Trump called Arizona Senate president to thank her for pushing to prove any fraud in audit, emails show
Newly released emails sent to and from Arizona state senators reveal that President Donald Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani reached out personally to urge GOP officials there to move forward with a partisan recount of the 2020 election, despite a lack of evidence of widespread fraud or other issues.
Hundreds of pages of emails related to the GOP-ordered audit underway in Maricopa County were obtained by the nonprofit legal watchdog group American Oversight through a records request under the Freedom of Information Act. The group published them Friday, along with a scathing statement that decried the audit as a "sham partisan crusade."
In one email dated Dec. 2, Arizona state Senate President Karen Fann, a Republican, told two constituents that she had spoken with Giuliani "at least 6 times over the past two weeks."
In another exchange dated Dec. 28, a constituent threatened that Fann would be recalled by "the new patriot movement of the United States" for not standing up for Trump.
Fann assured him that the state Senate was "doing everything legally possible to get the forensic audit done" and that they planned to sue the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. (The Republican-led board had in November voted unanimously to certify the county's election results, with the board chairman declaring there was no evidence of fraud or misconduct "and that is with a big zero.")
"I have been in numerous conversations with Rudy Guiliani [sic] over the past weeks trying to get this done," Fann wrote in the Dec. 28 message. "I have the full support of him and a personal call from President Trump thanking us for pushing to prove any fraud."
In an email dated Nov. 30, Fann noted that she had asked Trump's legal team for evidence of "rampant fraud" and to file a lawsuit so the certification of the results can be put on hold, to no avail.
"No suit has been filed nor was a suit filed to contest the certification process," Fann wrote. "I also want to get to the bottom of all this."
President Joe Biden became the first Democrat to win Arizona since 1996. Trump has remained heavily invested in ballot audits across the country as he continues to push his baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers said the emails were clear evidence that the goal of the audit was to erode trust in the voting process and to further legitimize Trump's "big lie."
"The more we learn, the more it becomes clear that this is not an audit, it's a sham partisan crusade carried out by some of the most cynical actors our democracy has ever known," Evers said in a statement. "With each new email, the paper trail confirms that the true goal of this process is to perpetuate Donald Trump's big lie of a stolen election and to undermine faith in our democracy."
Representatives for Fann and for Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.
The emails also show some of the depths of panic and anger from Republican constituents insisting that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election, despite a slew of both Democratic and Republican election officials vouching for the integrity of the vote. In the weeks after the election, dozens of state and federal judges also rejected Trump's numerous legal efforts to overturn the election results.
Fann herself outright acknowledged Biden's win in at least one of the emails. To a constituent who said she was "appalled, offended, and upset" that taxpayer dollars were being wasted on a "fraudulent audit," Fann replied: "This is where you are mistaken. Biden won. 45% of all Arizona voters think there is a problem with the election system. The audit is to disprove those theories or find ways to improve the system."
Still, Fann appeared to spend much more time placating outraged constituents and fielding baseless speculation about a supposedly rigged election. In an email dated April 10, someone named Rachel Griffin emailed Fann wondering if the audit will ever happen and demanding lawmakers produce proof of fraud, or else risk getting booted from office.
"We are not going to be treated like idiots. We will make sure none of you are never re-elected again unless you prove there was fraud," Griffin wrote. "It is no longer acceptable for all of you to pay lip service. We want results and we want them now."
In response, Fann said the audit would begin soon. "Our efforts have been sabotaged every step of the way but we are not giving up!" she added.
The Maricopa County audit, which started in late April, has been heavily criticized for its lack of transparency and for not following state rules for elections and recounts. Arizona Republicans hired a Florida-based private contractor called Cyber Ninjas, whose chief executive has echoed Trump's false allegations of fraud, to handle the recount.
The office of Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, began documenting the audit's alleged security infractions online this week.
"The effort to hand-count the 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County during the 2020 Presidential Election resumed on May 24, after a week-long pause," Hobbs's office said in a statement Tuesday. "Observers on behalf of the Arizona Secretary of State's Office continued to note problematic practices, changing policies, and security threats that have plagued this exercise from the start."