Arizona AG’s office debunked election fraud claims. Brnovich kept those conclusions secret.
AG investigators found ‘no evidence of election fraud’ after more than 10,000 hours of looking into claims
While conspiracy theories continued to spread online about alleged voter fraud, former Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s Office had already concluded that those allegations were factually inaccurate — but he kept those conclusions hidden from the public.
Kris Mayes, who was elected to replace Brnovich in November, released three documents on Wednesday that showed that Brnovich’s Office had devoted 60 staffers and more than 10,000 hours to investigating claims of alleged fraud in the 2020 election and found the claims either had no evidence to support them or were outright false.
Many of those claims stemmed directly from the Arizona Senate’s partisan “audit” of the 2020 election in Maricopa County, which was helmed by Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based company led by a Donald Trump-loving election conspiracy theorist.
“In each instance, the information provided by [Cyber Ninjas] was inaccurate and false,” investigators concluded.
When all was said and done, minor election process violations were discovered, but there was zero evidence of any election fraud.
“While a significant majority of the complaints alleged irregularities with the election process, no evidence of election fraud, manipulation of the election process, or any instances of organized/coordinated fraud was provided by any of the complaining parties,” Reginald Grigsby, Chief Special Agent with the Criminal Division of the AG’s Office, wrote in a September 2022 memo.
The documents were first reported by The Washington Post.
The newly released documents shed light on the efforts by the AG’s Office to make contact with the individuals who have been at the forefront of election fraud claims since 2020 and beyond, and detail how some of those individuals reacted differently when confronted by law enforcement about their claims.
It also offers a different perspective from an April 2022 “interim report” released by Brnovich which claimed to have found “serious vulnerabilities” that are nowhere to be found in the documents released, and which his investigators told him were incorrect before the report was issued.
“I would like our Maricopa County residents to know that I am absolutely disgusted by the revelations that former Attorney General Mark Brnovich failed to do his job as a public servant representing the highest law enforcement elected position in the state,” Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman said in a written statement.
“Not only did he ignore his own investigators in issuing a different ‘interim report,’ he falsely suggested wrongdoing by Maricopa County, never correcting the record and blatantly never sharing the team’s final report with the public,” Hickman said. “This was a gross misuse of his elected office and an appalling waste of taxpayer dollars, as well as a waste of the time and effort of professional investigators.”
Thousands of hours of work
Brnovich’s office had been tight lipped about the work that had been conducting reviewing the findings of the Arizona Senate’s partisan “audit,” as well as investigating other alleged claims of voter fraud. The silence frequently led to tension between his office and hardline Republicans who were demanding arrests related to the 2020 election.
It was a politically thorny issue for Brnovich, in particular, as he was seeking the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in 2022 and was being attacked by former President Donald Trump for not endorsing his baseless claims of election fraud.
Although Brnovich had been an early critic of complaints that Trump lost in Arizona in 2020 because of malfeasance, his stance shifted as the campaign intensified and he made overtures to Republicans who believed the election was marred by fraud.
“It’s frustrating for all of us, because I think we all know what happened in 2020,” he told former Trump advisor Steve Bannon in an April 2022 appearance on Bannon’s internet radio program.
However, behind the scenes, his investigators were working on investigating a litany of claims made by the Senate’s “audit” contractors and Trump supporters who flooded tip lines. The September 2022 memo notes that investigating the “audit” findings and those other claims “was made a singular, high-level priority” and that “all hands were assigned to work exclusively” on the matter.
The result was that more than 60 investigators and attorneys poured more than 10,000 hours into the work, a “command center” was established and daily meetings were held to detail how investigations into specific complaints were proceeding.
There were 638 complaints, which generated 430 investigations. Of those, just 22 cases were submitted to be reviewed by prosecutors; two have moved forward with convictions. Both were men who were felons who failed to list their felon status on their voter registration and voted in the 2020 election while they were inmates in the Pima County jail.
The investigation found agents with the AG’s office traveling across the state to investigate claims, collect evidence, review records as well as attempt to collaborate with other police departments and governmental agencies.
QAnon claims and backtracking politicians
During the course of the investigations, Brnovich’s team interviewed high-profile individuals who had made claims of voter fraud or voting irregularities.
Among them were state Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu, who has long been a promoter of election fraud claims and was a driving force behind the Arizona Senate’s partisan election review.
Investigators with the AG’s Office were especially curious about comments made by Borrelli of a “cover-up” of election irregularities. Borrelli had previously stated that, if allegedly shredded ballots that were found were given to the AG, they would “disappear.” He also implied that he would be assassinated for trying to expose supposed election fraud.
When interviewed by the AG’s Office, Borrelli said he “misspoke” and said that the agents were doing a good job on the matter. He also told investigators he had personally verified information about a dead person who allegedly voted. In fact, the person was not only still alive, they didn’t live in Arizona and weren’t registered to vote here.
Another frequent election denier, Republican and former state Rep. Mark Finchem, also met with Brnovich’s investigators after he had made multiple claims online. Finchem has been a vocal election denier, campaigning for Secretary of State on a platform of “election integrity,” he has challenged voting machine use in the state and has appeared alongside QAnon influencers.
Investigators were interested in speaking with Finchem about claims he made regarding Pima County and him finding allegedly 35,000 fraudulent voters. But when Finchem met with investigators, he did not mention that allegation. Instead, he said he did not have any evidence of fraud and did not wish to take up their time.
He did give investigators four early ballots that he said showed a “flawed process” for mailing ballots, as they had been sent to prior residents of the address that was on file. None of the ballots were opened or counted, and the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office had no record that the people in question had changed their address with them.
“Mr. Finchem did not have any further information and left the meeting in relatively short order,” the memo says.
Other claims of Finchem’s also fell flat.
In late November 2020, Finchem gathered lawmakers at a Phoenix hotel for an unofficial “hearing” that would become a driving force in Arizona’s election denial movement. At that event, Trump’s lead attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and other pro-Trump figures gathered with state GOP lawmakers and the president’s supporters to discuss baseless theories that Joe Biden won Arizona’s election by fraud.
During the event, Finchem read an anonymous email that was sent to the Department of Justice and other Republican lawmakers from an anonymous account claiming that 35,000 votes were added to each Democratic candidate. Investigators used law enforcement databases to find two individuals who they believed were connected to the email, but both people denied association with the email and investigators could not find any further evidence to support the claim.
The investigators determined the claim, along with many others, to be “unfounded.”
Investigators also spent time looking into claims popular among QAnon adherents, such as claims that Italian military satellites changed votes to favor Biden and that “kinetic artifacts” showed paper ballot manipulation.
The investigators also requested an interview with Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, a major spreader of false information about the election who has also spread white nationalist and antisemitic rhetoric.
Rogers refused to meet with investigators, saying she was waiting for a “perp walk” for those who committed nonexistent election crimes.
Investigators noted that those who posted about election fraud claims publicly often did not repeat those claims when they did get in to do an interview with members of the AG’s Office, especially when the AG mentioned that they could be subjected to false reporting to law enforcement laws.
Other high-profile individuals were found to have similar issues and inconsistencies, as well.
Rebuking the Cyber Ninjas
Much of the work done in the early days of the investigators was spent analyzing the reports released by the Arizona Senate’s partisan “audit” led by the now-defunct Cyber Ninjas.
“The information that was provided was speculative in many instances and when investigated by our agents and support staff, was found to be inaccurate,” the memo says about Cyber Ninjas, True the Vote and other groups.
One of the first orders of business in following up on the “audit” was confirming the information provided by Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, who acknowledged to investigators that his firm’s efforts were incomplete.
“In speaking with [Logan], he articulated that he knew his information was not complete; he further stated that he knew he would have to meet with us to go over his findings, as we would be following up on his information,” the memo says. “Logan stated he wanted to know what our findings would be and he looked forward to hearing from us at the conclusion of our review.”
Investigators found that Logan used “unreliable public data” when doing his analysis into voters who allegedly weren’t registered to vote, had moved or had died. Those public and commercial databases, the investigators noted, are “known by law enforcement agencies to be unreliable and prone to error to collect and report his data.” Logan and his “audit” team publicly described those databases the “gold standard.”
The investigators checked his conclusions with more reliable databases that are routinely used by law enforcement and found that Logan’s claims of dead voters were unequivocally false. The voters Cyber Ninjas identified were not dead — and had not voted.
Cyber Ninjas also made allegations that Maricopa County had deleted files prior to the audit, but the only evidence provided — a photo of county employees from a livestream near a computer during the alleged “deletion” — did not prove anything. Brnovich’s investigators were able to determine that no deletion occurred by viewing activity logs that were also presented in a subpoena to the Senate and corroborated the information by third party auditors, including a computer forensics company.
And election denialist Jovan Hutton Pulizter also did not provide any information to the AG to back up his spurious allegations that ballots were not filled in by voters. His claims have been called “utter rubbish” by fellow “auditors.”
“Our comprehensive review of [Cyber Ninja’s] audit showed they did not provide any evidence to support their allegations of widespread fraud or ballot manipulation,” the memo says. They were only able to identify one instance of a deceased voter, which was accidental, and two instances of double voting which were submitted to prosecutors for review.
‘2000 Mules’ crew ignores AG
The team behind the thoroughly debunked propaganda film “2000 Mules” has found themselves in plenty of hot water in recent months, but investigators at the AG’s Office could not get the Texas-based True The Vote to provide any evidence, no matter how hard they tried.
The film alleges that, by using geolocation data purchased, the filmmakers were able to track “ballot mules” to drop boxes where they falsely allege the “mules” were paid to stuff the boxes with completed ballots. The practice, pejoratively referred to as ballot harvesting, is illegal in Arizona and many other states.
Investigators asked True The Vote leaders Catherine Engelbrecht and Gregg Phillips for information to support a claim that hundreds of people had engaged in this activity in Arizona and that there were “stash houses” full of ballots in Arizona. Instead, the duo provided investigators with a three-page “hypothesis” of “what they believe could have been election fraud” with no supporting documents or evidence.
The duo also repeatedly promised to provide evidence, but it never materialized.
“[True The Vote] has not responded to emails and voicemails requesting the information, nor has delivery been accepted for the registered letter sent to the address given for their office,” the memo says.
The group also lied about being informants for the FBI and insisting they had given investigators a “hard drive” full of evidence when they had not, a lie they would repeat during a special committee hearing before the Arizona Senate.
True The Vote also told investigators that they had given this hard drive to the FBI Phoenix Field Office, as they were informants for them, and to contact them for the information. Upon contacting them, the FBI would say they were not informants and they had no such information.
This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.