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A day before Arizona Senate President Karen Fann’s special meeting on the Maricopa County election audit, county officials tried to portray the Republican leader’s effort as amateurish at best.

The Board of Supervisors came out swinging Monday in their own special meeting responding to Fann’s allegations that contractors found significant irregularities as well as missing data in the ongoing audit.

Maricopa County’s Twitter feed joined the fray, sharing portions from a formal letter signed by the five supervisors, Recorder Stephen Richer and Sheriff Paul Penzone, responding to Fann’s May 12 letter. The Senate president was not happy to learn about the letter from a reporter who had an early print copy.

“NO deleted files,” the county’s tweet thread begins. “NO chain of custody issues. We provided what they asked for except for routers, for security reasons. ‘Auditors’ trouble locating info we provided is THEIR problem.”

Neither Fann’s office nor the Senate Republican Caucus responded to Just the News queries seeking more information about one of her letter’s more explosive claims: that contractors found a “significant number of instances” where the number of ballots in a batch did not match the total on its “pink report slip.”

According to the county’s response letter, the discrepancies are the result of damaged ballots that cannot be read by tabulation machines and are duplicated for bipartisan review boards. “[I]t is obvious that your contractors have no understanding of these matters,” it says.

The county election department released its own technical analysis of Fann’s allegations. “Maricopa County did not spoil any evidence,” and the issues identified by Fann “are either incorrect” or have a “reasonable and valid explanation,” the letter says. null

‘Political theater’ 

Chairman Jack Sellers termed the Senate Republican-led review as “a grift disguised as an audit” at Monday’s public meeting.

He had previously scorched the official election audit Twitter account for claiming that the county deleted “a directory full of election databases” days before equipment was delivered to the audit.

Sellers’ fellow supervisors were no kinder. Vice Chair Bill Gates repeatedly accused the Senate GOP of trying to get them jailed for simply asking a court to review the legislative subpoenas before turning over election data. Tuesday’s scheduled hearing before Fann is “political theater” designed for One America News Network, he said.

Supervisor Steve Gallardo accused Fann of having “rented out” the Senate to outside consultants who know nothing about elections. For writing a letter asking to “tone down the political rhetoric,” Supervisor Clint Hickman said he received death threats and dozens of protesters at his house.

County Recorder Stephen Richer said he’s retained legal counsel to defend himself against “outlandish” criminal allegations, especially that he deleted election databases. He still has access to the full database, Richer said.

The recorder blasted Fann for claiming she doesn’t control the official election audit Twitter account, whose pinned tweet as of Monday accused the county of deleting election databases before turning over equipment. “We deleted zero,” he told the public meeting. “Zero election files.”

The 14-page letter released by the county late Monday fleshed out many of Richer’s brief responses to several issues identified in Fann’s May 12 letter. 

One of them concerns discrepancies ranging from two to 35 ballots between the actual number of ballots in a batch and the total on their pink slips.

Fann’s contractors, led by Cyber Ninjas, apparently didn’t know that these early voting ballots are placed in batches of “approximately 200” by bipartisan processing boards, according to the letter. These humans are tasked with guessing which ballots might not be machine-readable.

The letter said two of the five batches flagged as “illustrative” by Fann had different problems. Two of the 200 ballots in one batch could not be read despite the best efforts of human reviewers, while the extra 18 found in a batch marked 200 were apparently a miscount by the hired contractors.

The letter’s response to Fann’s other claims is far more inflamed and insulting. It reiterated Sellers’ demand that the election audit Twitter account delete its “false and malicious tweet” about spoliation of evidence.

The Senate GOP’s evidence of deleted databases only shows “your auditors’ incompetence,” the letter says. The screenshots showing deleted files may simply indicate that Cyber Ninjas and its subcontractors made server copies that its own software can’t find, based on its unstated search parameters.

The supervisors said they were “stunned” that Fann asked about chain of custody for the ballots. “It demonstrates a spectacular lack of understanding on your part of what occurred” when liaison Ken Bennett and co-director of elections Scott Jarrett “together reviewed the delivery” from the Elections Department to the Senate.

The county transports ballots in “tamper evident sealed black canvas bags” and secures them in a vault with “highly restricted access among numerous overhead security cameras,” the letter says.

Instead of requesting the county’s contract with Dominion Voting Systems, which is public record, Senate Republicans “call us liars and insult us.” The contract shows that the county is not allowed to obtain “additional, proprietary passwords” from Dominion, much less share them with the Senate GOP.

The only reason Dominion shared a password for an earlier forensic audit was because the chosen firms are accredited by the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission, according to the letter. “Your chosen ‘auditors,’ the Cyber Ninjas, are certainly many things” but not accredited.

Finally, the county will not turn over its routers because they “provide a blueprint” to the entire network, no different than burglars obtaining a blueprint to a house that marks “a hidden wall safe.”

Sharing the blueprint could put the county at risk for a ransomware attack and endanger “data related to the most sensitive law enforcement programs,” the letter says. 

Given the alleged incompetence of Fann’s contractors, the supervisors said they won’t answer any more questions from them, and will not attend the Senate president’s Tuesday hearing. “People’s tax dollars are real, your ‘auditors’ are not.”

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Donald Trump

REPORT: James Murdoch spent $20 million Opposing Trump

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According to a new report from Newsmax “James Murdoch, an heir to the Fox News fortune, spent $20 million opposing Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection while funneling another $100 million through a nonprofit to support leftwing political groups, according to a new report.”

“James and his wife, Kathryn Murdoch, have largely backed Democrats or liberal, nonpartisan causes, according to CNBC, which found the large contribution while reviewing the 2019 tax return documents of Quadrivium, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit the couple control. Quadrivium was founded in 2014,” the report continues.

“It has been widely known that the young Murdochs backed President Joe Biden’s candidacy, but the $100 million for Democrats and other PACs was not well publicized, having been funneled through Quadrivium, CNBC reported.”

James’s wife, Kathryn backed Hillary Clinton in 2016 election “a vote for Trump is a vote for climate catastrophe.”

The night Trump defeated Hillary, she wrote “I can’t believe this is happening. I am so ashamed.”

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Donald Trump

Scenarios for an early Trump return to power: the feasible, the far-fetched and the fantasy

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The ever-churning rumor mill surrounding former President Donald Trump has, in recent days, produced a new genre — speculative scenarios that envision the 45th president making his way back to the White House sooner than expected.

Ever the showman — and never one to be upstaged by the media — Trump, who continues to maintain the election was stolen from him, has begun fueling these rumblings via a number of provocative comments.

For those confounded by the headlines and statements “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump” — but also wondering if there’s any plausible basis for such scenarios — let’s review the options.

1. Reinstatement: According to the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman — and vouched for by National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke, among others — Donald Trump has been musing aloud within his inner circle about the possibility of being reinstated as commander-in-chief by August — yes, that means by August, 2021.

On June 1, Haberman tweeted: “Trump has been telling a number of people he’s in contact with that he expects he will be reinstated by August (no that isn’t how it works but simply sharing the information).”

Cooke confirmed Haberman’s claims, adding that, according to his reporting, Trump expects that former Sens. David Perdue of Georgia, and Martha McSally of Arizona, will be marched back into the upper chamber. 

Adding to the intrigue around Cooke and Haberman’s reporting is Trump himself, who recently appeared in a video for the National Republican Senatorial Committee saying: “We’re gonna take back the Senate, take back the House, we’re gonna take back the White House and sooner than you think.”

It is unclear just how Trump plans to effectuate an August return, but he has been closely monitoring the audit efforts underway in Maricopa County, Ariz., and Windham, N.H., as well as the developing audit efforts in Pennsylvania and Georgia.

From a legal standpoint, however, even those with close personal and professional ties to Trump doubt the Constitution leaves room to reinstate a president following the certification of his defeat by the Electoral College.

Regardless of the findings of any audit, “it is highly unlikely that any court will reverse the Electoral College votes,” said Jenna Ellis, former Trump campaign senior legal adviser. “The constitutional and legally viable judicial options at this point, are to hold accountable the administrators, public officials, and secretaries of state who disregarded state law.”

“The states allowed those certifications for the Electoral College delegates to be given to Congress, and the Electoral College is how we select a president in the United States,” Ellis continued. “The Republican-led state legislatures who were too spineless to exercise their constitutional responsibility to ensure the correct slate of delegates were sent to Congress must now provide the American people with confidence that this lawlessness will never happen again and put reasonable election integrity safeguards in place, as President Trump outlined this weekend in his North Carolina speech.”

Of course, there are alternatives to the court-ordered reinstatement fantasy …

2. Rep. Donald J. Trump: Trump parachutes into the midterm campaign cycle, running to become a member of the House of Representatives. His official Florida residence would allow him to run in a Republican-friendly district. Republicans take back the House and Senate — by what would have to be significant margins. Trump is elected Speaker of the House. Congressional Republicans successfully impeach both President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Trump is once again the president of the United States.

Conservative radio host Wayne Allyn Root floated this idea last week during an interview with Trump, to which the former president responded, “That’s so — that’s so interesting.” He went on to call it a good idea. 

3. The no-election speakership: For the Congressional rules buffs out there, Ari Fleischer has the early-return scenario for you. 

“If you want to engage in conspiracy theories and wild dreams, here’s the ultimate scenario,” the former press secretary under President George W. Bush said on “Just the News AM” Monday. “You don’t need to be a member of the House of Representatives to be elected speaker. So, Republicans take back control of Congress in 2022, and when it comes time to vote for speaker, they can name [Trump] speaker. Then, if Republicans took two-thirds of the Senate, they can impeach Joe Biden, impeach Kamala Harris, and voila — Speaker Donald Trump becomes president.”

“Anything else and everything else is a fantasy,” said Fleischer. “There is no reinstatement clause, it’s not part of American government.”

4. The long game: And finally, the likeliest — and most conventional — of the Trump-return scenarios: The ex-president waits it out until 2024, when he will be afforded the legally uncontroversial option of again running for the highest office in the land and possibly winning — this time potentially with a mandate stemming from the results of the ongoing 2020 swing-state audits.

In the last month or so, speculation that the former president will run again in 2024 has jumped from being pure speculation to something Trump is remarking upon daily. Over the weekend, he answered questions on Fox News about his next potential running mate. Following Facebook’s decision last Friday to maintain the ban on Trump’s account until at least January 2023, those subscribed to the Save America PAC email list received a brief note from Trump: “Next time I’m in the White House there will be no more dinners, at his request, with Mark Zuckerberg and his wife. It will be all business!

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Election 2020

2020 election fallout continues: Plan to end absentee ballot curing advances in Wisconsin

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Wisconsin Lawmakers are moving to stop election workers across the state from fixing mistakes on absentee ballots.

The Assembly’s Committee on Campaigns and Elections on Wednesday advanced a plan, Assembly Bill 198, that would clarify that only voters or their witnesses can correct a mistake on an absentee ballot.

“Because [absentee voting] is a privilege, there’s got to be some responsibility that the voter has to exercise that privilege,” said Rep. Donna Rozar (R-Marshfield). “And I think that responsibility is to do it right and legally.”

Republican lawmakers say absentee ballot curing, the technical term for fixing mistakes on ballots, is one of the areas of concern from the November 2020 election.

Election workers cured many more ballots last fall than ever before. The Wisconsin Elections Commission confirmed this in its postelection report.

“The statewide absentee ballot rejection rate was exceptionally low in November — 0.2% statewide compared to 1.8% in April 2020,” the commission wrote in January.

The new proposal spells out that election clerks must contact the voter if they made a mistake, or the witness if they made a mistake in filling out their portion of the absentee ballot. Only the voter or the witness can correct those mistakes.

Democrats on the Elections Committee say the change will mean some legally cast ballots won’t be counted.

“I don’t care if absentee voting is a privilege,” said Rep. Lisa Subek (D-Madison). “That doesn’t mean you should have to pass a test, or make sure that you dot every I and cross every T. If someone makes an innocent, honest mistake, it is appalling that we’re not going to then let their ballot count.”

Elections Committee chief Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) said the tightening of the rules for who can fix mistakes on absentee ballots does not infringe on anyone’s right to vote.

“Election Day is a right, and early voting is still a privilege,” Brandtjen said.

The proposal now heads for a vote in the full Assembly, but also a likely veto from Gov. Tony Evers. The governor has said for months he will not sign any new laws that “make it tougher” for people to vote.

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