A to Z

GOP Arizona legislators, including leaders of the House and Senate, subpoenaed to testify in special counsel probe of Trump

By: - February 17, 2023 7:15 am

House Speaker Ben Toma, Senate President Warren Petersen and Sen. Sonny Borrelli all received federal grand jury subpoenas from the U.S. Department of Justice’s special counsel investigation of Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss. Photos by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

At least three Arizona Republican state legislators have been subpoenaed by the U.S. Justice Department’s special counsel, Jack Smith, as part of the criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump and his efforts to reverse his 2020 election loss.

The federal grand jury subpoenas were issued to Senate President Warren Petersen, Sen. Sonny Borrelli and House Speaker Ben Toma. And at least one former state senator, Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who led the Senate’s Election Committee in 2021, received a subpoena. All four have been ordered to produce records and travel to Washington, D.C., to testify.


The Arizona Mirror obtained a copy of one of the subpoenas on the condition that it would not be published. In addition to the command to testify before the grand jury, the office of the special counsel is demanding any documents already provided to the congressional panel that investigated the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot and any documents given to any other state or federal inquiry related to the 2020 presidential election.

The subpoena also seeks all communications with Trump or his campaign. It also specifies 18 different campaign employees, attorneys and surrogates: Kenneth Chesebro, Justin Clark, Joe DiGenova, John Eastman, Jenna Ellis, Boris Epshteyn, Rudy Giuliani, Bernard Kerik, Bruce Marks, Cleta Mitchell, Matthew Morgan, Kurt Olsen, William Olson, Sidney Powell, Bill Stepien, Victoria Toensing, James Troupis and L. Lin Wood.

The state Senate and House of Representatives both confirmed the existence of the subpoenas for the three sitting lawmakers, but refused to release them under the state’s public records law or to discuss if other lawmakers were also subpoenaed. Spokespeople and legislative attorneys also refused to answer questions about the subpoenas.

“The Special Counsel’s Office has informed us that public release of its subpoenas could impede its investigation and interfere with federal law enforcement,” Pete Galvan, an associate rules attorney in the Senate, wrote in an email. “In light of the position of the Special Counsel’s office, the Senate won’t release the materials at this time but may revisit the issue in the future as circumstances change.”

A House attorney also initially cited a request from the Special Counsel’s Office to keep the records secret as justification. Upon further questioning, both Justin Riches, the House’s public records counsel, and Galvan said the legislative bodies were under no obligation to release the subpoenas because of case law and administrative rules allowing records to be shielded if doing so is “in the best interests of the state.”

Ugenti-Rita did not respond to questions about the subpoena.

Borrelli, Petersen, Toma and Ugenti-Rita are not the first Arizona officials to be subpoenaed by the Justice Department in connection to Trump’s effort to convince GOP officials in battleground states he lost to overturn the election results in a bid to retain power. In November, officials in Maricopa County were among the first to receive subpoenas from Smith’s office.

And before Smith was appointed late last year, the FBI subpoenaed at least two Republican state senators — then-President Karen Fann and Kelly Townsend — as part of its investigation into Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn the 2020 election.

Those earlier subpoenas to Maricopa County and the former senators sought communication records with 19 different Trump campaign members, attorneys or surrogates, including Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood.

Prior to that, the Department of Justice had subpoenaed Arizonans who signed a document that would have sent fake electors to Congress backing Trump. Among them was Kelli Ward, then the chair of the Arizona Republican Party. 

Smith’s probe appears to be intensifying and moving aggressively. This month, he issued a subpoena to former Vice President Mike Pence, and some sources have reportedly been called to testify to the grand jury multiple times.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications. He has also served as the editor and executive director of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting.