The Republican-controlled Arizona state Senate has permanently banned its own liaison from entering the building where the controversial "audit" of Maricopa County votes is being conducted.
Ken Bennett, the former Arizona's Secretary of State and president of the state Senate, was selected as the liaison and immediately became the only person involved with the audit who has expertise in elections.
On Friday, Bennett was banned from the building.
"Questions are mounting about who is in control of the long-running partisan review of Maricopa County's 2020 election results — the Arizona Senate, which ordered it, or the outside firms that are running it," The Arizona Republic reported Friday evening. "On Friday, Ken Bennett, the Senate liaison to the audit, was not allowed into the building at the state fairgrounds where the audit is taking place, a day after he shared data with outside critics from an ongoing ballot count."
"The data Bennett provided to outside analysts, Larry Moore and Benny White, showed the results of the ongoing machine count of the ballots tracks very closely with the the county's tally," The Republic reported. "If that trend continues, it may call into question the results of Cyber Ninja's count, because [Senate President Karen] Fann has said that the Cyber Ninjas' count did not match the county's."
"Senate liaison Ken Bennett is banned from the audit building permanently, says Randy Pullen, the Senate rep who is overseeing activity in the building. Says the decision to block Bennett on Friday was made by the Senate & Pullen was the one not to let him in," Arizona Republic correspondent Jen Fitfield reports.
Bennett did not respond to her requests to comment, but had threatened to quit earlier in the day.
"I cannot be part of a process that I am kept out of critical aspects," Bennett said on Phoenix radio station KFYI. "The reason that I am that close to stepping down as liaison is that I cannot be part of a process that I am kept out of critical aspects along the way that make the audit legitimate."
The audit says he will still be involved.
"Pullen repeats to me that Bennett is still the Senate liaison. I ask him how repeatedly you can liaison something without being let into the building. He will be around, Pullen says, will review the draft report..." Fitfield reported.
Read Fitfield's reporting on Twitter.
Just in... Senate liaison Ken Bennett is banned from the audit building permanently, says Randy Pullen, the Senate… https://t.co/h5wGCfpuaX— Jen Fifield (@Jen Fifield) 1627342485.0
BREAKING: Maricopa County receives a new subpoena for election materials from Republican leaders of the Arizona Sen… https://t.co/aj0CGhrzCk— Jen Fifield (@Jen Fifield) 1627345710.0
St. Louis brings back masks amid COVID surge -- and Republicans who failed to contain pandemic are furious
A new mask mandate was enacted in St. Louis on Monday and received unintended validation: Its most vocal critics are the state Republican leaders who have presided over the state's abject failure to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and County Executive Sam Page have issued orders requiring the wear masks in indoor public spaces and on public transportation by those 5 and over. "As of yesterday, the CDC is considering doing the same," Jones said.
"The delta variant, the most infectious and dangerous strain of COVID-19, took hold in Springfield, Missouri, before spreading like wildfire around our state and now is on our doorstep," Jones said. "The reality of this virus has changed from a year ago." The positivity rate was 2.9% on June 1 in St. Louis County but has jumped to 9.9% as of Saturday, Page said.
As of today, Missouri ranked second among the states in hospitalizations per capita and fourth in deaths and new COVID-19 cases, according to the New York Times database.
Despite the numbers, the mask order was met with anger from Gov. Mike Parson and state Atty. Gen. Eric Schmitt, both ignoring their own tragic resumes on the subject.
"Dictating mask mandates when we have the vaccine is ignoring the real solution and eroding public trust," Parson tweeted. "From the very beginning of this pandemic, we have recognized the importance of local control; however, re-imposing mask mandates regardless of vaccination status is WRONG and goes against current CDC guidelines."
Funny thing about that reference to the beginning of the pandemic by Parson: Thanks to inaction by the Trump-loving governor, Missouri was the 50th state to close schools in the early days of the virus.
Parson spoke about "personal responsibility" as the reason for him not to shut down businesses at a time almost all other states were doing so. Missouri never implemented a mask mandate. And when vaccines became available this year, Missouri was 50th in vaccinations in the earliest reporting from the CDC (it now ranks 38th).
Parson famously said "if you want a dang mask, wear a mask" while making a speech July 14, 2020, while not wearing a mask. Two months later he announced that he and his wife Teresa had both contracted COVID-19.
Even more vociferous was Schmitt, who is locked in a hotly contested Republican battle to fill the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Sen. Roy Blunt in 2022. His main opponents are all Trump disciples, including disgraced ex-Gov. Eric Greitens, notorious gun-waving attorney Mark McCloskey and Rep. Vicky Hartzler.
Schmitt filed a lawsuit today to block the mask orders, which he labeled "insanity." Schmitt said, "the citizens of St. Louis and St. Louis County are not subjects — they are free people."
Like other Missourians, people in St. Louis have apparently been free to support a whole host of Schmitt's politically motivated lawsuits -- regardless of whether they wanted to -- including Missouri's lead role as an amicus-brief follower in Trump's Texas lawsuit to overthrow democracy.
Schmitt is attempting to sue China over the spread of the pandemic, a lawsuit that might be humorous were it not so damaging to Asian-Americans in the state. That was referenced by former Sen. Claire McCaskill -- now as MSNBC commentator -- in this pointed exchange with Schmitt:
Honestly the Mo Atty General used to be respected by thoughtful people on both sides of the aisle. Not anymore. He’… https://t.co/yIMOG7Cd1N— Claire McCaskill (@Claire McCaskill) 1627305304.0
Ah — I see @clairecmc is weighing in. How’s forced retirement going? So proud Missourians caught onto your insuffer… https://t.co/veVdG0FYBt— Eric Schmitt (@Eric Schmitt) 1627311023.0
In a statement to Raw Story, Jones said, "Our Attorney General, who is running for Senate, and has a history of filing failed lawsuits, is filing yet another frivolous lawsuit to serve his own interest at the expense of public health. It's easy to grandstand when your biggest concern is filming your next campaign commercial and chasing clout."
On Monday's edition of CNN's "OutFront," Republican Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Bill Gates tore into former President Donald Trump for his newest conspiracy theory about "routers" in the Arizona election changing votes.
Gates started out by saying he's lost track of all the times he and his fellow elections officials have debunked Trump's false claims about the election.
"We know that the president, the former president, and those around him have continued to push this lie, this claim that the election was stolen from him," said Gates. "And yet, time and time again, it's been confirmed that that didn't take place. But he's not letting the facts get in the way."
Burnett then asked Gates to address one of Trump's more baffling claims.
"So one point in the speech ... he went on a rant about subpoenaing the network routers that were used by Maricopa County's election division to verify county election machines were not connected to the internet on Election Day," said Burnett, playing a clip of Trump proclaiming, "The county has for whatever reason also refused to produce the network routers. We want the routers, Kelly ... why are these commissioners refusing to give up the routers?"
Gates wasted no time shooting this down.
"Well, first of all, we have had two independent audits here at Maricopa County from election experts that have confirmed that our machines were never connected to the internet," said Gates. "The reason that they have not been turned over is because these routers essentially provide a blueprint for someone who gets them for sensitive information at Maricopa County, so that includes law enforcement information, and our sheriff has spoken out very strongly and said that if these routers are turned over, it's going to put sensitive law enforcement activities in question and at risk."
"They're getting backed into a corner and they're getting desperate, but the reality is the good people of Arizona know that this audit is a sham audit, and that it's time to move on," concluded Gates.
Maricopa Supervisor Bill Gates debunks Trump's "router" conspiracy theory www.youtube.com
Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Raw Story Investigates and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.
$95 / year — Just $7.91/month
I want to Support More
$14.99 per month