If you’re a Republican politician who wants to prove your loyalty to President Trump and his election fraud lies, a stop at Arizona’s shambolic recount has become a must.
In recent days, state-level candidates for office from all over the country have descended on the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum to observe the partisan recount of Maricopa County’s 2.1 million ballots that was ordered by Arizona’s GOP Senate.
The most recent pilgrim was Virginia State Sen. Amanda Chase (R) who’s embraced the nickname “Trump in Heels” and unsuccessfully sought the state party’s gubernatorial nomination this year.
“I’ll be bringing this information back to Virginia,” Chase said, according to The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel. Colorado State Rep. Ron Hanks (R) also toured the Coliseum Thursday, Weigel said.
— Griselda Zetino (@GriseldaZetino) June 10, 2021
This week also featured visits by state lawmakers from Alaska and Georgia. The leader of Nevada’s Republican Party visited as well. All told, the MAGA stars of at least six different states have flocked to Arizona to observe the so-called “audit.”
“I’m told that every day this week there is some elected official coming in from some state,” the Senate’s liaison to the audit, Ken Bennett, told the far-right website Gateway Pundit Tuesday.
Once they arrive at the recount site, these Republicans have been given a tour by members of the audit team of the recount’s floor, according to the observing reporters, who themselves have had very limited access to the audit site and those leading it. Some of the Republican lawmakers have then stopped to give interviews to the “press,” with Trump-loving platforms One America News Network and Gateway Pundit getting first dibs, while local reporters are blown off.
The first out-of-staters to make a visit to the audit were three Republicans from Pennsylvania’s legislature, including State Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Trump ally who attended the rally that preceded the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Then came a visit from the Republican party chair and two state Republican lawmakers from Georgia, a battleground that, like Arizona and Pennsylvania, went for President Biden in 2020 and thus became a target of President Trump’s election reversal crusade. Vernon Jones, a Trump-loving former state representative who is now attempting to primary Gov. Brian Kemp, also visited this week alongside the former New York City police commissioner and Trump pardon recipient Bernard Kerik.
After their visits to Arizona, some Republicans have said that they would see the recount effort replicated in their states, fueling the baseless speculation among Trump and his supporters that the Arizona audit was the first domino in a series that would eventually overturn his loss.
Pennsylvania Sen. Cris Dush said after his Arizona visit that he wanted a 2020 audit in his state, “without question” — a sentiment echoed by Mastriano, according to NPR’s Maricopa affiliate.
But the magnetic MAGA pull of the Maricopa recounted has extended beyond the states that contributed to Trump’s defeat, with a Tuesday visit from a Republican lawmaker in Alaska, which went for Trump.
The Alaskan legislator who visited the audit, David Eastman, attended the Jan. 6 Trump rally in Washington, D.C., writing a blog post the day beforehand entitled “Trump Lost and Jeffrey Epstein Killed Himself.”
He suggested to TPM after his tour of the audit that he hoped to take some lessons learned back home to Alaska.
“I am grateful for the efforts that those in Arizona are making to increase confidence in their elections and hope we will be able to increase the confidence that Alaskans have in our elections as well,” Eastman said.
Whether these visits are fundraising gimmicks or will yield new 2020 “audits” elsewhere remains to be seen. A fight is already underway over whether an outside group led by a conspiracy theorist can examine the mail ballots cast in Georgia’s Atlanta area. The Pennsylvania lawmakers who visited Maricopa had previously quietly sought local reviews of the 2020 elections in small towns, the Washington Post revealed after their Arizona trip.
But perhaps the biggest concern, among election experts, is that a model is being developed for undercutting the results of future elections. That fear was laid out recently by Matt Masterson, former Republican appointee to the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission who worked on election security at Trump’s Department of Homeland Security.
“Now we have a playbook out there where if you don’t like the results — by the way in an election that wasn’t particularly close … you just claim you didn’t lose and in fact the process itself was rigged against you,” Masterson, now a policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory, told NPR last week.
Masterson’s concerns were validated in an interview that Mastriano, the Pennsylvania lawmaker who visited Arizona, gave to Steve Bannon.
“I think this is really the model, in the future, for any elections that might be in dispute,” he said.