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Conspiracy theorist's group to help vet Arizona election auditors

Just when it seemed the Arizona Republicans' election "audit" couldn't become an even bigger fiasco, the story somehow managed to get a little worse.

Just when it seemed the Arizona Republicans' election "audit" couldn't become an even bigger fiasco, the story somehow managed to get a little worse over the weekend. The Arizona Republic reported yesterday:

An organization run by an ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump will help decide who counts ballots when the Arizona audit of 2020 election results resumes Monday. An email obtained by The Arizona Republic shows a nonprofit started by former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne will handle background checks, non-disclosure agreements and volunteer agreements of audit workers.

Before proceeding, let's take a moment to review some of what we've learned about Patrick Byrne.

Late last year, as Donald Trump grew increasingly desperate about nullifying his own country's election results, the then-president formed a new inner circle. As the Washington Post reported shortly before Christmas, Trump had turned to "a ragtag group of conspiracy theorists, media-hungry lawyers and other political misfits in a desperate attempt to hold on to power after his election loss."

The article added that there were officials who tried to level with Trump, but he "sidelined" those who told him the truth, and embraced fringe figures instead. One of the figures who gathered around the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office last December was Byrne, who famously had a lengthy romantic relationship with a Russian spy, and who denounced the U.S. charges against his former girlfriend on Overstock letterhead. He was ousted as the company's CEO soon after.

Byrne went on to start echoing the kind of bonkers conspiracy theories espoused by Sidney Powell -- another member of Trump's inner circle from last December -- and sharing his strange ideas with the likes of Glenn Beck.

Reflecting on Byrne's circuitous path, Jon Chait joked a while back, "There was once a time, years ago, when 'CEO falls for Russian spy, goes mad, gets fired, becomes presidential strategist' would have been a major story in itself, not merely a colorful side plot."

After President Joe Biden's inauguration, Byrne did not move on. On the contrary, he threw his support behind something called The American Project, which was created to raise money for the Republicans' increasingly preposterous "audit" in Arizona.

And now, according to the Arizona Republic's reporting, Byrne's outfit "will help decide" who's responsible for counting the ballots. Would could possibly go wrong?

Remember, there's no reason whatsoever to question Arizona's official vote tally. The ballots have been counted and recounted. There have already been two independent audits, which found literally nothing untoward.

But for Republican conspiracy theorists in the Arizona state Senate, reality was unsatisfying, so they've turned to Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based outfit with no qualifications, and which is run by a QAnon conspiracy theorist, to oversee a laughable process. The process will now apparently be staffed in part by locals who are vetted by an entirely different conspiracy theorist.

This madness will not end anytime soon, and just as importantly, Republicans in other states are eager to follow Arizona's lead.