Former Arizona AG sat on records disproving election fraud

PHOENIX (AP) – Arizona’s former attorney general suppressed findings from his investigators who concluded there was no basis for allegations that the 2020 election was marred by widespread fraud, according to documents released Wednesday by his successor.

Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes, who took office last month, said the records show the 2020 election “was conducted fairly and accurately by election officials.”

Former Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, never released a March 2022 summary of investigation findings that ruled out most of the fraud allegations spread by allies and supporters of former President Donald Trump. Another month later he released himself an “interim report” that claimed his investigation “revealed serious vulnerabilities that need to be addressed and raise questions about the 2020 elections in Arizona.”

He released his April report despite pushback from his investigators, who said some of its claims were refuted by their investigation. Brnovich was at the time in the middle of a Republican party primary for the US Senate and facing fierce criticism from Trump, who argued he did not do enough to prosecute election fraud.

Brnovich, whose primary bid was unsuccessful, also did not release a September memo systematically debunking a series of election conspiracies that have taken root on the right, including claims of dead or duplicate voters, pre-marked ballots flown in from Asia, election servers connected to the Internet and even manipulation of satellites controlled by the Italian military.

“In each case and in each case, the aforementioned parties presented no evidence to support their allegations,” the September memo read. “The information provided was speculative in many cases and when investigated by our agents and support staff was found to be inaccurate.”

The September note, which was among those documents released Wednesday, describes an all-encompassing investigation that became a top priority for state attorney general investigators, who spent more than 10,000 hours investigating 638 complaints. They opened 430 investigations and referred 22 cases for prosecution. President Joe Biden Arizona won with just over 10,000 votes.

Mayes said the allegations of fraud were a waste.

“The 10,000 hours spent diligently investigating every conspiracy theory under the sun distracted this office from its core mission of protecting the people of Arizona from real crime and fraud,” Mayes said in a statement.

Attempts to reach Brnovich for comment were unsuccessful.

Brnovich’s “interim report” claimed that election officials worked too quickly to verify voter signatures and pointed to a drop in the number of ballots with rejected signatures between 2016 and 2018 and again in 2020. He also claimed that Maricopa County was slow to respond to requests for information.

He made these claims even after investigators who reviewed a draft pushed back and released his report largely unchanged following their feedback.

Investigating staff concluded that the county recorder’s office “follows its policy/procedures regarding signature verification; we have not uncovered any crime or fraud committed in this area during the 2020 general election,” investigators wrote. They also said they found the county “to be cooperative and responsive to our requests.”

Arizona became the epicenter of Trump’s allies’ efforts to cast doubt on Biden’s victory. Republican leaders of the state Senate subpoenaed election records and equipment and hired a Florida company led by a Trump supporter, Cyber ​​Ninjas Inc., to lead an unprecedented review of Maricopa County elections.

The review by Cyber ​​Ninjas gave Biden more votes than the official count, but argued that their work raised serious questions about the conduct of the election in Maricopa County, home to metro Phoenix and the majority of Arizona’s electorate. The investigation by the Attorney General’s office found that the allegations did not stand up to scrutiny.

“Our extensive review of CNI’s audit found that they did not provide evidence to support their allegations of widespread fraud or ballot manipulation,” Brnovich’s investigators wrote.

Thursday’s release is the latest confirmation that there was no widespread fraud in election 2020 and it Biden won the presidency legally. Trump continues to repeat his lie that the election was stolen from him as he mounts his third bid for the White House, despite reviews and revisions says otherwise i battleground states he contested and his own officials in the administration refute his claims.

Officials in Maricopa County, where nearly all officials overseeing the election are Republicans, say they held out death threats and verbal abuse due to the suggestions of abuse in the review of Cyber ​​Ninjas and Brnovich’s “interim report.”

“This was a gross abuse of his elected office and a terrible waste of taxpayer dollars, as well as a waste of the time and effort of professional investigators,” Clint Hickman, the Republican chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement. .

Brnovich’s investigators concluded that Maricopa County officials did not uniformly follow state election procedures when completing forms to document the pickup and transportation of mail-in ballots. But they said the errors were procedural and that “investigators found nothing that would (have) compromised the integrity of the ballots or the final vote count.”

Investigators interviewed two Republican state lawmakers who publicly claimed to know about election fraud, but wrote that neither Rep. Mark Finchem or Senator Sonny Borrelli repeated their allegations to the investigators – as they could have been subject to criminal charges for false reporting to law enforcement. Investigators said a third lawmaker, Republican Sen. Wendy Rogers, declined to speak with them.

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