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Leaked call shows clash between Kari Lake campaign and Maricopa County


Hours before Kari Lake lost his gubernatorial race in Arizona, lawyers for his campaign and the Republican National Committee spoke by phone Monday with an attorney in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and more of the half of the voters in the state.

Representatives for Lake asked a series of questions about voting issues on Election Day, nearly a week earlier. Then, near the end of the phone call, an RNC attorney stressed the importance of quick responses, according to Maricopa attorney Tom Liddy, a longtime Republican who heads the county’s office for civil litigation.

Liddy recalled that the RNC lawyer, whom he and others identified as Benjamin Mehr, told him there were “a lot of angry people out there” and the campaign “can’t control”.

Liddy said in an interview Friday that he viewed the words as a threat.

On Friday evening, a Twitter account associated with Lake’s campaign posted a video of part of the call that captures Liddy swearing and raising her voice. The Lake campaign did not respond to a request for the full video, which was taken from inside the GOP war room at a Scottsdale compound. County officials said they were blindsided that the conversation was recorded and then released publicly with the names on one side.

Tim La Sota, a Lake campaign lawyer who was present on the call, did not dispute Liddy’s characterization of the conversation, but said he did not interpret Mehr’s comments as a threat. . An RNC spokesperson called Liddy’s account of the call “untrue” and issued a statement attacking Maricopa County officials as “completely incompetent”.

The A tense exchange, between two Republican attorneys, lays bare the internal GOP war over election administration. Nowhere is this feud fiercer than in Maricopa County, the nation’s second-largest electoral jurisdiction, which has become a focal point of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to reverse his 2020 loss. Voting is still ongoing in the county and the race for state attorney general, who could shape election law enforcement, is on the line.

The interaction captured on video reveals how heightened mistrust turned into open hostility in the aftermath of the midterm elections. Lake’s campaign cited issues with printers that plagued voting in Maricopa County to argue that results should not be certified and county officials should be fired from their jobs.

Lake did not give in to Democrat Katie Hobbs, who declared victory shortly after major networks called the race on Monday.

The exasperation evident on the call has continued to define Lake’s public comments these days, while his campaign’s legal strategy remains unclear. People close to his campaign say that any litigation would not be aimed at reversing the results but at reducing the margin.

Lake didn’t call for protests, like Trump did after her loss, but her team shared memes about Hobbs portraying the Democrat as a dog and calling her “unfit” and “downright sleazy.”

The video clip released by the Lake campaign shows the RNC lawyer, seated at a computer, holding a phone in his hand, with another person on the other side of him also holding a phone as if to record the episode. In the clip, the RNC lawyer says it would be helpful “for us to be able to say that Tom Liddy is giving us good information”.

“Guess what? Let me educate you,” Liddy replied, according to the video recording. “I can’t control what you say. Okay? You can say what you want to say. I can’t control this. Now, if you’re not happy working with me…then we’re off. I don’t care.”

At one point, Liddy said, “You sound like you’re threatening me.” Mehr replied, “I’m certainly not threatening you, and I promise.”

Liddy repeated the words of the RNC lawyer to him, as he recalled them. “If I don’t get you these answers quickly, you won’t be able to tell the crazies I was helpful,” Liddy said, according to the video recording. “I do not care.”

“I’m just saying what worries me,” Mehr replied, to which Liddy told her, “I don’t care.”

Inside the Kari Lake War Room, where the Republicans are grappling with defeat

Liddy’s call log shows the conversation lasted 12 minutes. He said the brief video lacked crucial context explaining his reaction to Mehr’s remarks – namely the alleged invocation of angry audience members. RNC spokesman Nathan Brand said the video shows “how a Maricopa County attorney responded to an RNC attorney seeking transparency – this is completely unacceptable.”

La Sota, Lake’s campaign attorney, told the Washington Post that the appeal was one of several appeals with the county over “garden variety” issues with the ballots. Questions raised at the start of the call focused on the nature of the outstanding ballots and the number of people who failed to properly leave a voting center after encountering mechanical problems, potentially preventing them from voting elsewhere. .

He sympathized with Liddy, La Sota said, noting that the county attorney was in the midst of a stressful situation. Liddy, a lifelong Republican, is the son of G. Gordon Liddy, the attorney who engineered the botched heist that led to the Watergate scandal and the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. He served as an assistant solicitor for the RNC in the 1990s.

Liddy told the Post he reported the trade to his boss, County Attorney Rachel Mitchell, as well as Sheriff Paul Penzone (D) and Republican County Board Chairman Bill Gates.

Lake’s campaign excoriated Maricopa County for printer issues at 70 polling sites. The problems, which involved ink that was too light for the ballots to read, meant some people had to wait in line, travel elsewhere to vote or drop their ballots into secure ballot boxes that were moved to the downtown and counted there. The county has not yet determined the cause of the printer issues.

Arizona precincts with voting problems weren’t majority Republican

On Thursday, Lake told his social media followers, “Arizona, we’re still in this fight.” She traveled that day to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, where she received a standing ovation at a luncheon hosted by the America First Policy Institute, a think tank founded the year last by Trump allies and former members of his administration, according to a person who was there. That evening, she addressed a crowd at the club and claimed, according to a video posted on social media, that officials were “turning down the machines on election day”.

The county, for its part, has accused Republican leaders in the state of spreading false information about early voting and making baseless allegations of wrongdoing. In the days surrounding the Nov. 8 election, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office moved Gates to an undisclosed location due to threats, Gates confirmed to the Post on Friday.

The County Attorney’s Office represents the two entities responsible for elections: the Board of Supervisors and the County Registrar. After the 2020 race, Liddy played a prominent role advising county officials as Trump and his allies sought to delay and rescind certification of the results, and undermine confidence in the results through partisan scrutiny. poll that resulted in an investigation of county officials by Arizona Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

Liddy told the Post he reacted to the RNC lawyer’s comments in the context of threats to county officials and others who were defending the legitimacy of the 2020 election. Among those targeted was Rusty Bowers , the Republican speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, who resisted a pressure campaign to reverse Trump’s loss to the state and faced protests outside his home, including when his 42-year-old daughter years old was dying. at his home in January 2021.

“It’s in the context that we have people on the streets throughout 2020; people who came out into the streets outside Rusty Bowers’ house while his daughter was dying; hundreds, if not thousands, of death or imprisonment threats that have been sent to my clients who are officers or employees of Maricopa County, death threats against me and my son,” Liddy said.

Liddy said the questions posed by Lake’s campaign were routine and he tried to answer them quickly.

“What I found shocking,” he added, “was a member of the bar threatening another lawyer.”

Monday’s call came amid increasingly strained relations between Republican campaigns and Maricopa County.

On Nov. 10, two days after the election, a Phoenix-based attorney representing the RNC wrote to the county chief election officer asking that his department “continue to operate around the clock” to process ballots and release ballots. results, according to the e-mails obtained. by mail. A county chief replied that the elections department was “already working at full capacity”. Election officials had previously pointed out that the count could take up to 12 days.

Last week, Lake posted a series of video testimonials on Twitter from voters who say they were denied the opportunity to vote. Voters described encountering mechanical problems or other obstacles that they described as discouraging, although some concluded their direct-to-camera remarks by saying they had finally cast their ballots.

La Sota, the lake campaign attorney, also requested high-profile communications and other documents from the county, according to a copy of the request obtained by The Post. Directed to Liddy, the request targets all pre-Election Day communications between county officials and agents “in regards to problems tabulating or printing ballots at polling centers.”

La Sota wrote that none of the polling centers open for early voting on Oct. 12 encountered tabulation issues, which he said “wouldn’t make any logical sense.” A county spokeswoman confirmed that the printer issues only surfaced on Election Day. But the first ballots were all compiled downtown, the same place where ballots with too light ink were sent to be counted.


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