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The Arizona audit's Cyber Ninjas getting Covid-19 is too spot on

The two worst plot lines of the year have come crashing together.

Monday was supposed to be the day the Arizona Senate-sponsored “audit” of the 2020 presidential election finally came to a close. The team from Cyber Ninjas, the company the state Senate’s Republican president hired even though it had no experience in elections or the auditing thereof, was supposed to submit its long-awaited draft report.

Instead, they all got Covid.

Well, three out of five of them did anyway. Honestly, though, given how things have gone the past five months in the Grand Canyon state, I almost feel like that’s on me for not seeing it coming.

Before Monday’s plot twist, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer separately pushed back against Cyber Ninjas’ efforts. In May, Richer, the Republican official who oversees the county’s elections, said former President Donald Trump’s lies about Arizona’s election were “unhinged.” In an open letter, he pleaded with his fellow Republicans to accept the election results and move on.

Last week, Hobbs, a Democrat, dropped a 45-page report criticizing the many, many oddities, inconsistencies and outright snafus that have marred the recount and the subsequent audit. “There are numerous examples of failures that all but guarantee inaccurate results, which would also be impossible to replicate,” the report reads. “Any one of these issues would deem an audit completely unreliable, but the combination of these failures renders this review meritless.”

Hobbs and Richer needn’t have rushed to beat the final draft’s release. Deadlines have been a major stumbling block for the fine folks with Cyber Ninjas since this farce began back in March. Remember: This was all supposed to be wrapped up back in May.

What’s the hold-up? Well, we’d know more on that front if Cyber Ninjas were willing to turn over documents about how it’s conducting the recount and the audit. Cyber Ninjas and the state Senate are still trying to keep those records secret, despite an Arizona appeals court’s ruling last week that they must be released.

Meanwhile, Democrats in the U.S. House are running out of patience with the ninjas. Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Jamie Raskin, D-Md., have been waiting for almost a month for the company to turn over documents related to the audit. Cyber Ninjas now has until Friday to do so voluntarily before potentially getting slapped with a subpoena.

Which brings us back to the Covid-related delay in the company’s conclusions. The state Senate GOP released a statement on Twitter to say that while it had received part of the draft final report, the rest would still be forthcoming ... eventually:

The one upside of this development is that if it were packed with any more irony, doctors could prescribe it as a supplement for anemic patients. These con artists were cashing in on a conspiracy-theory-riddled grift — casting doubt on the election. That they’ve apparently fallen ill as the Trump supporters who back them keep peddling their other conspiracy-theory-riddled grift — casting doubt on the severity of Covid and the efficacy of the vaccines, effectively prolonging the pandemic — is a lot to take in.

Having said that, I do hope Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan and his colleagues were fully vaccinated and get better soon, so they can finish their report. Not because I think the report itself will have any intrinsic value. In fact, I’m pretty sure there are only two options for it at this point. First, it could wind up as a load of faff that comes to no real conclusion, cementing the fact that months of time and potentially millions of dollars have been wasted. Or it could be a full-throated endorsement of the ludicrous idea that Trump won the election in Maricopa County because, you know, reasons.

There has to be something concrete that says this chapter of the post-election madness is behind us.

But the alternative is that the full draft report will never be released. Instead, the idea of it just hangs there in the ether, unable to be fully refuted, because you can’t fact-check a document that doesn’t exist. If the full text is never submitted or only the partial draft report is released, there will be no shortage of substitutes from Trumpworld’s true believers to fill in the blanks.

Fascinatingly enough, we're already seeing just how much nature abhors an information vacuum — and how quickly people will move to fill in the blanks themselves. “Isn’t it convenient that they get Covid right as the bogus report comes due?” I’ve had people ask in my Twitter mentions. This supposed “illness” sounds like a cover to allow for more time to make up whatever fraudulent results will cast more doubt on President Joe Biden’s win, the line of thinking goes.

That's why I say, no matter what’s in it, we need this final report to come out. There has to be something concrete that says this chapter of the post-election madness is behind us. Otherwise, its unpublished contents will become the stuff of legend. And I’d rather contend with a bogus report I can read than an unreleased report that will live on in people’s imaginations.