the subpoenas violated First Amendment protection for political speech, Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Some litigants also challenged the committee’s legitimacy.
But federal courts have repeatedly batted away questions about the panel’s legitimacy. In California, U.S. District Judge David Carter granted the committee access to Trump personal lawyer John Eastman’s emails despite his claims of attorney-client privilege. Carter ruled the privilege doesn’t extend to criminal activity, such as obstruction of Congress, which he ruled Eastman and Trump more likely than not engaged in.    
Ward’s emergency appeal focused on a 2021 decision from the Supreme Court that invalidated a California law requiring nonprofits to disclose their largest donors to state regulators. A majority of the court was concerned that the law would chill donors from giving to non-profits engaged in political work for fear of retribution if the information became public.  
Ward’s appeal also turns in part on a landmark 1958 civil rights decision in which the Supreme Court struck down a request by Alabama that the NAACP reveal its membership – a decision that required the state to show its need for information outweighed the potentially chilling effect on associating with the civil rights group that was protected by the First Amendment.

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