On August 23, Florida-based Cyber Ninjas, a pro-Trump company charged with overseeing the bogus “forensic audit” in Maricopa County, Arizona, failed to release a full draft report on its findings by its previously announced deadline. That deadline had already been extended once before. Initially, the draft report was due to be issued in June.
The Republican president of the Arizona Senate, Karen Fann, issued a statement saying the full draft report, which was supposed to be sent to a Senate audit and legal team to review “for accuracy, documentation and clarity,” would not be forthcoming because “CEO Doug Logan and two other members of the five-person audit team have tested positive for COVID-19 and are quite sick.”
Logan is a far-right conspiracy theorist, revealed to be “Anon,” a member of the fascistic QAnon group, in The Deep Rig propaganda film released earlier this year. The film posits that the Central Intelligence Agency worked against Trump to steal the election. It was produced by millionaire libertarian and former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne. In addition to producing the film and a book with the same title, Byrne has been the lead private sponsor of the Arizona audit, contributing $3.25 million to the effort.
Fann has been a leading proponent of Trump’s election lies and supported his attempted coup this past January. Emails released in June, after being obtained by the nonprofit legal group American Oversight through a Freedom of Information Act request, show that former President Donald Trump and his then-lawyer Rudy Giuliani were in “frequent contact” with Fann following Trump’s electoral defeat.
In a December 13, 2020 email, Fann, replying to a constituent, noted the importance of the Electoral College certification on January 6, 2021, writing that “we are all hoping any substantiated information from any state regarding voter fraud can be brought and verified by January 6, 2021, when Congress convenes to give the final ‘blessing’ on the election. That would be one of our last options to make a difference in the outcome of the 2020 election.”
Defending her efforts to overturn the election, Fann wrote in a December 28, 2020 email that she had received a “personal call” from Trump, who “thanks us for pushing to prove any fraud.”
In the same email, she boasted that she had been in “numerous conversations with Rudy Guiliani [sic] over the past weeks trying to get this done.”
The Arizona Republican Party played an integral role in the January 6 coup attempt. “Stop the Steal” lead organizer Ali Alexander, a Republican operative and friend of Roger Stone, boasted in an interview with the far-right Michigan-based Church Militant that Stop the Steal “owns all of [the] Arizona [state government], except the secretary of state [Katie Hobbs.]”
The same day Fann revealed that the sham report had not been completed, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, told reporters the audit findings were “not worth the paper they’re printed on.” The week prior, her office had issued a 45-page report outlining various issues related to Cyber Ninjas’ chain of custody, security, transparency and documentation policies and procedures.
“Cyber Ninjas fails to meet industry standards for any credible audit, much less for an election audit,” wrote Hobbs. “The Senate’s contractors demonstrated a lack of understanding of election processes and procedures both at a state and county level.”
The multimillion-dollar recount has been a sham from the get-go and has no legal bearing on the outcome of the 2020 election. President Joe Biden won the state’s 11 electoral votes by a margin of 10,457. Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and is the largest county in Arizona, cast 2.1 million of the state’s 3.3 million presidential ballots. Biden took the county by 45,000 votes.
The fact that no evidence of fraud has been discovered has not deterred Republicans in other battleground states from seeking to replicate the Arizona model and hold their own “forensic audits.” The aim is to lend credibility to Trump’s lies and create the best possible conditions for their next coup attempt. While the Democrats and Joe Biden bend over backwards to appease their Republican “colleagues,” Republican officials and lawmakers continue to conspire with Trump and his co-conspirators.
Last Tuesday, former Republican National Committee Chair and Trump White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus appeared on Stephen Bannon’s “War Room” podcast, where he claimed there was election fraud in Wisconsin, and mail-in and absentee ballots were suspicious. Priebus admitted he had been in contact with Trump and former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who was appointed by the Republican-controlled legislature to “investigate” fraud. Gableman recently visited Arizona to “observe” the ongoing audit and also attended Mike Lindell’s far-right Cyber Symposium .
Priebus said Wisconsin Republicans were hoping to pass a measure that would require taxpayers to pay $680,000 to fund a “forensic audit” in Wisconsin, noting that the sum was higher than the $150,000 appropriated by the Arizona State Senate.
After initially resisting demands by Trump for an audit of Wisconsin’s election, virtually the entire state party has embraced the idea over the past month. In the beginning of August, Representative Janel Brandtjen, the head of the Assembly Elections Committee, issued subpoenas to seize ballots and voting machines in Brown and Milwaukee counties. The subpoenas are not valid until Assembly Speaker Robin Vos signs them, which he has yet to do.
On August 12, Trump threatened Vos, writing: “Hopefully Republican Speaker Vos has the integrity and strength Wisconsin needs to support Rep. Brandtjen’s efforts.”
A little over a week later, Vos was flying in a private jet with Trump to attend the ex-president’s fascistic rally in Alabama. Asked by reporters from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the likelihood that China hacked the election to deliver it to Biden, Vos responded, “I think it’s a possibility, but I think it’s unlikely.”
In support of Trump’s election lies, Trump’s most loyal and fascistic lawmakers are speaking at rallies in battleground states demanding audits. On August 17, “Women for America First” sponsored an “Audit the Vote Rally” in Pennsylvania. The featured speakers were Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano and Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers.
Mastriano was on the U.S. Capitol grounds during the January 6 coup attempt. He was one of 10 Pennsylvania Republican Party officials who directly encouraged or facilitated transport to the Capitol on January 6. Mastriano’s campaign spent over $3,300 on charter buses to Washington D.C. for the January 6 attack.
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