Justice Dept. subpoenas two Arizona state senators in Jan. 6 probe

Photo for The Washington Post by Caitlin O’Hara
Republican Karen Fann, president of the Arizona state Senate, in Phoenix on Sept. 24, 2021

The Justice Department has subpoenaed two Republican Arizona state senators for information tied to possible correspondence with President Donald Trump’s attorneys as attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election were underway.

Arizona Senate President Karen Fann and Sen. Kelly Townsend received subpoenas last week, according to Kim Quintero, a spokeswoman for Senate Republicans in Arizona. The subpoenas came as the Justice Department deepened its investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol to include key Republican players in battleground states. Fann and Townsend are the first state legislators known to have received subpoenas as part of that push.

The Yellow Sheet Report, a political tip sheet, first reported the news. The legislators received the subpoenas while at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix. Federal agents tried to deliver Townsend’s at her home, she said; she invited them to the statehouse, where she was working.

The subpoenas came the same week Arizona’s House speaker, Republican Russell “Rusty” Bowers, testified before the U.S. House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. Bowers testified about efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the former president’s loss in Arizona.

Bowers told The Washington Post on Friday that he has not been subpoenaed and that he is not aware of any members of the Arizona House who have been subpoenaed.

Fann and Townsend are complying with the request, Quintero said, and staff members have already identified tens of thousands of records from constituents and others that could fit what is being broadly requested. The subpoenas are identical and request emails and text messages, Quintero said.

“They’re requesting text messages and emails from a list of people, which I can’t disclose who those people are, because they told us not to speak with the media about this,” she said.

Before Townsend took office in the state Senate in 2021, she served in the Arizona House and chaired the elections committee.

She was among the Republican legislators who pressed state legislative leaders to help appoint a slate of alternate electors from Arizona more favorable to Trump, despite his narrow loss. Townsend also attended a Nov. 30, 2020, event in downtown Phoenix with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and other Trump allies where they falsely claimed widespread fraud had tainted the election.

“As chair of the elections committee, we were trying to hold a committee and do investigations,” Townsend said in an interview Friday with The Post. “Because it was in question, we wanted to have an alternate slate in case fraud was discovered and found.”

She said an initial review of records in response to the subpoena pulled 50,000 documents, almost all from constituents. Townsend said state Senate staffers have asked the Justice Department to narrow its request.

Fann was among the state legislators who attended a Dec. 1, 2020, meeting with Giuliani, attorney Jenna Ellis and others who sought a formal legislative hearing to take up the accusations of fraud.

The hearing never took place, but Fann, on behalf of the state Senate, launched a months-long review of 2.1 million ballots cast by voters in Arizona’s Maricopa County. The review was widely criticized as falling below election audit standards. In the end it found no evidence of widespread fraud but cited flaws in the election process.

The review concluded Democrat Joe Biden won by a slightly larger margin than the official election results.

The two senators are the latest Republican figures in Arizona whose activities around the 2020 election are under scrutiny by federal law enforcement.

Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward and her husband, Michael, who served as alternate electors, received grand jury subpoenas from the Justice Department earlier this month. So did two GOP activists who served as alternate electors, Nancy Cottle and Loraine Pellegrino, people familiar with the matter said.