PHOENIX - Cyber Ninjas will not need to imminently release records of their review of the 2020 vote count in Arizona’s most populous county.
Arizona Supreme Court Justice Kathryn King put a hold Tuesday on a lower court order for the records to be released by Aug. 31 while the high court considers an appeal.
Republicans who control the Senate argue the records are not subject to public release because they’re maintained by the Senate’s contractors and legislative immunity applies.
But the Arizona Court of Appeals said last week that was not the case. The court said the main contractor, Florida company Cyber Ninjas, was subject to Arizona’s public records law because it was performing a core government function that the Senate farmed out.
The records are sought by the watchdog group American Oversight. A Supreme Court hearing is scheduled for Sept. 14.
The unprecedented partisan recount and review of election results in Maricopa County was prompted by former President Donald Trump’s loss in the state and his contention without evidence that he lost in Arizona and other battleground states because of fraud.
Senate Republicans issued subpoenas to Maricopa County for all 2020 ballots, the machines that counted them and other data in the state’s most populated county.
Election audit mired in controversy
The report was commissioned by Senate Republicans and funded mostly by Trump allies promoting his unsupported election fraud narrative. It will not immediately be made public. Rather, two senior Republican senators will review it along with their lawyers and advisers to decide whether the findings are supported by evidence.
Fann said anything lacking sufficient backing will be removed.
"We want to see their proof, their documentation, everything to make sure that the report that goes out is fully accurate," he said.
Cyber Ninjas, the small cybersecurity consultant with no election experience that Fann hired to run the review, was originally supposed to deliver its findings in May but has pushed back the timeline several times.
Election experts have been highly critical of the review, which Fann launched late last year as Trump and his allies hunted unsuccessfully for reasons to block the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6.
Election experts say Cyber Ninjas and its subcontracts are biased and incompetent, and they’re using bizarre, ever-changing procedures that could not produce reliable results. Cyber Ninjas owner Doug Logan has spread false conspiracy theories about the election, and his review has been funded almost entirely by Trump allies active in the "stop the steal" movement.
"Real audits, legitimate audits are done under a time frame," Jennifer Morrell, an expert in post-election auditing and a consultant to elections officials, said Monday. "There is a defined start time and stop time. They’re done publicly."
None of that is the case for the Maricopa County review, Morrell said.
Arizona Secretary of State spoke out ahead of expected results release
Arizona's Secretary of State, Katie Hobbs, is among a bipartisan slate of state election administrators and experts to speak about the controversial audit. She said the results should not be taken seriously, and that the audit is "deeply flawed" and "doesn't follow industry standards or state law."
If there was evidence out there, they would have had it in court when there was an opportunity to do something, but there isn't evidence, so they’re using this exercise really to make it up," said Secretary Hobbs.
Others have also raised doubts about the audit results.
"I feel it's a ‘spaghetti-at-the-wall' strategy," said Norm Eisen with States United Democracy Center. "It's a non-strategy, but it's so dangerous for our democracy I would call it ‘throw rotten spaghetti at the wall.’"
"As a Republican, as an elections administrator, I worry about our country, I worry about the future of our party and I don’t want bad ideas like this spreading to other states," said Former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson. "This sham review needs to be called out for exactly what it is. My hope is we can stop this audit, have it be the only one in the country so other states can learn from Arizona’s example and not repeat it."
"We experienced intentional blocking of our observations, from shutting down computers when we came by, to purposely standing in front of our way of seeing things, even carrying out lout pointless conversations with us so other conversations could not be heard by us," said an election observer, identified only as ‘Ken.’
U.S. House Democrats asking for audit-related documents
Meanwhile, Democrats in the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee again demanded Logan turn over a wide range of documents related to the audit.
An attorney for Logan, Jack Wilenchick, sent 336 pages of documents, much of which had been publicly released. Most of the committee’s demands were overbroad or covered by attorney-client and legislative privilege, Wilenchik wrote on Aug. 9.
"If your company, which purports to be acting in a lawful manner pursuing the public interest, continues to obstruct the Committee’s investigation, the Committee will be forced to consider other steps to obtain compliance," U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney of New York and Jamie Raskin of Maryland wrote to Logan on Monday.
Continuing Coverage: Arizona Election Audit
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