Arizona Senate President Karen Fann discussed the so-called "audit" of Maricopa County ballots with former President Donald Trump, who thanked her for pursuing it, according to emails released to left-leaning government watchdog group American Oversight after a Freedom of Information Act request.
The emails released on Friday, many of which were written on Fann's smartphone, span from late November to mid-May. In them, the Republican describes the post-election review as a way to ensure voters' confidence in the election process, despite the fact that a hand recount and two independent reviews in Maricopa County showed no evidence of widespread irregularities or fraud.
Fann also attempted to appeal to constituents in the emails from across the political spectrum, whether they agreed with the audit or not. In response to criticism emailed by constituents who were pushing her to take action on the audit, she pointed to her conversation with the former president. In response to criticism of the audit, she suggested it was a way to disprove conspiracies and improve the system.
Fann ordered the "audit" through the state Senate's subpoena power and chose a cyber security firm -- CyberNinjas -- that had minimal experience in the election realm and whose founder espoused conspiracy theories about the election on his since-deleted Twitter account.
The review process appears to be close to the finish line, based on the pace of ballot turnover. Some Republicans in the state estimate that ballot counting will be finished by next week and additional analyzing of the results will follow before a full report is released, though it is unclear what that last step involves. The effort began in late April and was meant to be finished by mid-May, but it had to be extended after they did not meet their deadline. Officials conducting the review, who said they are anticipating being fully finished by the end of the month, could not be reached for comment.
Most critical emails accused Fann of not fighting for election integrity and Trump. Others threatened to vote Fann and other top-ranking Republican officials out of office if they did not carry out the audit and expose "fraud."
"Maybe you are not aware that our Senate is doing everything legally possible to get the forensic audit done and we are suing the Maricopa BOS," she said, referencing the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. "I have been in numerous conversations with Rudy Giuliani over the past weeks. trying to get this done. I have the full support of him and a personal call from President Trump thanking us for pushing to prove any fraud."
She told another constituent that the Senate had to be deliberate in their pursuit of the "audit," as it could be the first of many.
"The entire nation is watching because this could be the basis of lawsuits or challenges which means every I and every T has to be dotted and crossed," she wrote.
Despite her suggesting that the Senate could potentially find fraud, Fann also attempted to appeal to those who did not support the review. In a response to a constituent note calling the "audit" a waste of taxpayer dollars, Fann said she believes President Joe Biden won.
"That is where you are mistaken. Biden won. 45% of all Arizona voters thinks there is a problem with the election system. The audit is to disprove those theories or find ways to improve the system," she said on May 21.
Another email showed Fann expressing her distaste for the process.
"I cannot begin to explain how much I really hate this whole thing," she wrote. "As Senate president I am bound to do my duty of upholding our constitution and laws, as well as following my caucus' wishes. This is a unanimous decision by every member as each of them stated they are sworn to uphold their oath. They are also being encouraged by the literally thousands of emails and calls we are receiving from our constituents across the state asking us to please do the independent forensic audit to reinstall confidence in our electoral system."
"Personally I don't think we will find anything outside of the normal irregularities we have every election but am willing to go this extra mile if it puts these questions and concerns to rest," she added.
Fann also wrote multiple times to constituents that the post-election review was not looking to nullify election results.
"The Senate's intentions has NEVER been about nullifying the electors or overturning the will of the voters," she wrote. "I believe we must do our diligence of making sure this system is in fact secure to preserve the integrity of the Arizona elections system. We owe this to all the voters, regardless of party."
The emails also reveal some degree of coordination with One America News Network, a far-right media outlet which has had increased access to the audit that other news organizations do not.
OANN's Christina Bobb, a personality who has been present at the audit, sent Fann pages of testimony at the request of Giuliani, according to the emails. Fann also exchanged a number of emails with Bobb about the timeline and preliminary details of the review.
"Mayor Giuliani asked me to send you these declarations. He will follow up with you as well," Bobb wrote in an email to Fann on Dec. 4.
"Thank you Christina," Fann said in response. "I have forwarded this information to Speaker Bowers and our respective Chief of Staffs and attorneys."
Another email showed that Fann and Bobb had previously spoken about the affidavits.
"I believe we are looking for all the additional information your team said you would send because they didn't have it with them. The additional affidavits, lists containing names of deceased or illegal aliens who voted, etc." she wrote. Another email showed her sending a person looking to donate to fund the audit to Bobb's nonprofit, which she formed to fundraise for the audit. Bobb has directed her social media followers to donate to the effort, which is funded by taxpayer dollars and an undisclosed amount of private donations, asking them to help "get this audit across the finish line." The Arizona Republican Party later announced that OAN would have exclusive streaming rights to the audit.
Bobb told BuzzFeed News in late May that she has not had increased access to the audit that other media outlets haven't. She told BuzzFeed that OAN is not "in any way" affiliated with her fundraising efforts, other than allowing her to mention them on the air, adding that the network has not received anything as a result of those donations.
Aside from Fann's conversations with Bobb, many of the Senate president's emails also showed her criticizing media coverage of the audit, and telling constituents not to trust the "liberal media."
"We are planning on doing the 100% full audit. The liberal media continues to try and discredit our efforts. Less public information is better at this time," Fann wrote in a late March email.
Fann's office did not respond to request for comment.