The leaked call shows a conflict between the Kari Lake campaign and Maricopa County

The leaked call shows a conflict between the Kari Lake campaign and Maricopa County

The leaked call shows a conflict between the Kari Lake campaign and Maricopa County


A few hours before Kari Lake designed to lose its race for Arizona governor, attorneys for her campaign and the Republican National Committee spoke by phone Monday with the attorney for Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and more than half of the state’s voters.

Lake representatives fielded a series of questions about voting problems on Election Day, nearly a week early. Then, near the end of the phone call, the RNC attorney stressed the importance of quick responses, according to Maricopa attorney Tom Liddy, a lifelong Republican who heads the county’s civil litigation office.

Liddy recalled being told by an RNC attorney, whom he and others identified as Benjamin Mehr, that there were “a lot of angry people” and that the campaign “can’t control them.”

Liddy said in an interview Friday that he considered those words a threat.

On Friday night, a Twitter account associated with Lake’s campaign posted a video part of the call that records Liddy cursing and raising her voice. The Lake campaign did not respond to a request for the full video, which was taken from the GOP war room at Scottsdale Resort. County officials said they were blindsided by the fact that the conversation was recorded and then released publicly, with only one party named.

Tim La Sota, an attorney for the Lake campaign who attended 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 spokesman called Liddy’s account of the call “false” and issued a statement attacking Maricopa County officials as “completely incompetent.”

The the tense exchange, between two Republican attorneys, reveals the GOP’s internal war over election administration. Nowhere is that argument more heated than in Maricopa County, the nation’s second-largest voting jurisdiction, which has become a focal point of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to reverse his 2020 loss. Counting of votes is still ongoing in the county, and the race for attorney general, which could affect the enforcement of the election law, hangs in the balance.

The videotaped interaction reveals how growing distrust has turned into open hostility following the midterm elections. Lake’s campaign cites problems with printers that have plagued ballots across Maricopa County to argue that the results should not be certified and that county officials should be fired.

Lake did not give in to the Democrats Kate Hobbswho declared victory shortly after the major networks called Monday’s race.

The outrage evident in the call has continued to define Lake’s public comments in the days since, while her campaign’s legal strategy remains unclear. People close to her campaign say potential litigation would not be aimed at overturning the results, but at narrowing the margin.

Lake did not call for protests, as Trump did after his loss, but her team shared memes about Hobbs that portrayed the Democrat as a dog and called her “unfit” and “completely suspect.”

A video released by the Lake campaign shows an RNC attorney sitting in front of a computer, phone in hand, with another person on the other side also holding a phone as if recording the episode. in a clip, The RNC attorney says it would be helpful “to be able to say that Tom Liddy is giving us good information.”

“Guess what? Let me educate you,” Liddy responded, according to the video. “I can’t control what you say. Okay? You can say whatever you want. I can’t control it. Now, if you’re not happy working with me. .. then we’ll just stop. I don’t care—.”

At one point, Liddy said, “It sounds like you’re threatening me.” Mehr replied, “I’m definitely not threatening you and I promise.”

Liddy repeated the RNC attorney’s words to him as he recalled them. “If I don’t get these answers to you quickly, you won’t be able to tell the crazy people that I was helpful,” Liddy said, according to the video. “I do not care…”

“I’m just saying what I’m worried about,” Mehr replied, to which Liddy told him, “I don’t care.”

Inside Kari Lake’s war room, where Republicans are struggling with defeat

Lida’s call log shows the conversation lasted 12 minutes. He said the short video lacked key context to explain his reaction to Mehr’s remarks – namely the alleged calling out of angry members of the public. RNC spokesman Nathan Brand said the video shows “how the Maricopa County attorney responded to an RNC attorney who asked for transparency — that’s completely unacceptable.”

La Sota, the attorney for the Lake campaign, told The Washington Post that the call was one of many made with the county about “garden-variety” ballot issues. Questions asked at the start of the call focused on the nature of absentee ballots and the number of people who failed to properly sign out of a polling center after encountering mechanical problems, potentially preventing them from voting elsewhere.

La Sota noted that the district attorney was in the middle of a stressful situation, but said he thought it was Liddy overreacted. Liddy, a lifelong Republican, is a son Mr. Gordon Liddy, the lawyer who masterminded the botched burglary that led to the Watergate scandal and the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. He served as deputy counsel to the RNC during the 1990s.

Liddy told The Post that he reported the exchange to his boss, County Attorney Rachel Mitchell, as well as Sheriff Paul Penzone (D) and Bill Gates, the Republican chairman of the county’s board of trustees.

Lake’s campaign blasted Maricopa County over printer issues 70 polling stations. The problems, which involved ink that was too light for ballots to read, required some people to wait in long lines, travel elsewhere to vote, or deposit their ballots in secure boxes that were transported downtown and counted there. The county has yet to determine the cause of the problem with the printer.

Arizona’s troubled voting districts were not overwhelmingly Republican

Lake told her social media followers Thursday, “Arizona, we’re still in this fight.” That day she traveled 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 last year by Trump allies and former members of his administration, according to a person who was there. That evening, she addressed the crowd at the club and falsely claimed, according to a video circulating on social media, that officials “turned off the machines on election day.”

The district, for its part, blamed state Republican leaders for spreading misinformation about early voting and unsubstantiated claims of fraud. In the days surrounding the Nov. 8 election, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office moved Gates to an undisclosed location because of the threats, Gates confirmed to The Post on Friday.

The county state attorney’s office represents two entities responsible for elections: the supervisory board and the county recorder. After the 2020 race, Liddy played a leading role in advising county officials as Trump and his allies tried to delay and overturn the certification of the results, and undermine confidence in the results through a partisan audit of the ballots that culminated in an investigation of county officials by the Republican Arizona Attorney General. , Mark Brnovich.

Liddy told The Post that he was reacting to the RNC attorney’s comments in the context of threats against county officials and others who have defended the legitimacy of the 2020 election. Among the targets was Rusty Bowers, the Republican speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, who resisted the pressure campaign to overturn Trump’s loss in the state and has faced protests outside his home as a result, including his 42-year-old daughter dying in his home in January 2021.

“This is in the context of having people on the streets in 2020; people taking to the streets outside Rusty Bowers’ house as his daughter lay dying; hundreds if not thousands of death or jail threats sent to my clients who are Maricopa County officers or employees, death threats to me and my son,” Liddy said.

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

“What I found shocking,” he added, “is that a member of the bar would threaten another lawyer.”

Monday’s call came amid 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’s director of elections asking that his department “remain open 24 hours a day” to process ballots and release results, according to obtained e-mails. emails from The Post. The county leader replied that the election department is already “working at full capacity”. Election officials previously pointed out that the counting could take up to 12 days.

Last week, Lake posted a series of video statements on Twitter from voters who claim they were denied the chance to vote. Voters described encountering mechanical errors or other obstacles they described as discouraging, though some concluded their remarks directly to the camera by saying they ended up voting anyway.

La Sota, the attorney for the Lake campaign, also requested extensive communications and other documents from the district, according to a copy of the request obtained by The Post. Addressed to Liddy, the request seeks all pre-Election Day communications between county officials and agents “regarding problems with tabulation or printing of ballots at polling centers.”

La Sota wrote that none of the polling centers open for early voting on Oct. 12 encountered problems with the tabulations, which he claimed “would not make any logical sense.” A spokeswoman for the county confirmed that the problems with the printer only appeared on election day. But all the early ballots were downtown, the same place where ballots with too light ink were sent to be counted.

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