Is it any surprise that two of the main authors of the partisan election review in Arizona didn’t even show up to Thursday’s hearing by the House Oversight Committee to investigate their report? The so-called audit in Maricopa County found no evidence of election irregularities and even turned up more votes for President Joe Biden. But that hasn’t stopped the review’s leaders from suggesting Trump won in Arizona. Yet on Thursday, two leaders of the Cyber Ninjas investigation thought it better to stay home than to testify under oath that their review signaled a win for the former president.
Their absence, however, made way for a refreshing moment of truth when the Senate liaison to the partisan review testified, rejecting the claims that Trump won the state. Still, Republicans on the committee attempted to paint the “audit” as necessary for exploring election “irregularities” that were never quite specified and have never been proven.
Despite a brief moment of clarity, the hearing once again showed that there is literally nothing that can convince Trump’s backers in Congress and around the country that he lost the election. But convincing people of the facts is not the point. These sorts of hyperpartisan so-called audits are proliferating around the country. And Thursday’s no-shows further confirm that Cyber Ninjas’ partisan review of the 2020 election is actually an attempt to cast doubt on our election integrity, paving the way for future interference.
First, it’s worth noting who didn’t cooperate with the hearing. Doug Logan, the Cyber Ninjas CEO in charge of the audit who has touted conspiracy theories that a dead Venezuelan dictator somehow helped Democrats cheat in the election, declined to even attend or turn over any documents related to his partisan inquiry. Instead, at the time of the hearing, Logan was being interviewed by a fellow conspiracy theorist who is facing a lawsuit for allegedly defaming a Dominion Voting Systems employee.
Second, Shiva Ayyadurai, the former Republican electoral candidate who made multiple false claims as part of his “analysis” of signatures on Maricopa County ballot envelopes, did not show up as originally scheduled. Ayyadurai, who has spread conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 vaccine and made false claims that 1 million ballots were destroyed in his own failed primary bid in Massachusetts, was replaced as a Republican witness at the last minute by Senate liaison to the partisan review Ken Bennett.
How did Bennett’s testimony go for the GOP? Bennett actually contradicted Republican committee members who suggested the partisan review’s principal finding was possible fraud. In fact, the GOP’s own witness—the Republican official most directly responsible for the audit—rejected Trump’s false claims that the audit proved that he had won in Arizona. The hearing started with a heated back-and-forth between Democratic Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin and Republican Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs over the review’s main findings, with Biggs parroting Trump’s line that it raised questions about the result. Here’s how that exchange went:
Raskin: Do you accept this audit that showed that Joe Biden won and indeed by more votes than [the initial count]?
Biggs: That is not what the audit concluded, Mr. Raskin, you know better than that. Have you read the whole audit [report], or have you cherry-picked the line which talks about the recount versus the tabulation machine? That we would have expected to be very similar, and it was …
Raskin: Who won the election in Arizona?
Biggs: We don’t know because as the audit demonstrates very clearly, Mr. Raskin, there are a lot of issues with this election that took place.
Here’s video of part of that exchange:
The problem for Biggs, though, is that his side’s own witness contradicted his interpretation and affirmed Raskin’s. As part of his opening testimony, Bennett said this:
Despite months of warnings from the county, or secretary of state, election experts, and most of the media that the auditors’ procedures were imprecise and unreliable, the most significant finding of the audit is that the hand count of the physical ballots very closely matches the county’s official results in the president and U.S. Senate races. Now that finding is frustrating to many who expected the audit to prove a different election result.
I attended the partisan review and warned that Cyber Ninjas’ flawed recount procedures might result in a different outcome than the county’s actual canvass. I also warned that, either way, the final report of the partisan review would likely use innuendo about unexplainable “anomalies” to cast doubt on the findings. It’s notable, though, that Bennett refused to repeat the suggestion of the auditors who didn’t show up to testify under oath that Trump, and not Biden, had won in Arizona.
Rep. Ro Khanna used his time to note the significance of Bennett’s testimony. Once again, Bennett acknowledged that the partisan review affirmed the final outcome in Maricopa County, contrary to Donald Trump’s claims:
Khanna: Mr. Bennett, given your statement, did Cyber Ninjas’ hand count show that Joe Biden won more votes than Donald Trump in Maricopa County?
Bennett: Yes. …
Khanna: Do you think Joe Biden is the legitimately elected president?
Khanna: So, when President Trump says, “We won the Arizona forensic audit yesterday at a level that you wouldn’t believe,” and said of President Biden, “He didn’t win Arizona, he lost in Arizona based on the forensic audit,” that is false, correct? … That is not a true statement, correct?
Bennett: I would not characterize it that way. I was asked by the Senate to be the liaison to the Maricopa audit. The Maricopa audit found that the results were very similar to what Maricopa County canvassed in the official results.
Khanna: Anyone, including the former president, who is saying that the audit somehow suggests that Donald Trump won the Arizona election, that would be a wrong and false interpretation of the audit, correct?
Bennett: I would say that he’s probably making that statement based on his opinions of other things in the audit. I can’t begin to …
Khanna: But it’s not your characterization of the audit?
For good measure, Khanna followed up to confirm that Bennett and the “auditors” hadn’t found anything in their “paper analysis” of the ballots that would have materially changed the outcome of the election in Arizona.
Khanna: There was no evidence that the paper ballots had been tampered with, correct?
Bennett: I did witness on the floor of the audit that there were some paper ballots that were of concern as to whether they were authentic, so to say that none, I think would be incorrect.
Khanna: But none that would materially affect your judgment [in] your earlier testimony that you thought President Biden legitimately got more votes than President Trump, correct?
Bennett: It would not change that outcome, correct.
Finally, Bennett acknowledged that Cyber Ninjas ought to abide by court orders and congressional requests to turn over documents and appear for questioning. Logan, the Cyber Ninjas CEO, has so far refused.
Khanna: So far Cyber Ninjas has refused to provide any meaningful documents to this committee and it turned over just four documents [as part of] a [separate] court order. You seem like someone who believes in the rule of law. Do you believe that Cyber Ninjas should obey court orders and requests from Congress?
I have been incredibly skeptical of Bennett’s past statements about the partisan review, which I thought were misleading and mischaracterized. Bennett often refused to acknowledge the actual work that Cyber Ninjas was doing to undermine the election. But it’s notable that when Bennett was called before Congress and sworn under oath to testify, he told the actual truth: Joe Biden won the election in Arizona, and a monthslong, multimillion-dollar effort paid for and conducted by Trump allies could find no evidence to the contrary.