If you want to see the logical endpoint of the addled reasoning that ex-President Donald Trump follows to deny his 2020 reelection defeat, look no further than Arizona. And don’t ask us: ask the growing number of top Arizona GOP officials who are scorning their party’s sketchy, opaque “audit” of the election results.
We put “audit” in quotation marks, since that’s what they’re calling this affair run by Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based cybersecurity firm that has never run an election audit but is run by a CEO who has peddled pro-Trump conspiracy theories. Maricopa County Board Chairman Jack Sellers, a Republican, would caveat the term “audit” as well, telling The Associated Press this week that Senate President Karen Fann’s support for it is an “attempt at legitimatizing a grift disguised as an audit.”
Sellers was miffed because Cyber Ninjas claimed that Maricopa County had deleted files; he responded at a public meeting: “They can’t find the files because they don’t know what they’re doing. We wouldn’t be asked to do this on-the-job training if qualified auditors had been hired to do this work.”
Who can you trust? On one hand, we have a GOP-led county that counted the votes in November, went over them with a forensic audit and found nothing amiss before having them certified by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. On the other, we have a fly-by-night outfit that has recruited right-wing activists as ballot-counters; the Arizona Republic reported that they included ex-state legislator Anthony Kern, who took part in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Jennifer Morrell, who served as an observer, told the Washington Post that unlike any other election audit she’d witnessed, no one is monitoring how many ballots are being processed by the counters.
Trump on May 15 bizarrely claimed “the entire Database of Maricopa County in Arizona has been DELETED! This is illegal and the Arizona State Senate, who is leading the Forensic Audit, is up in arms.” Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, another Republican, quickly responded: “I’m literally looking at our voter registration database on my other screen. Right now. We can’t indulge these insane lies any longer. As a party.”
But some are eager to indulge insane lies if it means the possibility of advancing their political careers. Exhibit A is Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga Springs, who replaced Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, as the No. 3 House Republican last week at Trump’s behest. Not because the amorphous Stefanik articulates conservative philosophy particularly well, or even supports Trump’s agenda; it has been widely noted that Cheney voted with Trump more often than Stefanik, and received higher scores from the conservative Club for Growth and the Heritage Action Committee. Cheney did, however, commit the cardinal sin of admitting Biden won.
Stefanik, by contrast, rose for one reason: unflinching devotion to Trump, no matter what he’s accused of. Her vote to overturn the 2020 election results came after her shameless performance during Trump’s first impeachment trial, which was about Trump’s attempt to extort campaign assistance from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in exchange for defense funds previously allotted by Congress. Stefanik tried to make the affair a forum on Hunter Biden, who serves no role in his father’s administration; a sleazy canard from someone hoping to reelect Trump, whose unqualified, ethically compromised daughter and son-in-law were given plum policy portfolios. Stefanik rejected any criticism of Trump’s conduct, telling WWNY: “He is a non-traditional leader, and his voters wanted this non-traditional leadership.”
If there were truly any widespread fraud, wouldn’t Trump’s Attorney General William Barr have found it? He said in December that he saw “no basis” for Trump’s claims and rejected calls to appoint a special counsel to investigate voter fraud. Enough is enough. It’s time for Republicans to stop this childish temper tantrum.