PHOENIX (AP) — An attorney representing the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate told a judge Thursday that the long-delayed review of 2020 election results in the state's most populous county will be released next week.
The results of the so-called audit of President Joe Biden's win and their unprecedented review of Maricopa County's vote counts, elections procedures, voting machines and related computers will be made public on Sept. 24, attorney Kory Langhofer told the judge.
Langhofer was ordered to say when the final report would be ready by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp at the conclusion of a hearing on a public records lawsuit related to the review. The Senate had fought to keep its records and those of its outside contractors secret, but Kemp ruled both the Senate's records and those of its outside contractors must be made public.
The Arizona Court of Appeals upheld the ruling on the contractors' records last month in a decision allowed to stand Tuesday by the Arizona Supreme Court.
The Senate has already turned over a raft of records after losing the lawsuit filed by the watchdog group American Oversight. But so far, Cyber Ninjas and other contractors that conducted the recount have not turned over any documents.
Langhofer told Kemp on Thursday that he expects the companies to give the records to the Senate, which will review them and release any that are not subject to being withheld due to legislative or attorney-client privilege. He also said several thousand Senate records withheld on privilege grounds continue to be a matter of dispute between the Senate and the watchdog group, and Kemp may ultimately need to review them and decide if they should be made public.
Senate President Karen Fann told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Cyber Ninjas and the contractor had not yet handed over the completed audit, which was launched amid unfounded claims by former President Donald Trump that he lost in Arizona and other battleground states because of fraud.
“I haven’t even seen the whole report,” Fann said “I’ve been able to see some bits and pieces and mostly that was just in conversations.”
When pressed by the judge to say whether the Senate has received the draft report, Langhofer said “not yet.”
“I believe the Senate is in possession of, or its agents are in possession of, a draft report, but not from Cyber Ninjas," he said. "There were some ancillary reports, but the main one the Senate does not have yet.”
Fann has repeatedly said that Senate Republicans plan to review the report and may make changes before it is released.
But American Oversight attorney Keith Beauchamp said that he wants the draft report released immediately.
“Your honor, our view is we ought to receive that today if it's in their possession and it's a public document,” Beauchamp said.
Langhofer disagreed, arguing that a draft report is not public, and the two sides agreed to take that issue up later.
“Multiple courts have now confirmed that these records belong to the public, not to Cyber Ninjas, and they must be released,” American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers said in a statement after the hearing ended. “With the Senate apparently releasing its ‘audit’ report next Friday, it’s more urgent than ever for the public to get the full story about how this process was conducted.”
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 early this year.
The materials were given to contractors with little to no election experience for what Fann calls a “forensic audit.” Election experts say the 2020 election was secure and well-run, and the contractors are using bizarre and unreliable procedures. Maricopa County has refused further participation.
Even after the report is released, the Senate plans to do additional probes of the county's election systems. The Senate issued additional subpoenas in late July seeking access to the county's computer routers, but the Board of Supervisors refused to hand them over, saying elections equipment was never hooked into the county's system and handing over the routers would compromise law enforcement, health and other sensitive records.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued a decision late in August that said the county must comply. He said an earlier judicial ruling said Senate subpoenas were valid, and the county would be penalized under a state law that withholds shared revenues to local governments if they don't hand over the routers. He gave the county until Sept. 27 to comply.
The Republican-dominated Board of Supervisors has discussed the decision in closed session several times without taking action. But on Thursday it posted an agenda for an special Friday afternoon meeting where it said it may decide how to proceed. Brnovich had suggested a negotiated settlement.
The audit that began in April was originally set to take about 60 days, but there have been repeated delays. Most recently, Cyber Ninjas canceled plans to submit its report last month saying several of its team members contracted COVID-19 and had serious symptoms.
Fann, Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, volunteers who worked on the audit and several Republican senators who have vocally backed the review gathered Wednesday night for a celebratory “reunion,” according to numerous social media posts. GOP state Sen. Wendy Rogers in one post called the volunteers “Patriots, everyone of them - real people who did the Lord’s work.”
Other Republican-controlled battleground states are also considering or starting reviews of Biden's 2020 election wins. On Wednesday, Pennsylvania GOP senators pressed ahead with conducting their own “forensic investigation” of the election.
Associated Press reporter Jonathan J. Cooper contributed.