Trump’s Plot to Steal Arizona Was Even Wilder Than We Thought

A massive data dump of emails, texts, and documents show Trump’s allies were heavily involved in the bogus Arizona audit.

Sep 2 2021, 2:57pm
Unraveling viral disinformation and explaining where it came from, the harm it's causing, and what we should do about it.

For months now, we all thought we knew that the bogus Arizona audit was a clown show. But a new data dump of more than 22,000 emails, texts, and documents show just how wild it really was.

On Tuesday the Arizona Senate finally complied with a court order to hand over its private communications with the people involved in running the audit. The massive trove includes communications that suggest former President Trump wanted to fund it, that Trump’s allies were involved from the start, and that conspiracy theorists involved in the recount worried about threats from antifa and Black Lives Matter.

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Oh, and workers were paid as much as $125 an hour.

The Senate was forced to hand over the documents following a public records lawsuit brought by American Oversight, a group of former Obama administration officials set up to investigate the Trump administration.

But the Senate has withheld 2,500 of the most sensitive documents, citing legislative and attorney-client privilege, which include almost all direct communications with Cyber Ninjas and its CEO Doug Logan.

The bogus recount began in April and was expected to take 16 days to complete. In the end the recount didn’t finally finish until late July. The report was due to be presented to the Senate last week, but it’s been delayed for at least several more weeks after Logan and several colleagues contracted COVID-19.

The recount, conducted despite several previous audits showing no widespread voter fraud in Maricopa County, has become a lightning rod for Republicans and conspiracy theorists across the country who believe that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump.

Here are some of the most stunning revelations: 

Trump funding

On April 22, a week before the audit would get underway, Randy Pullen, a spokesperson for the recount and a former chair of the Texas GOP, got a text message from Jeff DeWit, the former CFO of NASA and a former Trump campaign official.

DeWit said he wanted to donate $175,000 to the Guardian Defense Fund, an entity set up by Rep. Paul Gosar, Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem, and former Arizona state Rep. Anthony Kern after their attendance at the Jan. 6 rally.

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Pullen responded: “200 would be better but take what I can get.”

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

Then DeWit enquired about Fund the Audit, a dark money fundraising vehicle set up by former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, who has become one of the biggest election fraud conspiracy theorists.

DeWit asked if the group was legit and if it “was OK to donate to?” Then he added: “Trump asking.” Pullen said the group was legit and had raised $1.2 million so far.

There is no indication that Trump followed through and gave money to the group, but data released by Cyber Ninjas in July shows that Fund the Audit is by far the biggest funder of the audit, providing $3.25 million. 

Trump allies involved from the start

As far back as December, Trump’s former chief of staff Reince Priebus knew about plans to conduct the audit in Arizona. 

Text messages included in the document drop this week show Pullen was in touch with the former head of the Republican National Committee last year. “I am assisting on the election audit in AZ,” Pullen told Priebus in a message sent in December, which is before Pullen was even officially involved with the audit. “I would like to discuss with you … Any suggestions on election audit firms?” Pullen wrote.

By March, Pullen was asking Priebus to get more involved in the audit.

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“I am drafting up an audit plan,” Pullen wrote on March 7. “I have a couple of examples. Did you put one together for Wisconsin? If possible, could you share.”

Priebus responded by saying he would “make a call this am and get back to you.”

‘Snipers on the roof’

The people running the Arizona audit have indulged in some of the wildest, QAnon-influenced conspiracy theories from the beginning, so it should come as no surprise that the audit would attract a number of conspiracy theorists.

One of those is Gail Golec, a realtor from Scottsdale who recently gave up her job to spend all her time investigating election fraud.

Golec frequently visited the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, where the recount took place. She was even granted access to the site and the documents reveal that she was in touch with the Senate audit liaison Ken Bennett, who appears to have spent a lot of time dealing with conspiracy theorists like Golec.

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

Golec believed the recount was under threat and asked Bennet at one point if the National Guard had been requested to protect the site, including “snipers on the roof.” Golec believed that antifa and Black Lives Matter posed a threat to the recount, and at one point she sent Bennett a picture of a bus with Black Lives Matter written on the side with the caption: “FYI they are here.” The picture, it turned out, was of a bus belonging to the Toronto Raptors, who were not in Phoenix.

But Golec outdid herself when she contacted Bennett about the threat from fire-throwing clowns at a carnival that had set up next to the Coliseum.

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“The hiring of clowns as fire throwers is of course deeply concerning. Do not ignore this video. The FBI should look into this. There are no clowns at carnivals.”

Bennett does not appear to have responded to the message.

The doctor who ‘invented’ email

Shiva Ayyadurai is a well-known spreader of conspiracy theories, specifically anti-vaccine conspiracies. He believes a regime of vitamins is sufficient to treat COVID-19 (it’s not) and that the government’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci is a deep-state plant who will stop at nothing to get “forced and mandatory vaccines” (he’s not).

Ayyadurai, who is known by his followers as Dr. Shiva, also claims that he invented email in the late 1970s as a teenager, a claim that has been disputed by experts who point out email was already widely in use in the early 1970s.

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What Ayyadurai isn’t known for, however, is his expertise in conducting election audits, so it’s surprising to find in the newly released documents and email from Pullen on August 6 containing a signed contact between Ayyadurai and Cyber Ninjas. 

The contract, the full details of which have not been revealed, was sent to the United Liberty Coalition, a Phoenix-based group of supporters of former President Trump.

Some Arizona audit workers were getting $125 per hour

While most of the people doing the actual hand recount of the 2.1 million ballots volunteered their time, those supervising them were certainly being paid for it.

According to a document detailing the pay rates of those involved in the recount, one person who worked for just 12 days on the months-long audit took home over $20,000.

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The unnamed person was a floor manager and earning $125 per hour. The list also contains dozens of other positions which are paid either $50 or $100 per hour. While the floor manager’s total was the highest in the list, a number of other people were paid more than $12,000, including a photographer.

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

Voters are angry and persistent

The documents also reveal just how divisive the audit has been, particularly for residents of Maricopa county, who have not been shy in expressing their strongly-held opinions on what is going on.

For example, voter Cassiana Wright was not very happy about the audit. 

“I'm appalled and disgusting [sic] that my voter rights are being disregarded in a [sic] such a disgusting matter by the likes of [QAnon promoter-turned-election fraud conspiracist] Ron Watkins! On what planet is the audit that is currently being conducted appropriate? I'm legitimately concerned about the safety of my family since these QAnon nut obs plan on coming to our places of residence 10 harass us about our constitutional rights to vote. How dare you put our safety at risk in such an obtuse and idiotic way. Stop this NOW,” Cassiana wrote in an email to Arizona State Rep. Warren Petersen, a Republican who has supported the recount. 

But then there are people like Paul Wilson, who was all in favor of the recount and wanted to make sure his local representatives knew about his support.

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Over the course of five months, Wilson sent 27 emails in support of the audit addressed to lawmakers in Arizona. Thirteen of those emails were sent during a 17-day period at the beginning of March, when Wilson was very eager for the audit to go ahead.

“Our entire state and the entire country are counting on all of us to do the right thing here in Arizona. Is it great living in a state that leads the nation in the most important event of our lifetimes. Way to go to all of you, we have your backs,” Wilson wrote.

None of Wilson’s 27 emails received a response.

Suggesting ivermectin for Doug Logan

The final report, which is not set to be delivered in three volumes, has been delayed because Logan and his colleagues have contracted COVID-19.

And given the conspiratorial nature of the  recount, it should come as no surprise that several people involved in the audit have suggested that Logan get himself some ivermectin, the preferred COVID cure of conspiracy theorists—and Joe Rogan.

One of those suggesting Logan take ivermectin was of course Golec, who told Senate President Karen Fann in a text exchange that Logan should visit the website of the conspiracy group America’s Frontline Doctors to order some of the drug, which is designed as a dewormer for horses.

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

Also suggesting Logan take ivermectin was Kelli Ward, the chair of the Arizona GOP, who was also in contact with Fann about he Cyber Ninjas CEO’s condition. “Will be praying for Doug. Hope he’s got some ivermectin and Zithromax.”

Right-wing media access

Christina Bobb, a reporter for the right-wing, pro-Trump station One America News (OAN), was one of the most visible figures during the audit, securing coveted interviews with those involved and gaining access to the count floor while other outlets were blocked.

But Bobb’s involvement went further. Together with OAN White House correspondent Chanel Rion, she set up a dark money fundraising group called Voices and Votes to raise money to fund the audit.

And now, the newly released documents show that Bobb appears to have been given confidential information by Arizona Senate President Karen Fann. In a text exchange between Bobb and Fann, the OAN reporter vents her anger at being scooped despite having been provided the information before the news broke. 

“I have been waiting to report that the numbers don’t match. I’ve kept every piece of information I’ve received confidential, and then the results are broken on another show, it’s a bit frustrating.”

Tagged:

Politics, Donald Trump, fundraising, conspiracy theorists, election fraud, Disinfo Dispatch, big lie, ivermectin, Cyber Ninjas, Shiva Ayyadurai

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