PHOENIX (AP) — The former Arizona attorney general suppressed findings from his investigators who concluded there was no basis for allegations that the 2020 election was marred by widespread fraud, according to documents released Wednesday by his successor.
Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes, who took office last month, said the records show the 2020 election was conducted “fairly and accurately by election officials.”
Former Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, has never released a March 2022 summary of investigative findings that ruled out most of the fraud claims made by allies and supporters of former President Donald Trump. But a month later, he released an “interim report” claiming that his investigation “uncover serious vulnerabilities that need to be addressed and raises questions about Arizona’s 2020 election.”
He released his April report despite opposition from his investigators, who said their research disproved some of his claims. At the time, Brnovich was in the middle of a Republican Party primary for the U.S. Senate and faced fierce criticism from Trump, who claimed he was not doing enough to prosecute voter fraud.
Brnovich, whose primary bid was unsuccessful, also failed to release a September memo that systematically refuted a slew of election conspiracies that have taken root on the right, including allegations of dead or duplicate voters, pre-marked ballots flown in from Asia, election servers connected with the internet and even manipulation by satellites controlled by the Italian military.
“In any event and in any case, the above parties have not provided any evidence to substantiate their allegations,” the September memo said. “The information provided was speculative in many cases and was found to be incorrect upon investigation by our agents and support staff.”
The September memo, which was part of the documents released Wednesday, describes a comprehensive investigation that was given top priority for the attorney general’s investigators, who spent more than 10,000 hours investigating 638 complaints. They opened 430 investigations and referred 22 cases for prosecution. President Joe Biden won Arizona by just over 10,000 votes.
Mayes said the fraud claims were a waste.
“The more than 10,000 hours diligently spent investigating every conspiracy theory under the sun has distracted this office from its core mission of protecting the people of Arizona from true crime and fraud,” Mayes said in a statement.
Attempts to reach Brnovich for comment were unsuccessful.
Brnovich’s “interim report” alleged that election officials worked too quickly in verifying voters’ signatures and pointed to a drop in ballots with rejected signatures between 2016 and 2018 and again in 2020. He also claimed that Maricopa County was slow to respond to requests for information.
He made those claims even after researchers who reviewed a draft pushed back and published his report largely unchanged after their feedback.
The investigative staff concluded that the county recorder’s office “followed its signature verification policies/procedures; we did not detect any crime or fraud in this area during the 2020 general election,” researchers wrote. They also said they found the county “cooperative and responsive to our requests.”
Arizona became the epicenter of efforts by Trump allies to question Biden’s victory. Senate Republican leaders subpoenaed election records and equipment and hired a Florida firm led by a Trump supporter, Cyber Ninjas Inc., to conduct an unprecedented evaluation of the Maricopa County election.
Cyber Ninja’s review garnered Biden more votes than the official tally, but claimed their work raised serious questions about the conduct of the election in Maricopa County, home to metropolitan Phoenix and the majority of Arizona voters. The investigation by the Attorney General’s Office found that the allegations did not stand up to further investigation.
“Our extensive review of CNI’s audit showed that they failed to provide any evidence to support their allegations of widespread fraud or voting manipulation,” the Brnovich researchers wrote.
Thursday’s release is the latest confirmation that there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election and that Biden legitimately won the presidency. Trump continues to repeat his lie that the election was stolen from him as he makes his third bid for the White House, despite assessments and audits claiming otherwise in the battlefield states he contested and his own administration officials debunking his claims.
Officials in Maricopa County, where nearly all officials overseeing the election are Republicans, say they have received death threats and verbal abuse over the suggestions of crimes in Brnovich’s Cyber Ninja review and “interim report.”
“This was a gross abuse of his elected office and a terrible waste of taxpayers’ money, as well as a waste of the time and effort of professional detectives,” Clint Hickman, the Republican chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement. .
Brnovich’s investigators did conclude that Maricopa County officials did not uniformly follow state election procedures when filling out forms to document the collection and transportation of mail ballots. But they said the errors were procedural and that “investigators have not found anything that would compromise the integrity of the ballots or the final number of votes.”
Investigators interviewed two Republican state lawmakers who publicly claimed to know about election fraud, but wrote that neither Representative Mark Finchem nor Senator Sonny Borrelli repeated their claims to investigators — when they could have faced criminal charges for falsely reporting to law enforcement . The investigators said a third legislator, Republican Senator Wendy Rogers, declined to speak with them.