The congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has the right to see phone records for Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward and her husband, Michael, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
The subpoena from the House Select Committee on January 6th sought phone records from T-Mobile between Nov. 1, 2020, through Jan. 31, 2021, for four phone numbers associated with the Wards and Michael Ward’s business, Mole Medical Services. Both Wards were among the Arizona Republicans who were fake electors and signed a bogus document claiming that Donald Trump won the state in the 2020 election.
The Wards filed a lawsuit in February challenging a subpoena for the phone records, arguing that it was “overbroad,” the Wards said, because it is “unrelated to the enabling resolution of the issuing Committee” and doesn’t make a clear connection between the records and potential legislation.
They also argued that the subpoena violated the First Amendment rights of both themselves and the state GOP, and they claimed that the subpoena was illegal because the committee was in violation of House rules. And the Wards, who are both physicians, told the court that turning over the phone records would violate Arizona’s law protecting patient-physician privilege and HIPAA, the federal law governing privacy of medical information.
Federal Judge Diane Humetewa on Thursday rejected all of those arguments. She wrote in an 18-page ruling that the committee’s work has a valid purpose and is not illegal — thus barring a lawsuit against the federal government.
“That three-month period is plainly relevant to its investigation into the causes of the January 6th attack,” she wrote. “The Court therefore has little doubt concluding these records may aid the Select Committee’s valid legislative purpose.”
Humetewa also noted that the federal courts have no oversight role regarding the rules of the U.S. House of Representatives, dismissing the argument from the Wards that the committee has fewer members than the authorizing resolution required.
The judge also flatly rejected the claim that the records would ensnare anyone who called or texted Kelli Ward would “become implicated in the largest criminal investigation in U.S. history” and be subjected to harassment or political persecution by Democrats, in violation of their First Amendment rights.
Humetewa said the argument was “highly speculative” and the Wards “provided no evidence to support their contention that producing the phone numbers associated with this account will chill the associational rights of Plaintiffs or the Arizona GOP.” They also provided no more than “conclusory allegations” that complying with the subpoena would lead to harassment of themselves or anyone else.
The judge also dismissed the claims that state and federal medical privacy laws would be breached if the phone records are turned over. Even if the state law applied — and Humetewa said it doesn’t — its authority overridden by Congress’ constitutional authority to conduct investigations that could lead to legislation. She also said the Wards’ claims that a phone number would expose confidential information was “implausible.”
And Humetewa said the Wards cited no case law to support their argument that the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, protects their phone records. Further, she said the subpoena was issued to T-Mobile, not the Wards, and the mobile phone company is not bound by HIPAA.
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