On Wednesday, Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes sidelined Governor Katie Hobbs from the headlines with the release of investigative documents related to the 2020 election – a process started by former Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
Mayes unveiled three sets of documents: the March 8, 2022 Previously Unreleased Interim Findings Summary, the April 1, 2022 Draft of Interim Report with edits and suggestions made by AAGO agents, and the September 19, 2022 Previously Unreleased Investigative Summary. The Washington Post claimed the exclusive story just after 11am EST.
In a statement that accompanied the release of the documents, Attorney General Mayes said, “The results of this exhaustive and extensive investigation show what we have suspect for over two years – the 2020 election in Arizona was conducted fairly and accurately by elections officials. The ten thousand plus hours spent diligently investigating every conspiracy theory under the sun distracted this office from its core mission of protecting the people of Arizona from real crime and fraud.”
When asked by AZ Free News about the information revealed by his successor, Brnovich provided the following response: “I am proud of the work our office did with the election integrity unit that was created by the Arizona Legislature. While subjected to severe criticism from all sides of the political spectrum during the course of our investigations, we did our due diligence to run all complaints to ground. Where we were able to debunk rumors and conspiracies, we did so. Nevertheless, we also identified areas we believe the legislature and county officials should address to ensure confidence in future elections.”
The document dump from Mayes could close the book on a long chapter in Arizona political history – though questions and varying perspectives remain from thousands of citizens about the state of elections in the Grand Canyon State. The saga began with the Arizona Senate’s audit of the 2020 Maricopa County General Election, which lasted several months. On September 24, 2021, Attorney General Brnovich acknowledged that he was in receipt of the Arizona Senate’s draft report regarding the 2020 Election Audit in Maricopa County, stating, “I will take all necessary actions that are supported by the evidence and where I have legal authority.”
From the end of the November 2020 General Election to the transmission of the draft report to the Attorney General’s Office and through the end of his term in office – Brnovich could not please most Republicans or Democrats on the inflamed issue of election integrity – despite his 2021 victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case Brnovich v. DNC. Former President Donald Trump took repeated aims at Brnovich in attempts to find issues, fraud, or wrongdoing with the 2020 General Election in Maricopa County. Even with immense pressure from countless concerned citizens, elected officials, and candidates for office, though, Brnovich did not take any legal action in response to the Cyber Ninja’s findings contained in the audit report.
Brnovich did, however, deliver an interim report to former-Senate President Karen Fann on April 6, 2022, focusing on what his “office can presently share and the current status” of the
review. In the letter to President Fann, Attorney General Brnovich wrote that the office had “reached the conclusion that the 2020 election in Maricopa County revealed serious vulnerabilities that must be addressed.” Those issues (or vulnerabilities) included “document preservation and production,” “early voting signature verification,” “early ballot drop boxes,” and the “use of private grant monies.”
The interim report also contained several recommendations for the state legislature and an accounting of previous or ongoing actions from Brnovich’s team to “defend election integrity” in Arizona.
The investigation into the Senate’s audit findings was separate from the higher-than-usual number of investigations that the Attorney General’s Election Integrity Unit (EIU) undertook into the 2020 election cycle. According to a document on “prosecutions related to voting or elections since 2010,” approximately half of the listed cases appear to be from 2020.
The Attorney General’s Office, under Brnovich’s direction, had already started to publish findings of its investigation in the months leading up to the transfer of power to Mayes. On August 1, 2022, Brnovich sent another letter to President Fann, alerting legislators that his office had “concluded our criminal investigation related to deceased voter allegations,” finding that “only one of the 282 individuals on the list was deceased at the time of the (2020) election.”
Legislative Democrats took the disclosure of investigative documents to counter their Republican colleagues’ attempts to enhance election integrity protections for future elections. The Arizona Senate Democrats Caucus tweeted, “Maybe we should stop hearing all those #BIGLIE bills in the #AZSenateElections committee now?”
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
Attorney General Kris Mayes’ newly appointed right-hand man previously advocated for assault against the former attorney general.
Earlier this week, Mayes appointed lawyer Dan Barr to become her chief deputy attorney general. This comes a little under a year after Barr called former Attorney General Mark Brnovich a bully, indicating that physical force was the only means of handling him effectively.
“The only way to deal with cowardly bullies is to punch them in the nose,” wrote Barr. “That’s what @SecretaryHobbs is doing to @GeneralBrnovich.”
Barr issued the tweet in response to Governor Hobbs, then the secretary of state, suing Brnovich for threatening her with criminal action over her administration of the 2020 election.
Barr still hasn’t deleted the tweet.
Barr hails from Perkins Coie — the law firm formerly led by prominent Democratic Party and Russiagate attorney Marc Elias. He was representing Mayes in the case filed by her GOP opponent, Abraham Hamadeh, challenging this recent election. Barr filed a notice of withdrawal in the case on Monday.
Barr also represented Mayes in Hamadeh’s first lawsuit over the election results preceding the statewide canvass. Maricopa County Superior Court dismissed the case without prejudice for filing prematurely.
Barr told Arizona’s Law that he begins his role on Jan. 17. Jen Wright, former assistant attorney general and head of Brnovich’s Election Integrity Unit (EIU), questioned this timeline. She noted that he has an active email with the attorney general’s office.
Wright is contemplating a defamation lawsuit against Mayes after an unnamed source within the attorney general’s office falsely claimed to the Arizona Republic that Mayes fired Wright.
AZ Free News reached out to Barr about challenges to the timeline of his employment. We also asked if he had been or is currently working on any litigation with the attorney general’s office. He didn’t respond by press time.
Barr expressed confidence in Mayes’ ability to stop Saudi Arabia from using Arizona’s rural groundwater resources. Saudi Arabian companies rely on unlimited access to this water source for their commercial farms; unlike urban areas, groundwater in rural areas doesn’t have restrictions.
Barr is also supportive of Mayes’ approach to legalizing abortion. He expressed the belief that the “right to privacy” purportedly in the Constitution superseded the state’s interest in preserving unborn life. Prior to becoming a Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Justice, Louis Brandeis invented the “right to privacy” in the 1890s, later using it in key SCOTUS opinions. This language informed the landmark decision Griswold v. Connecticut — the precursor to Roe v. Wade, effectively creating a right to abortion and abolishing state bans on abortions.
Mayes hasn’t issued an official announcement about Barr yet. The new attorney general was sworn in last Monday.
Prior to joining the attorney general’s office, Barr specialized in constitutional, media, and employment law.
Wednesday’s grounding of thousands of planes due to airlines’ massive management failures proved Arizona’s call for increasing federal oversight a prescient petition. Flights nationwide were grounded due to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) computer outages.
Arizona and 29 states asked the Department of Transportation (DOT) to require airlines to provide meaningful relief for flight cancellations and delays. The petition occurred a little over a week before yet another sweeping airline catastrophe that occurred last month, resulting in historic highs of major issues like flight cancellations, stranded flyers, and lost baggage.
In a letter, former Attorney General Mark Brnovich advised DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg that the proposed rulemaking to address flight cancellations and delays should be strengthened.
The DOT issued the proposed “Airline Ticket Refunds and Rule Protections” in August. The rule would make it unlawful for an airline to refuse to refund passengers for canceled or significantly modified flights. However, the attorneys general said the DOT’s allowance for a three-hour delay would enable airlines to loosen their standards at the expense of travelers.
The attorneys also suggested that airlines be required to advertise and sell only the flights they have adequate personnel to fly and support. Further, they suggested regular audits and fines for compliance.
The DOT’s proposed rule would require airlines to provide non-expiring travel vouchers or credits for those with non-refundable tickets facing a flight itinerary change after so many hours or those unable to travel due to “serious communicable disease.” The attorneys suggested that airlines be required to not only provide a full refund but offer a partial refund in the event that passengers choose to accept an airline’s alternative flight.
The attorneys general also suggested that airlines be prohibited from canceling and then upselling alternative flights to the same destinations. They further suggested that airlines be required to provide additional compensation for delays or cancellations, such as food, lodging, and transport.
Brnovich also advised the DOT to create a framework ensuring timely and prompt communication with attorneys general. The bipartisan coalition joining Brnovich previously petitioned the DOT in late August for the same remedy, but experienced delays and an absence of any collaboration or communication.
Brnovich co-led the effort signed on by the attorneys general for the District of Columbia, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands, as well as Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
“It’s time for them to be held to similar consumer protection standards as other service industries,” stated Brnovich.
Brnovich has led a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in advocating for more stringent rules for airlines since the pandemic began. In 2020, Brnovich urged Congress to implement greater consumer protections such as full refunds for travelers who voluntarily canceled flights due to COVID-19, elimination of delays and expirations in refunds for flight cancellations, and the ability for state attorneys general to enforce federal airline consumer protection laws. These petitions have gone unfulfilled.
In 2021, Brnovich filed an antitrust lawsuit against American Airlines and JetBlue Airlines over their Northeast Alliance Agreement. Brnovich noted that past significant mergers of other airlines resulted in reduced quality of services, job losses, and higher ticket prices. The case, United States of America v. American Airlines Group, is ongoing in the Massachusetts District Court before Judge Leo Sorokin.
Currently, passengers are entitled to receive a refund or compensation if they’re involuntarily taken off an oversold flight, moved to a lower class of service than entitled to the difference in fares, unable to use in-flight services they paid for, or subjected to lost or damaged baggage.
Airlines may, but aren’t required to, compensate passengers facing long delays.
In November, the DOT issued over $600 million in penalties to six airlines for delaying refunds for canceled flights. Most were international. Among those penalized were Frontier Airlines, Air India, TAP Portugal, Aeromexico, El Al, and Avianca.
The DOT offers travelers a portal where they may file a consumer complaint, a dashboard to report on specific carriers’ customer service, as well as a guide on traveler rights.
The task force charged with recommending special ethics rules for attorneys who work for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and other public entities across the state will miss its December 2022 report deadline, according to Arizona Supreme Court records.
The Task Force on Ethics Rules Governing the State Attorney General, County Attorneys, and Other Public Lawyers was established by Chief Justice Robert Brutinel in February following high profile ethics complaints filed by the Arizona Board of Regents and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs against Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
Although the task force has met eight times, members requested additional time to prepare its ethics recommendations. As a result, Brutinel recently signed an order setting a new deadline of June 2023.
In Arizona, the attorney general is mandated by statute to provide certain legal advice as well as representation to various state agencies, state officials, and state employees. The same principle applies to the state’s fifteen county attorneys.
Brutinel’s creation of the Public Lawyers Task Force acknowledged there are particular ethical concerns a government lawyer may face when representing a public body, elected official, or even a government employee that other attorneys do not have to address. Similar considerations can arise for private practice attorneys who are retained to provide legal counsel to a government client.
Many of those considerations came to a head in 2020 when Brnovich and his staff attorneys were accused by Hobbs of failing to abide by the Arizona Supreme Court’s Rules of Professional Conduct. In another instance, Brnovich actually sued his own client, the Arizona Board of Regents, who in turn contacted the Arizona State Bar.
The ethics complaints against Brnovich’s staff were dismissed by the State Bar, although the attorney general himself agreed to a diversion resolution. The situation, however, drew renewed attention to the dual ethical obligations government lawyers have, particularly when required by state law to represent a specific client.
Former Maricopa County Attorney and current Justice Bill Montgomery was appointed by Brutinel to chair the task force. Among the issues the members are expected to address are:
the process to follow if a government or public lawyer believes there is a conflict of interest in representing a public client;
how to handle situations in which the government lawyer does not approve of, or cannot ethically fulfill, a specific course of action desired by a client;
how the terms and conditions of legal representation should be documented between an attorney and a government client, and who calls the shots if the client is more than one person.
Attorney General Mark Brnovich signaled his disapproval of the election during the statewide canvass certifying the results on Monday.
Brnovich indicated his displeasure with the events of the last month after Secretary of State and governor-elect Katie Hobbs lectured Arizonans that they must combat election misinformation, conspiracies, and critics. The attorney general paraphrased a quote seemingly directed at Hobbs.
“I should note: I didn’t know we were giving speeches today, but the governor and I pursuant to statute are merely witnesses to the certification,” stated Brnovich. “I’m reminded of what John F. Kennedy said: ‘Those who ride the tiger to seek power often end up inside.’”
The quote Brnovich paraphrased came from Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address. The former president meant it as a metaphor: people who support communist countries in the hopes of benefitting will only be overtaken by them in the end.
“To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny,” stated Kennedy. “We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom—and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.”
Following the certification, Brnovich released a statement clarifying that his presence at the certification wasn’t a signal of support for the election administration. Brnovich shared that he would continue to scrutinize the election if necessary through the end of his term.
“As we gather today to solidify the 2022 midterm election results, many Arizonans of all political persuasions continue to have doubts about our election processes,” said Brnovich. “As attorney general, I have made it one of my office’s highest priorities to defend our election laws and advocate for changes when necessary. I will continue to do so throughout the end of my term.”
Brnovich’s spokeswoman, Katie Conner, stated that people could draw their own conclusions as to what Brnovich meant when paraphrasing Kennedy.
Watch the certification on the secretary of state’s website or below: