Kari Lake’s attempt to get her Arizona gubernatorial loss overturned went to trial Wednesday, as her lawyers pushed the two of 10 claims still standing in her lawsuit.
On Monday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson dismissed the other eight claims, letting Lake proceed with accusations centered on ballot printers and ballot chains of custody.
Her lawyers present at Wednesday’s trial came laden with MAGA bona fides: Kurt Olsen, who was deeply involved in legal attempts to overturn the 2020 election for Donald Trump and who spoke to the then-President multiple times on January 6, 2021, and Bryan Blehm, best known for representing the Cyber Ninjas in cases stemming from the infamous partisan audit of the 2020 election results in Arizona.
Team Lake got off to a shaky start, as the soft-spoken judge chided them for mislabeling their exhibits.
“The plaintiff’s exhibit-numbering system…left something to be desired,” Thompson said as the trial began.
The numbering caused confusion and interruptions throughout the proceeding, as did prolonged technical difficulties plaguing Lake’s lawyers’ attempts to bring up the exhibits they were referencing on a screen. For multiple, prolonged interludes, Blehm couldn’t figure out which exhibit he was referring to, permeating the courtroom with irritable confusion.
Later in the proceedings, the trial was ground to a halt as Lake’s attorneys tried to call a witness missing from the submitted witness list.
“We’re now burning time trying to find out who Mr. Smith is and where he is,” the judge said of the missing witness, exasperated, while Lake’s attorneys feverishly whispered, trying to figure out who to call instead.
At times, Thompson rephrased questions for Lake’s attorneys to help them circumvent objections.
The procedural chaos crescendoed when Lake’s attorneys tried to play a voicemail clip from someone identified only as “Betty” who allegedly worked in the Maricopa County elections department — that the defense had never heard before because, they said and the clerk confirmed, Lake’s team failed to upload the clip ahead of time.
The technical fumbles in particular plagued Blehm’s initial questioning of Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer as the attorney tried to establish issues in the chain of ballot custody. Richer, who has become a special target of Lake’s ire, at times seemed amused by the questioning and corrected Blehm about granular election procedure, including what is reported to him versus the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
At one point, Blehm got sharp with the witness as Richer attempted to discern which ballot receipt the attorney was asking him about.
“I’m not gonna spend the time if you don’t understand your own documents,” Blehm sniped, prompting an immediate objection from the defense.
“Mr. Blehm, that’s not a question, that was a comment, strike that,” Thompson interjected.
Blehm returned after the defense’s cross examination with the air of pulling the death blow from his pocket.
“Isn’t it true that you ran a political action committee that was opposed and spent money opposing my client for governor?” he asked Richer.
“That is 100 percent false,” the recorder replied.
Blehm sat with no further questions.
Olsen similarly struggled to find a gotcha moment in his questioning of Maricopa County Elections Director Scott Jarrett.
He pressed Jarrett at length about some issues with ballot printers, trying to get him to admit that it was a “disruption” to the election. Jarrett did not concede.
“We had some printers that were not printing some timing marks on our ballots dark enough to be read in by our tabulation equipment,” he responded. “Voters had legal and ballot options to still be able to participate within our voting locations.”
Lake’s team finally seemed to make up some ground with a non-election official witness, Clay Parikh, who was identified as a Northrop Grumman information security officer.
Parikh testified that some of the ballot printer malfunctions could not have been accidental — implying that it was purposeful mischief — and that the ballots were not properly secured when he inspected them as part of the state’s audit.
The defense took some air out of the tires, though, when it came time for its cross examination.
“Are you familiar with an event called Michael Lindell’s ‘Moment of Truth?’” Maricopa County lawyer Tom Liddy asked Parikh.
“Yes, I spoke at the event,” he responded, adding that Lindell paid for his travel there but that he did not charge for his time.
The event, held this summer in Missouri, was a week-long bog of conspiracy theories around the 2020 election, featuring speakers including Steve Bannon and Jenna Ellis.
Parikh later grew agitated as the lawyer pressed him to agree that, even if there were printer issues causing ballots to be rejected, those ballots would then have been duplicated and run through the tabulators to be properly counted.
He finally answered after the judge interjected.
“If they’re duplicated correctly and they’re configured correctly, yes, they should be,” he said, grudgingly.
Lake’s suit is asking the court to declare her the new winner of the Arizona gubernatorial election — or, short of that, to call for a new election. Fellow election denier Mark Finchem, the unsuccessful Republican candidate for Arizona secretary of state, saw his lawsuit to overturn his election loss dismissed completely late last week.