The team of Arizona Republican state senators, legislative staff, and advisers finalizing the Cyber Ninjas’ report on the 2020 presidential election in Maricopa County are preparing to say that Joe Biden legitimately won the election, according to the largest funder of the Senate’s mostly privatized election review, former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne.
“The way some of these political RINOs [Republicans In Name Only] are doing this is they’re trying to argue that the [election] report should only be allowed to go and address the original construct of the report, the original assignment of the audit, and leave out other things that have been found,” Byrne told Creative Destruction Media’s L. Todd Wood.
“The political class is going to try to come in and water this down,” Byrne said. “The Republican political class, the RINOs, the nobodies… They are going to try to water this down. I am sure they all have been promised federal judgeships or sacks of cash under a streetlight if they can get this killed at this late date or watered down. And I think the public of Arizona should go ballistic.”
Byrne’s comments were made on August 29 but have been reposted on pro-Trump media in recent days as Arizona’s Republican Senate leadership is finalizing its report on the election. Trump has also revived his attacks on “RINOs” in recent days on Telegram, a social media site favored by his base.
The Arizona Senate’s review team includes Doug Logan, the CEO of the Cyber Ninjas, its lead contractor—which is writing the report and has been paid $3.2 million from Byrne’s organizations.
Byrne’s comments underscore what observers of the Arizona Senate’s review have anticipated for months—that any credible review would conclude there were no major problems with Maricopa County’s conduct of the presidential elections, although, as in any election, some procedures could be improved to make the vote-counting process more transparent.
Cyber Ninjas was hired to oversee a manual recount of Maricopa County’s presidential and U.S. Senate votes and to examine whether the county’s ballots were authentic or possibly forged. Logan and his team had little or no prior election audit experience, and their methods were criticized as secretive and deeply flawed. Nonetheless, for months the Arizona “audit” has been a driving force perpetuating the “big lie,” or the false claim that the election was rigged by Democrats and establishment actors who orchestrated a massive vote-stealing operation.
The Arizona review has generated endless conspiracy theories and became a rallying cry, if not a litmus test, for Trump-centered Republicans. It has inspired loyalists in other presidential swing states to launch similar reviews long after the 2020 election results were certified.
The stolen election claims, however, have not produced any evidence that has been accepted by any state or federal court. Instead, Trump’s campaign legal team has been sanctioned by a U.S. District Court judge in Michigan for lying in court, and some of his lawyers face fines and disbarment. In Arizona, a team of retired election auditors with decades of experience has published analyses using official 2020 election records to document how nearly 60,000 ballots had a majority of votes for Republican candidates but not for Trump. Trump lost the state by nearly 11,000 votes.
Sources in Arizona have said that the state Senate review team was spooked by the possible losses of law licenses looming over Trump’s attorneys, as well as stern warnings from the U.S. Department of Justice for possibly using investigative methods that could violate voter intimidation laws. As a result, they have been editing the report drafted by the Senate’s lead contractor, Cyber Ninjas, and excising claims and narratives that are speculative rather than factual. This has delayed the report’s release until the week of September 20, sources indicated.
The review team consists of Arizona Senate President Karen Fann; Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen; Senate legal counsel Greg Jernigan; contract Senate attorneys Kory Langhofer and Thomas Basile of Statecraft; Garth Kamp, the Senate’s senior policy adviser; audit liaison and former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett; audit spokesman Randy Pullen; and Logan, the Cyber Ninjas CEO, according to the Arizona Republic.
Byrne’s apparent frustration with the Senate stems from the decision not to include claims made in early September by Arizona Trump activist Liz Harris that there were 173,104 “lost votes” and 96,389 “ghost votes” in the Maricopa County election. That claim was quickly debunked by the county’s Republican election director—and was the subject of the Justice Department’s May 5 warning letter. During his interview with Creative Destruction Media, Byrne also cited sloppily marked ballots that were adjudicated—or set aside for review of the voter’s intent—as another instance of when votes were allegedly changed.
Byrne’s suggestion that the Arizona Senate is rejecting the conspiratorial narratives put forth by Logan—as well as Logan’s subcontractors and partisan allies like Harris—could set the stage for one of the most stunning reversals in contemporary politics. Trump’s endless claims of a stolen election led to an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. A rally defending those subsequently arrested and prosecuted is planned in Washington for September 18.
Meanwhile, across the country, pro-Trump Republicans have called for copycat audits in their states, and many candidates seeking office in 2022—including most of the Republicans running for governor in Arizona—have said they believe a second term was stolen from Trump. Those responses have been fueled to a large degree by Byrne’s organizations and media projects, which include a book, a conspiracy-laden documentary film, and extensive fundraising efforts.
In short, Byrne is signaling, presumably based on what Logan and other allies have told him, that the Arizona Senate’s review of the 2020 election will conclude that Biden beat Trump.
“The people of Arizona should make it very clear that they will not accept any political interference in this report,” Byrne complained. “It’s the kiss of death. If politicians get involved… The whole point was that we don’t trust the politicians. We wanted some technologists to look at stuff and tell us what they find. To have them spend all these millions of dollars and all these months and this effort to do that… and then to have some weenie politicians get involved.”
“I hope that it’s made really clear in social media that the citizens of Arizona and this country do not want any political interference in this report from the political class in Arizona,” he said. “[Within t]he Republican political class, believe it or not, there are some weak sisters. There are some RINOs… It’s all corrupt.”
Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, the American Prospect, and many others.