A rare example of Republicans calling out their own instead of bending to pro-Trump lies as 2022’s primaries get underway.
By Steven Rosenfeld
This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
Unlike many Republican candidates who are mimicking Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, or who initially rejected Trump’s claims but are now flirting with conspiracy theorists, Maricopa County’s top elected Republicans have lambasted Arizona’s attorney general, Republican Mark Brnovich, for lying about the 2020 election.
“I just want to say something now to the Republicans who are listening,” said Bill Gates, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors chair, a lawyer, and a Republican, at its May 4 meeting, before it unanimously voted to send a detailed letter to Brnovich refuting his statements. “We used to be the party of facts. We used to be the party of the rule of law… What happened, Mr. Brnovich? Again, I’m going to say as I’ve said before, the 2020 election is over.”
“I have been so disappointed, on so many levels, with Republican electeds [officials], Republican colleagues, Republican friends,” said Stephen Richer, Maricopa County recorder. “But I’ve never been more disappointed than when somebody omits information, misstates information, and besmirches the good name of the hardworking people in my office and reopens vitriol, hate, and threats that they shouldn’t have to deal with. And when you have the power of the state behind you, the power of law enforcement… that’s a special kind of bad.”
The comments came as the GOP-led county that is home to Phoenix formally responded to an April 6 “interim” report by the Arizona attorney general that criticized the county’s oversight of the 2020 election, but did not say illegal voting had occurred. The report also said the county did not “cooperate” with the AG’s office. Brnovich is now running for U.S. Senate.
“As has been stated previously, the 2020 election in Maricopa County left significant holes to be answered and addressed,” the April report signed by Brnovich concluded. “All branches of government in this state must come together to provide full assurance of the integrity of our elections and answer every outstanding question.”
The supervisors and recorder spoke at length before approving their nine-page letter to Brnovich that noted how the county, not the state attorney general’s office, this past January had parsed and debunked every allegation put forth by the state senate’s private contractors, Cyber Ninjas, during their months-long review that concluded in the fall and declared Joe Biden had won.
“When election integrity is challenged, we have the collective responsibility to investigate and report our conclusions thoroughly and honestly. We have. You have not,” the letter said. “The 2020 election was fair and the results indisputable. Rather than being truthful about what your office has learned about the election, you have omitted pertinent formation, misrepresented facts, and cited distorted data to seed doubt about the conduct of elections in Maricopa County. Given the oaths you took as both a lawyer and elected official, we were shocked by your April 6th letter [interim report].”
The county went on to note that Brnovich had told Fox News on November 11, 2020, that Trump lost because suburban Republicans had voted for most of the GOP candidates on the ballot but not for Trump. (Other Arizona Republicans found the same voting pattern.)
“Your ‘interim report’ is inconsistent with your statement on November 11, 2020, that ‘what really happened [is that] people split their ticket. That’s the reality. Just because that happened doesn’t mean it’s [election] fraud,’” the county said, quoting Brnovich. “It is also inconsistent with your office’s decision against filing any lawsuit following the election.”
Nonetheless, a day after Brnovich issued his April report, he appeared on Steve Bannon’s podcast, where the county said he “made a number of inaccurate statements.” The county wrote:
“Though references to artificial intelligence [software] did not make it into your ‘interim report’ you somehow deemed it appropriate to appear on television on April 7, 2022, to allege that you had received a letter from Maricopa County ‘admitting’ that the County used artificial intelligence to verify signatures in the 2020 general election. But the referenced letter, which you posted to the internet, says no such thing.
“Nor do any of the training material provided to your investigators on February 9, 2022. We also provided your investigators with in-person instruction on the signature review process where they were told that artificial intelligence is not used to verify signatures. We told your investigators many times that all signatures are verified by humans. In short, your office knew that all signatures were verified by human beings. You stated publicly the opposite. Repeatedly.”
The pushback by lifelong Republicans against ongoing post-2020 propaganda is unusual in today’s GOP. In other battleground states, Republican officials who initially rejected Trump’s claims—like Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger—have been lending credence to conspiratorial claims about the 2020 election and prospects of illegal voting as their 2022 primary election approaches.
But the Maricopa supervisors said that Brnovich’s efforts to smear their election administrators and to campaign in 2022 on false claims about Trump’s loss were “despicable.”
“It’s despicable that Mark Brnovich has made this allegation. He knows better, and so do the other lawyers in his office,” said Gates, the board chair. “It’s my job to tell the truth, and that’s what we’re doing here.”
Several hours later, Brnovich replied via a video posted on Twitter.
“I was very disappointed in today’s press conference at the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and the county recorder because we already live in very divisive times,” he said. “Instead of casting aspersions and casting stones, we should be working together to address issues so everyone, no matter who they are, can have confidence in the electoral process.”
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.