Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs wants the state attorney general to investigate whether allies of former President Donald Trump violated state laws by conducting a pressure campaign against county officials in the wake of the November 2020 election.
In a Wednesday letter to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, she wrote that contacts made by the Trump White House and the then-President’s political supporters were a “potential crime” because of the election officials they tried to influence.
Hobbs was referring to phone calls and texts received by then-chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Clint Hicks and Supervisor Bill Gates as the Trump team sought to conduct the so-called audit of the county ballots.
Hobbs calls those contacts “clear efforts to induce supervisors to refuse to comply with their duties” and a “possible crime.”
“I got a phone call from the White House switchboard” in early January, Hicks explained to CNN’s Michael Smerconish on “Cuomo Prime Time” Monday. What alarmed Hicks the most, he explained, was the Washington Post had just published a recorded phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which the President urged Raffensberger to “find” more votes for him. Trump narrowly lost the state to Joe Biden.
“I was horrified,” Hicks, a Republican and Trump supporter, said of those phone recordings. “I listened to the phone call and I read the transcript and I thought, this is not what I’m used to. After seeing what was going on in Georgia, as I’ve said clearly, if I’m not willing to tape a President, I’m not willing to talk to a President.” Hicks, whose county board oversees the election, let the call go to voicemail.
Hicks was leading his county board in opposing the Arizona Senate’s attempts to force a third audit of the 2020 ballots, despite two previous reviews showing no widespread election fraud occurred.
Video: Arizona election official on why he rejected calls from Trump allies (CNN)
His fellow supervisor, Bill Gates, also received a call on Christmas Eve from then-Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. In the voicemail, Giuliani told Gates, “I have a few things I’d like to talk over with you. Maybe we can get this thing fixed up.” Giuliani called the “situation” in Arizona “a shame” and ended the call by telling Gates, “I think there may be a nice way to resolve this for everybody.”
The Arizona Republic also obtained texts that Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward sent to the Maricopa County Board Supervisors, pressuring them to delay certifying the results.
Ward did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment on Hobbs’ ask for an investigation or the previous reporting from the Arizona Republic. She did respond last week to the Arizona Republic article on Twitter, tweeting “BS.”
The so-called audit did move forward, with the Republican-led Arizona Senate subpoenaing the Board to hand over the county ballots. The state Senate hired a little-known contractor, Cyber Ninjas, to conduct a ballot review, which multiple bipartisan election experts criticize for being a “sham.” The controversial audit wrapped last month, and a report is expected in the coming weeks on what it allegedly found.
Hobbs’ request for an investigation is shadowed by the political aspirations of both Hobbs and Brnovich.
Hobbs, a Democrat, announced her candidacy for Arizona governor in 2022. Hobbs has elevated both her state and national profile in defending the state’s election procedures.
Brnovich, a Republican, announced his Senate campaign challenging Democrat Mark Kelly. Trump, who remains popular among the Republican base in Arizona, has criticized Brnovich for “doing little” to audit Maricopa County’s ballots.
Brnovich also defended an Arizona voting law before the US Supreme Court, Brnovich v. DNC, saying the law does not disproportionately impact minority voters but instead preserves election integrity. In a 6-3 conservative-liberal ideological vote, the Supreme Court last week ruled two provisions of Arizona’s law did not violate the Voting Rights Act.
Hobbs quoted Brnovich’s own press release after the SCOTUS decision in her public letter to him, urging him to investigate the calls made by Trump allies.