The Arizona GOP official pleaded for the Jan. 5-6 panel

By Bob Christie | Associated Press

PHOENIX — Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward declined to answer questions during a deposition by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot in the Capitol, an attorney for the panel said Tuesday during a court hearing in Phoenix revealed.

Attorney Eric Columbus told a federal judge that Ward asserted her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when she complied with a subpoena from the House Committee.

The detail about Ward’s testimony came at a hearing where attorneys asked a federal judge to block the committee from getting her phone records while she files an appeal. US District Judge Diane Humetewa ruled on September 23 that Ward’s arguments that her phone call recordings should be kept secret failed.

District Attorney Laurin Mills described the dispute over the phone records as a battle with significant democratic implications, on par, if not greater, than the violent uprising in the Capitol.

“This is the first time in American history that a select committee of the United States Congress controlled by one party has subpoenaed the files of the rival party’s state leader,” Mills said.

He said the result will set an important precedent, not just for the current case, but for others to come as Republicans ultimately control Congress.

The House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol is looking for phone records from just before the November 2020 election to January 31, 2021. This would include a period during which Ward was pushing to overturn former President Donald Trump’s election defeat , and while Congress was set to certify the results.

Kelli Ward and her husband Michael Ward were presidential electors who would have voted for Trump in electoral college had he won Arizona. Both signed a document falsely claiming they were Arizona’s true voters, despite Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

Columbus said investigators receive phone records constantly, noting that congressional investigators cannot arrest or charge anyone with a crime. And he noted that Congress doesn’t know everything related to Ward’s action to overturn President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory.

“DR Ward was removed from office by the Special Committee and she declined to respond to any substantive question within the scope of her Fifth Amendment rights,” he said. “There are other aspects of her involvement that are not fully understood at this time .”

Ward is hardly the first witness to dismiss the committee’s questions. Others who have asserted their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination include Trump allies Michael Flynn, Roger Stone and attorney John Eastman. Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones also asserted his rights under the Fifth Amendment.

The committee spoke to more than 1,000 other witnesses, including many White House staffers and several of Trump’s attorneys and confidants.

But Mills noted during the hearing that a parallel criminal investigation was ongoing, and on appeal her attorneys noted that she and the other 10 wrong Arizona voters received grand jury subpoenas from the Justice Department.

“All I can say is if we get this wrong, we’re going to set a precedent worse than the Capitol riot,” Mills said.

Mills told the judge that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had set a briefing schedule and could decide the case as early as January. Columbus noted that this will likely be too late as the committee will disband on January 3 when the current session of Congress ends.

The Wards say the subpoena should be overturned because it violates their First Amendment rights, violates House Rules and exceeds the powers of the Jan. 6 committee. Humeteva has successively dismissed each argument in her earlier ruling and is considering her request to have access blocked during the appeals process.

Kelli Ward is a staunch Trump ally who has aggressively peddled the false claim that the election was stolen from him. In the days following the election, she pressured Republicans on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to investigate baseless fraud allegations before the election results were confirmed, according to text messages released by the county. 6 Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed from Washington. The Arizona GOP official pleaded for the Jan. 5-6 panel

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