- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 24, 2021

Former President Donald Trump praised Arizona officials at a rally in Phoenix on Saturday, touting their “courage” in reexamining the 2020 election results in an ongoing audit.

Mr. Trump, who has long claimed the 2020 election was mired in voter fraud, thanked state officials by name for their efforts to push for an audit in Maricopa County, the state’s largest county which houses Phoenix.

“We’re gathered here in Phoenix to show our support for election integrity and for the brave and unyielding conservative warriors in the Arizona State Senate,” Mr. Trump said. “Thank you. You’ve created a movement all over the country.”

While Mr. Trump praised officials who stood by his claims of fraud, the former president also slammed members of the Republican Party who rejected his efforts to overturn the election results. 

Mr. Trump gave an ode to Arizona Republican Chairwoman Kelli Ward who at one point asserted that county officials who don’t comply with the audit should face arrest.

In his praise of Mrs. Ward, Mr. Trump took a stab at Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican who has been silent on the audit. Mr. Ducey also refused Mr. Trump’s push to overturn the election results. 

“She’s really a fighter, and she fights your governor who doesn’t do a damn thing,” Mr. Trump said of Mrs. Ward. 

Mr. Trump also warned that the Republican Party won’t have a future if they don’t demand answers to how the 2020 election was played out, claiming that Democrats could only win by cheating.

“You know when you win and when you lose,” Mr. Trump said. “If I lost this election, I could handle it pretty easily. When they steal it from you and rig it, that’s not easy. We have to fight. We have no choice. That starts right here with the amazing patriots in Arizona.”

Mr. Trump’s chances of winning a second term took a decisive blow on election night when Fox News called Arizona for President Biden, making it the first state to flip from red to blue between the 2016 and 2020 elections.

Mr. Trump had been telling his supporters for months leading up to the election that the only way he would lose is if the election was stolen, and he doubled down on that message on Election Night.

Since then, Mr. Trump and his supporters have touted unproven allegations of widespread voter fraud in states such as Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona where Mr. Biden was declared the winner.

Senate Republicans in Arizona responded to the claims by ordering an audit of the 2.1 million votes in Maricopa County.

The effort got underway after the county completed a hand recount of a statistical sample of ballots that matched the final tallies and independent audits of the county’s voting machines and software found nothing wrong.

To lead the review they hired Cyber Ninjas, a Florida firm with no apparent experience in election auditing. The company’s chief executive officer, Doug Logan, had previously embraced stolen election conspiracy theories.

The audit was supposed to be wrapped up in mid-May but has blown through various deadlines. Election experts have panned the procedures of the audit.

Now a large number of Mr. Trump’s supporters anticipate the audit will prove the former president’s stolen election claims and set the stage for him to be reinstated.

A recent OH Predictive Insights survey found that over 60% of Republican voters in Arizona believe the audit will show Mr. Trump got more votes than Mr. Biden.

The effort in Arizona has served as a model for pro-Trump Republicans in others states, including Pennsylvania and Georgia.

Mr. Trump has cheered on the audit and lashed out at GOP lawmakers that have refused to back the partisan probes, making it a rallying cry for elected leaders and candidates who want to show their commitment to the former president and his MAGA movement.

Mr. Trump and his backers hope Arizona is the first domino to fall in his quest to prove there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. They blame the “fake news” media for not asking questions.

Critics of the effort have long predicted that the partisan probe will fail to show widespread fraud and that the masterminds behind the audit will then find a scapegoat to keep the charge alive.

Auditors said at a meeting this month that they don’t have all the information they need to finish the job. They said the Republican-controlled Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has refused to help and, as a result, the effort could yield an “incomplete audit.”

Some have suggested the onus is on the county to prove the conspiracy theories about the election are fictional.

State Sen. Mark Finchem, a pro-Trump Republican running for Secretary of State, launched a #ProveIt campaign last week, saying “we’ve already shown evidence of fraud — now it’s time for them to prove it wasn’t.” He is selling “#PROVEIT” T-shirts that range from $35 to $45 a pop.

The county, meanwhile, has dismissed the effort as ham-handed. They have cast the team hired to carry it out as hyper-partisan and clueless about the election process.

“It’s clear the people hired by Arizona Senate leadership to supposedly bring integrity to our elections are instead just bringing incompetence,” board chair Jack Sellers said this month.

Mr. Sellers said the “uncertified contractors” are operating in an “alternative reality” and “asked a lot of open-ended questions, portraying as suspicious what is actually normal and well known to people who work in elections.”

“In some cases, they dropped bombshell numbers that are simply not accurate,” he said. 

“Senate leadership should be ashamed they broadcast the half-baked theories of the “Deep Rig” crowd to the world today.

“To Senate leaders I say, stop accusing us of not cooperating when we have given you everything qualified auditors would need to do this job,” he said. “Finish your audit, release the report, and be prepared to defend it in court.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

• Mica Soellner can be reached at msoellner@washingtontimes.com.

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