The conspiracy theories coming out of Arizona’s sham election audit have become so bad that even the company that ran the recount has been forced to debunk a fake audit report being boosted by some of former President Donald Trump’s biggest allies.
Cyber Ninjas is a company with no experience of election recounts, that embraced QAnon conspiracies about bamboo ballots and nonexistent watermarks. It’s run by a man who boosted election fraud conspiracies online. And on Tuesday, it was forced to issue a statement after several Trump supporters shared the fake report to hundreds of thousands of followers.
“There is a false version of the Executive Summary of the Maricopa County Forensic Election Audit report that is circulating,” Doug Logan, CEO of Cyber Ninjas, wrote in a statement sent to VICE News. “This false version claims to be an earlier version of the Cyber Ninjas Executive Summary, but because of supposed threats from the [Arizona State] Senate, it was not used. This is absolutely false.”
The fake report, which has been circulating in pro-Trump, QAnon, and other conspiracy channels in recent days, contains the line: “The election should not be certified, and the reported results are not reliable.”
The fake report was given credibility when the far-right conspiracy blog the Gateway Pundit claimed without evidence that the line was taken out of the final report because of pressure from the state Senate.
In his statement, Logan also said “the exact origins to the Executive Summary are unknown.” But evidence shows that the fake report was first pushed by people very close to Logan and the Arizona recount.
Last Thursday, a draft version of the report was leaked hours ahead of the report’s official release. The draft version was slightly different from the final version presented to the Senate on Friday, but the main conclusion was identical: the hand recount confirmed that President Joe Biden did beat former President Donald Trump in Maricopa County.
However, hours before Logan and his colleagues presented their findings to the Senate, a version of the report dubbed the “real report” was published on the Telegram channel of Ann Vandersteel, president of the far-right media outlet YourVoice America, and a proponent of the Pizzagate and QAnon conspiracies.
Vandersteel claimed without evidence that “they threatened Doug Logan and his family if he put it out” although she does not explain who “they” refers to.
The document itself looked almost identical to the draft report released the previous evening, but it contained the added lines that entirely changed the findings of the report. Whoever produced the fake document even took the care to change its metadata to say that it was written by “Douglas Logan.”
Vandersteel did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment about who supplied her with the fake report.
Vandersteel, who once claimed she was on Trump’s reelection advisory board, appears to have been the first to share the fake report, but one open-source researcher found that it spread quickly, and was posted to at least 9 other channels within an hour, reaching a combined total of over 266,000 users.
Over the weekend the file was shared widely in pro-Trump and pro-audit channels and was boosted by Patrick Byrne, the uber conspiracy theorist and Trump supporter whose America Project helped fund the Arizona audit to the tune of $3.2 million—over half the total money raised for the sham recount.
In fact, the America Project placed a link to the file at the top of its website throughout the weekend, and only took it down on Tuesday following the statement from Cyber Ninjas.
The fake report was also given credibility when the Gateway Pundit published a story about the document without questioning its origins. When Cyber Ninjas issued its statement Tuesday, the outlet attempted to wipe the original story from the site, without printing a correction.
Logan, Vandersteel, and Byrne also collaborated on a conspiracy-laden “documentary” about vote-rigging which premiered while the Arizona audit was taking place.
“The Deep Rig,” which was funded by Byrne, starred an anonymous “expert” who spoke about election fraud. Towards the end of the movie, the expert was revealed to be Logan. In the film, Logan claims the CIA, or maybe former members of the agency, is spreading “disinformation” about election fraud.
The film was directed by Roger R. Richards, whose previous work includes a film that claimed 9/11 was the work of aliens. It premiered in June at the Dream City Church in north Phoenix.
At that premiere, which was attended by several Republican lawmakers, Vandersteel acted as MC for a question-and-answer session with a panel that included Byrne, the filmmakers, and Joseph Flynn, the brother of QAnon promoter and disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
And now that Logan, the Cyber Ninjas, and the audit spokesperson Randy Pullen have all called the fake report a hoax, Trump supporters and QAnon believers are claiming that’s all part of the cover-up.
Everyone from GOP Senate President Karen Fann and conspiracy-loving GOP state Sen. Wendy Rogers, both of whom were huge supporters of the audit, have been blasted because the recount didn’t result in the election being overturned—something that was never going to happen.
But if you thought this was going to be the end of the push to overturn the election, you were wrong. Matt Braynard, the man who recently organized the “Justice for J6” rally at the capitol, is now trying to fundraise money to complete yet another report into last November’s vote in Arizona.
“Unlike the "official" audit that cost about $6,000,000, our total cost for our research is less than $100,000,” Braynard said in a message to subscribers to his Look Ahead America group.
Braynard said his report will be completed in late October, which should keep the conspiracy theorists and die-hard Trump supporters happy—for another few weeks, at least.