Ken Bennett, the Arizona state Senate's liaison to its review of 2020's presidential election ballots threatened to resign from that post live on conservative talk radio on Monday, saying the Senate's pro-Trump contractors had been hiding their results from him for months and could even be manipulating audit data.
"I cannot be part of a process that I am kept out of critical aspects," Bennett told James T. Harris, host of The Conservative Circus on Phoenix's 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."
Bennett, a conservative Republican, and former Arizona secretary of state has been an accountant outside of politics. While he cited problems with Maricopa County's handling of ballots, Bennett said that the lead contractor, the Cyber Ninjas, might be covering up mistakes made in the review's earlier stages by falsifying data.
"We have to be very careful that the third count [of the total number of ballots] is, of course, independent from the Cyber Ninjas' second [hand] count [of presidential votes]," he said. "We have to make sure that we are not force-balancing to their numbers or giving them something too early to allow them to force-balance back to our numbers."
"When I asked Mr. [Randy] Pollen, [former Arizona Republican Party chair] what are the procedures for us to do this third count, so that we can make sure that we are independent from the second count, and he refused to tell me," Bennett said. "I became very concerned that there would be this forced balancing going on."
The collision between Bennett's role as the Senate's liaison and the pro-Trump contractors has been simmering for months. While the Senate's review has been widely criticized as a pro-Trump propaganda exercise to perpetuate the "big lie" that Joe Biden was not legitimately elected, many Republicans who voted for Trump have been awaiting Bennett's assessment as a trusted messenger.
"I'm truly alarmed by this," said KFYI host James Harris, in the segment that followed Bennett's interview. "In the [show's] first segment, you actually had Ken Bennett step down because, in good conscience, he can't continue with this if he's been shut out and he's thinking that these numbers are being used improperly. And we know that that might be the case because we had President Trump spouting wrong numbers on the state last Saturday."
"I personally believe that we need to have Ken Bennett in this position [as Senate liaison]," he continued. "I know for a fact he's well-respected all around the state. I even heard from some people who respect him greatly say, 'Hey, what's going on with Ken Bennett… He sounds a little bit off.' Well, he is a little bit off, because he's seeing things that are shady."
"All of a sudden, this is getting convoluted," Harris said. "And instead of us having full disclosure, [and] transparency, it sounds like we are getting a grift!"
The spark behind Bennett's threat to resign—unless, he said, the Senate gave him full control of investigating several remaining aspects of the 2020 vote count—was a series of events that culminated last week that involved Bennett working with an outside group of retired election auditors. The team includes a longtime Arizona Republican Party election observer; the retired CEO of Clear Ballot, a federally certified auditing firm; and the retired chief technology officer of Clear Ballot.
That team has been analyzing the public data from Maricopa County's presidential election and had been releasing findings to the Arizona media and challenging the contractors to prove them wrong. They showed, for example, that tens of thousands of Maricopa County voters voted for most of the Republican candidates on the ballot—but not Trump. The team also has been sharing its data with Bennett.
Bennett has told Voting Booth that the data from the independent auditors was the driving factor that led the Senate to recount the total numbers of Maricopa County ballots because the Ninjas' hand count did not match the election's official results. The auditors had accounted for virtually all the election's ballots and presidential votes and produced the hard evidence of public records to back up their findings. (They also found and corrected many data entry errors ahead of the Ninjas.)
As Bennett explained on the radio, the Ninjas' were not telling Bennett what their progress or results were. In many instances going back months, they promised but never provided reports of their work. In recent weeks, Bennett said that he quietly has been comparing the outsider auditors' totals to the Ninja's figures and seeing that the building blocks of the official presidential election results were accurate.
This reporter was on a Zoom with Bennett and the outside auditors on Wednesday, July 21, where Bennett said the conspiracy theories promoted by the Ninjas was a diversion because the pro-Trump contractors are realizing that Biden fairly won.
"The fact that they're posing questions, or asking questions, or throwing out things about all these other things tells me they know the counts are pretty close," he said. "They don't have any proof that there's any massive change in the numbers."
After the Arizona Republic reported on July 23 that Bennett had been taking to the auditors, he was locked out of the ballot count at a Phoenix warehouse. Trump held a rally in the city the next day. Two days later, on Monday, July 26, Bennett told KFYI's Harris that he could not continue as Senate liaison.
Bennett said there were serious election administration issues that the review has discovered that needed to be explained and addressed before future elections. Thousands of ballots from members of the military and citizens overseas had not been properly labeled when duplicated (after they came in by e-mail), he said. Some volume of mailed-in ballots that were counted did not have signatures on their outside envelopes and should have been disqualified, he said.
Bennett said that he wanted to investigate these problems and conduct another audit that compared the digital images taken of every ballot by scanners with the county's official spreadsheet of each ballot's votes. The interview concluded with Harris asking Bennett what needed to happen for him to stay on.
"The answer is there are key aspects of the audit that are not even part of the scope of work assigned to Cyber Ninjas," Bennett said. "Some of those other things need to be done independently of Cyber Ninjas, and maybe I can be a coordinator of those other aspects, not done within Cyber Ninjas' realm."
Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, the American Prospect, and many others.
Jen Psaki forced to explain coronavirus basics to Fox News reporter asking ‘whose fault’ is it pandemic cases spiking
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday was forced to explain the basics of the coronavirus pandemic to Fox News reporter Peter Doocy after he tried to blame the increase in COVID-19 cases on President Joe Biden, bt asking, "whose fault" is it that the numbers are "going in the wrong direction."
Naturally, the answer is those who could be vaccinated yet are still refusing to do so.
"On COVID Dr. Fauci says we're going in the wrong direction. Whose fault is that?" Doocy asked.
"Well," Psaki replied, "I would say first what he was referring to is the fact that because there are still a large population of people in this country who were unvaccinated. And we have the most transmissible variants that we've seen since the beginning of the pandemic that more people are getting sick with COVID, and that's not, those numbers are not moving in the right direction. I think that's accurate and you can see it by data."
Doocy works for one of the top conservative cable channels that possibly has spread more coronavirus and vaccine disinformation than almost any other.
Doocy: On COVID, Dr. Fauci says we're going in the wrong direction. Whose fault is that? pic.twitter.com/svCr36nG7G
— Acyn (@Acyn) July 26, 2021
Queerty editor Graham Gremore made an observation Monday that could say a lot about Eric Trump's involvement in pending lawsuits involving Allen Weisselberg and the Trump Organization.
As Gremore noticed, the middle Trump son hasn't posted anything to his social media for about 10 days, the longest stretch he's ever gone in the past 5 years. The last thing he posted was a photo of he and his wife on a yacht. That could mean that the couple is outside of cell service on an extended vacation, but it begs the question of why his wife Lara is still tweeting and doing interviews.
"It comes at literally the exact same time two of his dad's closest allies–Tom Barrack, chairman of Trump's 2017 inauguration committee, and Allen Weisselberg, former CFO of the Trump Organization–were indicted for unrelated crimes," wrote Gremore.
Ivanka Trump is keeping a low profile as well, under the claim that she and her family are "distancing" themselves from the former president. Trump biographer Michael D'Antonio believes that the truth is that Ivanka is also in legal "peril" for doing some of the same things Weisselberg is accused of.
Eric may have finally gotten the memo, said Gremore, though it appears Donald Trump Jr. has not.
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