A supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump holds a sign at a 'Stop the Steal' protest in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. (Cheney Orr / Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.The Cyber Ninjas’ audit into the Arizona election is over. In the end, a draft copy of the company’s report leaked Thursday concluded that the official vote count conducted by Maricopa County was correct. In fact, the so-called audit found that former President Donald Trump had lost by an even bigger margin than in the official count.
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Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based company with no prior experience conducting election recounts, have claimed that its six-month-long recount of 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County was the “most comprehensive and complex election audit ever conducted.” Trump and his allies have long believed it would finally prove their claims that the 2020 election was stolen by Joe Biden. The GOP-led Maricopa County election board, who have slammed the recount as a sham, received a copy of the draft report on Wednesday from an unknown source, and on Thursday tweeted: “The draft report from Cyber Ninjas confirms the county’s canvass of the 2020 General Election was accurate and the candidates certified as the winners did, in fact, win.”The authenticity of the draft, which was reviewed by VICE News, was also confirmed by audit spokesperson Randy Pullen.“It's not the final report, but it's close,” Pullen told local radio station KJZZ on Thursday evening, adding: “Was there massive fraud or anything? It doesn’t look like it.”The leak came 24 hours before the people conducting the vote review are scheduled to appear before the Arizona State Senate and present their findings.
The 110-page draft report is made up of three volumes—Executive Summary & Recommendations, Methodology & Operation, and Results.The results section shows that the hand recount found President Joe Biden won the county, receiving 45,469 more votes than Trump. The official county results showed he won by 45,109.
Despite Biden’s clear victory, the report never explicitly says he won the election. Instead, it gives a long list of alleged discrepancies in voting-machine software and voter locations, and makes claims that people voted in multiple counties. These claims will likely be the focus among those who are hoping the Maricopa County audit will turn up some smoking gun to prove widespread vote rigging and fraud during the 2020 election. “The tabulation equipment counted the ballots as they were designed to do, and the results reflect the will of the voters,” Maricopa County Board Chairman Jack Sellers wrote in a statement published Thursday night. “That should be the end of the story. Everything else is just noise.”However, Pullen cautioned that some of the evidence that will be presented on Friday has not yet been leaked, and will highlight significant “anomalies” in voting records that could cast doubt on the final vote count. (Still, no evidence has been produced to show this, and all previous audits in the county don’t show any signs of widespread voter fraud.)
On Friday morning, Trump called the findings in the report “huge” and claimed the media was trying to “call it” again for Biden “before actually looking at the facts—just like they did in November.”Trump also said the “audit has uncovered significant and undeniable evidence of fraud,” even though the draft report says virtually the opposite.Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, who authorized the recount and has been one of its biggest supporters, hit out at the media in a statement issued hours before the presentation.“It’s been a painstaking process with all the lawsuits filed, lack of cooperation from Maricopa County, and the constant biased ‘reporting’ from the liberal media and Democratic organizations,” Fann said. “We believe they have tried everything to stop this audit and mislead the public.”But Fann added that Friday’s report publication was not necessarily the end of the road for the bogus audit, hinting that more lawsuits and subpoenas could be filed down the road. “The Senate did not give up any of our rights to continue pursuing the truth or additional data needed in the future. We still hold the right to issue new subpoenas at any time.”Wendy Rogers, an Arizona senator who has also embraced wild conspiracy theories about the election, tweeted on Thursday night that the leaked report did not give the whole picture.
The recount began in late March and quickly became ground zero for election fraud conspiracy theorists who were spreading the Big Lie that the election was somehow stolen from Trump. In fact Trump himself reportedly became obsessed with the audit’s findings believing it would trigger a process that somehow saw him return to the White House.
The Arizona Senate awarded the audit contract to Cyber Ninjas, the company led by Logan, a man who had voiced election fraud conspiracies on social media and has close links to those pushing the conspiracy that the 2020 election was rigged. Cyber Ninjas embraced wild conspiracy theories during the recount, including one claiming that boxes stuffed with fake ballots were flown from Asia on the night of the election and dumped in Phoenix. “This partisan effort in Arizona appears to be ending the same as it begun—highly biased, incompetent individuals running the process, delay after delay after delay, and very importantly, completely untransparent,” David Becker, founder of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, told reporters during a call Thursday.The Arizona audit quickly became ground zero for the effort to undermine the results of the 2020 election as well as pass voter suppression legislation in states across the country. Dozens of Republican lawmakers toured the recount center with the explicit aim of conducting similar recounts in their states.
But even as the audit comes slowly to an end, the damage it has done is palpable.Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Georgia are already pushing for forensic audits in their states, and on Thursday night, at the same time as the draft report was leaked, the Texas secretary of state’s office said it has begun a “full forensic audit” of the 2020 general election in Collin, Dallas, Harris, and Tarrant counties.The agency did not explain what prompted the move, but it came just hours after Trump, who won the state in last year’s election, asked Gov. Greg Abbott to add an election audit bill to the state legislature’s third special session agenda.But so far, just like Arizona, no evidence has been produced to show the 2020 election was rigged.“Every time Trump and his supporters have been given a forum to make their case, they have swung and missed,” Ben Ginsberg, a longtime Republican election lawyer and vocal critic of Trump, told reporters on Thursday. ”If Trump and his supporters can’t prove [election fraud in Arizona], then they can’t prove it anywhere.”This story has been updated with comments from former President Donald Trump about the audit.