Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs on Wednesday asked Attorney General Mark Brnovich to open a criminal investigation into possible efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to influence Maricopa County supervisors as the ballots were still being tallied.
Hobbs said some of the communications “involve clear efforts to induce supervisors to refuse to comply with their duties,” which could violate Arizona law. She cited The Arizona Republic’s reporting last week on text messages and voicemails from the White House, Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward to the Republican members of the Board of Supervisors.
“The reporting also includes firsthand statements from the victims of this potential crime,” Hobbs said. She cited at least one potential felony charge under Arizona law.
A spokesman for Brnovich was not immediately available to comment on Hobbs’ request, which was emailed directly to the attorney general shortly after 1 p.m.
The request for a legal review is freighted with political overtones.
Hobbs, a Democrat, is running for governor next year. She created a national profile for defending Arizona’s election administration efforts when November presidential election results were among the closest in the country. Arizona was spotlighted by Trump and his allies as they promoted the false narrative of a stolen election.
Brnovich, a Republican, is running for the U.S. Senate next year. Trump has criticized Brnovich for not supporting the state Senate’s ongoing ballot review. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Arizona law Brnovich defended that makes voting more difficult, something he has cast as part of his commitment to preserving election integrity.
Now, he has been asked to investigate Trump and his GOP allies on that very issue.
“As you said just last week, ‘Fair elections are the cornerstone of our republic, and they start with rational laws that protect both the right to vote and the accuracy of the results,’” Hobbs wrote in her letter to Brnovich seeking an investigation. “Arizona law protects election officials from those who would seek to interfere with their sacred duties to ascertain and certify the will of the voters.”
Hobbs asked Brnovich to refer her request for an investigation to another law enforcement agency if his ethical duties prevent him from investigating the matter.
The Republic detailed two separate attempts by Trump to reach Republican Supervisor Clint Hickman in the weeks after the election as the president’s allies sought to alter the election results in a state he narrowly lost to Democrat Joe Biden.
At the time, Hickman was chairman of the Board of Supervisors, the elected body that oversees elections in the state’s most populous county.
Hickman received the first call from the White House switchboard on Dec. 31, while he was out celebrating the coming new year with his wife and friends. He let the call go to voicemail.
The second call came on the night of Jan. 3, after the Washington Post published a recording of Trump’s hourlong phone call with the Georgia secretary of state. Hickman sought to avoid talking to the president because of ongoing litigation and let the call go to voicemail.
Separately, Giuliani made calls to supervisors before and after his Nov. 30 meeting in Phoenix about the election outcome with a handful of GOP state lawmakers. The Republic obtained voicemails he left for the supervisors.
“If you get a chance, would you please give me a call,” Giuliani said in one message. “I have a few things I’d like to talk over with you. Maybe we can get this thing fixed up. You know, I really think it’s a shame that Republicans sort of are both in this kind of situation. And I think there may be a nice way to resolve this for everybody.”
The Republic also revealed Ward’s attempts to pressure supervisors “to stop the counting,” to delay certifying the results and to look into whether voting software added votes for Democrats. Her efforts continued as Trump’s legal challenges fell short across the country.
When those efforts did not succeed, through various texts, she said supervisors were “unAmerican” and were playing for the “WRONG team.”
In one text to GOP Supervisor Jack Sellers, Ward wrote, “We have 4 years to support you guys politically and we will. You are what stands between integrity and theft.”
Ward did not respond to The Republic’s efforts to reach her last week. On Twitter, she wrote “BS” in response to the article.
Later, she wrote, “No one can ever say that I am not doing everything I can to assure #ElectionIntegrity. And I always will! #ProudAmerican.”
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