Many Arizona Republicans have made it clear they want nothing to do with the audit from the Senate GOP. But as one Washington Post columnist explained, they've gone so far down the rabbit hole, and there's no real way for them to climb out anymore.
Writing Tuesday, Philip Bump cited the New Yorker's Jane Mayer, who reported that conservative groups had been working on the so-called "election audit" idea before the election was even held.
But he keyed into a "startling and important discovery" in her piece when she points to a county official named Bill Gates. He's not the Microsoft Bill Gates.
"Gates says that Karen Fann, the Arizona Senate's president, confided to him that she knew there was 'nothing to' the fraud charges," Bump said, citing the Mayer report. Fann wouldn't respond to questions about the conversation. "Nevertheless, she buckled under the political pressure and authorized a subpoena of the county's ballots, for the 'forensic audit.'"
Bump said that it's entirely possible that Fann told Gates she didn't think fraud happened but wanted to "grease the wheels" for the effort.
"But it's more likely that Fann, a member of Arizona's legislature for more than a decade, actually recognized that nothing untoward happened," Bump continued. "After all, Arizona had been trending more blue since 2004, in part thanks to its evolving demographics. That the result in 2020 was close was a continuation of that trend; in fact, the shift to the left from 2016 to 2020 was smaller than the shift from 2012 to 2016. Fann herself was elected in a district that includes parts of Maricopa. One assumes she feels pretty confident about those particular results."
Even if she did believe that there was no fraud, she's got two options, he explained. Either she can keep going with the audit and election fraud claims or she can throw up her hands and make a deal that she showed her Trump loyalty.
The problem, Bump explained, is that they have all double, triple, and quadrupled down on the conspiracy. There's no real respectable off-ramp for them anymore.
"Fann, as president of the Republicans in the Arizona Senate, would have been hard-pressed to stay quiet, so she chose to play along. Again, maybe she was lying to Gates, but it's safe to assume that she wasn't. She had little political choice but to go along with the 'review,'" said Bump.
It's the same situation that Republicans are in at the national level. They've gone so far down the road with Donald Trump that there's no real way to divorce themselves from him. They've been given every opportunity to abandon him, but each time they came crawling back. Republicans know how to navigate that path, Bump explained. The path without Trump is a "minefield."
"Whenever there's a discussion of the review in Arizona, the same conclusion emerges: Everyone knows where it is headed, but no one really knows what happens then," he closed. "For the review itself, in other words, there's no off-ramp, just this big, rickety truck rumbling forward with dashboard warning lights going unheeded. The time when this could have been averted came months ago, before the vehicle started moving. But even then, Fann and other Republicans were not offered any easy choice other than to step on the accelerator."