After months of pressure from former president Donald Trump, Arizona Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich's office recently launched an investigation of the 2020 election.
As part of the investigation, special agents from Brnovich's office interviewed Adrian Fontes, the Democratic former Maricopa County recorder.
During the interview, the agents were caught on tape admitting they don't really believe the 2020 election was stolen — and saying they lack basic knowledge about how the state's voting systems work.
"By now, just about everyone normal knows that the continued audits and investigations into the 2020 election are pure political theater in service of pushing the big lie about fraud, and now there is new exclusive audio that shows even the investigators themselves know that they're engaging in a sham," MSNBC host Nicole Wallace said Thursday, introducing the tapes obtained by correspondent Vaughn Hillyard.
Brnovich, who's running for U.S. Senate, initially defended the integrity of Arizona's election last year before coming under fire from Trump, who recently attended a fundraiser for one of the attorney general's opponents in the Republican primary.
In the audio, Fontes asked one of Brnovich's agents, "Is your boss that desperate in his primary that he's going to push this bulls*t narrative about a stolen election?"
The agent responded, "Well, nobody's talking about a stolen election at all."
"But then why are you here?" Fontes asked, noting that allegations of widespread fraud have been proven to be false.
"I get the feeling from body language and stuff that you guys know this is bullsh*t, and I'm really sorry that you have to do it, but I'm happy to answer questions," Fontes said.
Later, Fontes asked the agent whether he had reviewed the state's voting plans from before the 2020 election.
The agent responded by saying that he had volunteered to serve as an election integrity investigator — "for some reason I'll never understand" — and explained that the position was new.
The agent later said, "We've never worked election stuff and don't really know a lot of the processes."
In another exchange illustrating this point, the agent asked, "That's just the paper ballots, correct?"
"Well, that's the only kind there are," Fontes responded.
"Well, I mean people voting at the machines later on," the agent said.
"I don't know what you mean by that," Fontes responded.
"If I walk into a ballot place, do they do electronic voting at all?" the agent said.
"No," Fontes responded.
"OK, so everything's a paper ballot," the agent said.
"Yes," Fontes responded.
"OK, I'm a little confused," the agent said.
Fontes told the agent he was "surprised and disappointed."
"You don't know that in Arizona, every vote is on a paper ballot. There's no such thing as a voting machine in Arizona. The fact that you're using that term is really disturbing," Fontes said.
MSNBC analyst Rick Stengel, former undersecretary of state, told Wallace the audio seemed to reflect "a page out of the authoritarian's playbook, which comes from Alice in Wonderland, which is, verdicts first and evidence afterward."
"Since every Republican candidate in Arizona is disputing the 2020 election, evidence doesn't matter, and that's the problem and that's what's so dangerous in our politics now," Stengel said. "There is no empirical fact that one side accepts, and when you can't have acceptance of facts in a democracy, that's when a democracy votes itself out of existence. It's really frightening."
Arizona tapes on MSNBC www.youtube.com