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Congress raises stakes with examination of Arizona's sham 'audit'

The utterly bonkers election "audit" in Arizona is nearly done, but as Congress launches an investigation, the larger controversy is just getting started.


At first blush, Arizona Republicans' ridiculous "audit" of 2020 presidential election ballots may appear to be an issue relevant only to the Grand Canyon State. It is not.

On one side of the political divide, there are GOP officials from across the country who've been so impressed with Arizona's clown show that they want to duplicate the process in their own states, in the hopes of further undermining public confidence in the electoral process.

But when it comes to the national significance of the Arizona fiasco, there's a flip-side: More than 2,000 miles to the east, a growing number of federal officials care about the sham "audit," too. CNBC reported late yesterday:

Two top House Democrats on Wednesday launched an investigation into whether Cyber Ninjas, one of the private companies hired by Arizona Republicans to "audit" millions of ballots cast during the 2020 election, is working to "reverse the result of a free and fair election for partisan gain." House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who leads a House civil rights subcommittee, have asked the firm's CEO to send them a raft of documents related to the audit, including information about who is paying for it.

As Rachel explained on last night's show, the Democratic lawmakers made their inquiry to Cyber Ninjas -- which, again, is the actual name of the strange company responsible for the Arizona Republicans' examination -- by sending a letter to a rented mailbox at a UPS store in Sarasota, Florida.

Why didn't the House Oversight Committee send the request to the business' official address? They did: the rented mailbox at a UPS store in Sarasota, Florida, is the Cyber Ninjas' official address.

In their appeal to CEO Doug Logan, a figure with ties to the crackpot QAnon conspiracy theory, the federal lawmakers wrote, "We are concerned about your company's role in this highly unusual effort, given Cyber Ninjas' apparent lack of experience in conducting election-related audits; reports that the company engaged in sloppy and insecure audit practices that compromised the integrity of ballots and voting equipment and were questioned by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ); and evidence that you and other individuals funding the audit have sought to advance the 'big lie' of debunked voter fraud allegations in the November 2020 presidential election.

"Americans' right to vote is protected by the Constitution and is the cornerstone of our democratic system of government. The Committee is seeking to determine whether the privately funded audit conducted by your company in Arizona protects the right to vote or is instead an effort to promote baseless conspiracy theories, undermine confidence in America's elections, and reverse the result of a free and fair election for partisan gain."

The House Oversight Committee's letter is not exactly short: over 13 pages, Maloney and Raskin inquire about all kinds of strange Cyber Ninjas' practices, including inexplicable experiments with ultraviolet light and bizarre searches for "bamboo fibers."

Also of interest, of course, are possible communications between Logan, his operation, and Donald Trump's team, which has taken a great interest in Arizona's "audit" debacle, with the former president reportedly convinced that the process could help overturn his 2020 defeat.

The lawmakers' document request concludes with a deadline: July 28.

If the committee uncovers evidence that laws have been broken as part of Arizona's process, lawmakers can, and almost certainly would, make referrals to the Justice Department. That's notable in large part because federal law enforcement appears to already be well aware of the controversy.

As we've discussed, it was in May when the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division wrote to Arizona State Senate President Karen Fann (R), explaining that federal officials had reviewed "news reports and complaints regarding the procedures being used for this audit" and was first concerned by a number of reports suggesting the ballots, machines and voter information are no longer under the control of state and local elections officials, aren't being kept secure, and are at risk of "being lost, stolen, altered, compromised or destroyed."

The Justice Department similarly reminded the Republican leader that "federal law creates a duty to safeguard and preserve federal election records."

It was no small thing to see federal law enforcement warn Arizona Republicans that their sham "audit" may have violated federal laws regarding the mishandling of ballots and elections equipment. Attorney General Merrick Garland appeared to raise the stakes, at least a little, in remarks a month later on voting rights.

Though Garland did not explicitly mention the Grand Canyon State by name, the attorney general did say, in prepared remarks, "[S]ome jurisdictions, based on disinformation, have utilized abnormal post-election audit methodologies that may put the integrity of the voting process at risk and undermine public confidence in our democracy."

By some measures, the utterly bonkers "audit" of Maricopa County's presidential ballots is nearing its completion, but given the interest from officials in D.C., it appears the controversy is just getting started.