Gaetz, Greene cheer election audit in Arizona rally

Politics

Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are unsealed to be examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas, Thursday, May 6, 2021 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. The audit, ordered by the Arizona Senate, has the U.S. Department of Justice saying it is concerned about ballot security and potential voter intimidation arising from the unprecedented private recount of the 2020 presidential election results. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool)

MESA, Ariz. (AP) — U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, two of the Republican Party’s most controversial figures, told a crowd of Trump supporters in the Phoenix area that an ongoing audit of the 2020 election in Arizona should be replicated in all the battleground states where President Donald Trump lost.

Greene and Gaetz took their “America First Rally” tour to Arizona to cheer the audit, which is testing conspiracy theories about the election on behalf of Republicans in the state Senate.

“We are here in Arizona to stand in solidarity with the Arizona election audit,” Gaetz said to a cheering crowd of several hundred supporters Friday night in Mesa.

He expressed hope that the Arizona effort will be just the beginning of a larger movement.

“It’s my belief that Arizona will be the launch pad for elections audits and election integrity efforts all over this great country,” he added.

State Senate Republicans used their subpoena power to take possession of a wide range of equipment and documents from the 2020 election, including all 2.1 million ballots and the machines that counted them. Everything was handed over to a group of companies led by Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based cybersecurity consultant. Its founder, Doug Logan, has promoted baseless conspiracies suggesting Trump’s losses in Arizona and other battleground states were marred by fraud.

The audit won’t change the election results, but many Trump fans believe it will turn up evidence supporting his unfounded claims of fraud.

Election experts say the 2020 election was among the most secure in history and say the audit, which is not following standard procedures for election audits, is a threat to democracy by undermining faith in the electoral process.

Despite extensive reviews of the results after the election that produced no evidence of irregularities that would have changed the outcome, doubts persist among many of Trump’s staunchest supporters.

“Who do you think won Arizona on Nov 3?” Greene said. The crowd responded with chants of “Trump, Trump, Trump.”

With their tour of rallies, Gaetz of Florida and Greene of Georgia appear to be positioning themselves as successors to Trump’s populism. Greene’s speech was light on issues and focused much more on rehashing the history of conflict with fellow members of Congress who are reviled by Trump fans, from Republican Liz Cheney to Democrats Maxine Waters and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. Gaetz talked extensively about border security.

Both drew thunderous applause when denouncing mask and vaccine mandates as well as Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top public health official.

Gaetz has been the subject of a federal sex-trafficking investigation and may face escalating legal and political liability after an associate pleaded guiltyMonday in a cooperation agreement with prosecutors. Gaetz, who has denied wrongdoing, did not address the allegations Friday but started his speech by telling the crowd, “thank you for having my back.”

Gaetz and Greene presented themselves as the allies of Trump fans in a contentious conflict with not just the Democrats but with much of the GOP.

“Just because you have an ‘R’ by your name and you say things doesn’t mean you’ll do them when you run the country,” Greene said. “This is why so many people don’t vote. They don’t trust Republicans to do the job.”

Pundits like to talk about a “civil war” in the GOP between traditional conservatives who dominated the party before Trump’s election and populist Trump fans, Gaetz said.

“The civil war is over,” Gaetz said. “We’ve won.”

The crowd erupted in chants of “USA, USA.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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