The Republican Party’s childish pursuit of “evidence” to support the Big Lie that the 2020 election was somehow stolen from Donald Trump has run into adult supervision in Arizona, where a county chair has rejected a state-senate subpoena and told GOP lawmakers to “tell the truth and stop encouraging conspiracy theories.”
Republicans in Arizona are now months into an “audit” of the largest county’s 2.1 million presidential ballots. Last week, GOP senators sent a new subpoena to administrators in Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located, demanding access to an increasingly ridiculous list of items for its partisan investigation, including each of the internet routers used on election night as well as the “network logs, net flows or similar data related with systems associated in any way with the administration of the November 3 general election.”
Of course there is no actual evidence that the election in Arizona, nor in any other state, was anything other than free and fair — as even extreme Trump partisans, including former Attorney General Bill Barr, have attested to. But the Big Lie is not built on evidence. It starts from the conclusion that Trump was wronged — a lie he started and has continuously stoked — and recklessly builds conspiracy theories to support it. These lies have consequences. The violent January 6th insurrection was a direct result of them. There has been little accountability so far, but the voting firm Dominion, having been baselessly accused by top Trump allies of rigging the election in Biden’s favor, has sued for billions in defamation claims.
In Arizona, a circus has dragged on for months, without any indication of success. Indeed, the audit — being conducted by a Florida firm called Cyber Ninjas — has become a laughingstock, with elections data having been sent to a mysterious “lab in Montana” for examination, and auditors searching for “bamboo fibers” in ballots, after a baseless conspiracy theory surfaced that fake ballots from Asia had somehow altered the vote count. One GOP state senator who initially backed the audit has disowned the “ridiculous” effort: “It makes us look like idiots,” said Paul Boyer, who represents part of Phoenix.
Another GOP senator, Michelle Ugenti-Rita, recently tweeted that the “audit has been botched.” To wit, what was supposed to be a 60 day process has already stretched past 100 days. The counting of physical ballots has finally concluded, but the audit report from Cyber Ninjas — who are being paid millions by groups linked to Trump uberloyalists, including former general Michael Flynn and lawyer Sidney Powell — is said to be still weeks away.
On Monday, Maricopa County Board chair Jack Sellers told the Senate GOP to grow up and start living in the real world. His letter, refusing to comply with the subpoena, is short and worth reading in full. Sellers pulls no punches, defending his county’s free-and-fair election and blasting the Republican audit as an “adventure in never-never land” run by people “with no experience and little understanding”:
It’s now August of 2021. The election of 2020 is over. If you haven’t figured out that the election in Maricopa County was free, fair, and accurate yet, I’m not sure you ever will. The reason you haven’t finished your “audit” is because you hired people with no experience and little understanding of how professional elections are run.
The Board has real work to do and little time to entertain this adventure in never-never land. Please finish whatever it is that you are doing and release whatever it is you’re going to release. I’m confident that our staff and volunteers ran the election as prescribed by federal and state law. There was no fraud, there wasn’t an injection of ballots from Asia nor was there a satellite that beamed votes into our election equipment. It’s time for elected officials to tell the truth and stop encouraging conspiracy theories.
Release your report and be prepared to defend any accusation of misdeeds in court. It’s time to move on.
Chairman, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors
NEW Maricopa County Board chair to Senate GOP: ‘Little time to entertain adventure in never-never land.’ Board rejects most of Senate subpoena shortly before 1pm deadline. pic.twitter.com/JdsgUfj46V
— Brahm Resnik (@brahmresnik) August 2, 2021
The GOP state senate similarly sent a subpoena to the voting firm Dominion, which rejected it as “illegal and unenforceable.” In response, Republican state senator Wendy Rogers has turned to a familiar GOP refrain: Lock ’em up!
I would like to know if we have enough solitary confinement cells in Arizona available for the entire Maricopa Board of Supervisors and the execs at the fraud machine company. We are going to need a lot.
— Wendy Rogers (@WendyRogersAZ) August 2, 2021
It’s unclear how any of this will resolve — and the process may bog down in court. This, in fact, may well serve the aim of the “Stop the Steal” crowd: If not an actual path to overturning the 2020 election, it can keep the myth of a stolen election in the headlines by drawing out this botched audit as long as possible, leveraging taxpayer-funded institutions to support its pernicious PR. The Big Lie is not only dangerous in its corrosion of public faith in our institutions. As shown by the insurrection of January 6th, it’s a clear and present danger to our democracy itself.