“Start the Steal: New MAGA Emails Reveal Plot to Hand Arizona to Trump”

Andy Kroll for Rolling Stone:

The technology was complicated, but the plan was simple: Scan mail-in and absentee ballots in populous Maricopa County, remove the “invalid votes,” and recertify the state’s 2020 election count, surely declaring then-President Donald Trump the rightful winner.

This scheme to subvert the election outcome in Arizona is laid out in newly released emails obtained by Rolling Stone. Sent in early December 2020, the emails cover a critical moment when the post-election push by Trump and Republican allies to find fraud and overturn the presidential election was in full swing.

The emails show how a group of fringe election sleuths pressed state legislators on a plan to disrupt the 2020 election certification and potentially change the vote count in a battleground state that helped deliver Joe Biden the presidency. The emails also reveal that several Trump advisers, including campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis and legal adviser Bernie Kerik, were included in the discussion….

But while the Trump campaign knew about this plotting, it was the obscure investigators and researchers, the emails show, who made the case directly to Arizona legislators about how to find supposed fraud and potentially use that evidence to challenge the outcome. Those outside investigators remain active in the growing movement to find fraud in the 2020 election. What’s more, one state lawmaker included on the emails, Mark Finchem, is now running for secretary of state in Arizona. If Finchem wins, he would oversee Arizona’s elections….

Most of the new emails — first obtained by the watchdog group American Oversight and provided to Rolling Stone — were written by a man named Phil Waldron. A retired Army colonel who owns a bar and distillery outside of Austin, Texas, Waldron is emblematic of the crew of self-styled investigators and researchers that have emerged in the last 18 months to spout convoluted and sometimes easily debunked theories about election fraud. Waldron, who says he worked in the Defense Intelligence Agency’s clandestine service and had ties to former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, is part of a small group of military veterans who have argued that Chinese Communist Party front groups, Venezuelans, and voting-machine companies have all contributed to vote-rigging and election fraud.

Waldron would go on to write a PowerPoint presentation titled “Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 JAN” that described a number of ways to try to stop the certification of Biden’s election victory. Waldron and his associates sent the document to multiple people, and it ultimately ended up in the inbox of White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. (A lawyer for Meadows said he didn’t act on it. Waldron did not respond to a request for comment.)

According to the newly obtained emails, Waldron contacted multiple Arizona Republican lawmakers in early December 2020 about his strategy for identifying fraudulent votes. At the time, Republican legislators faced tremendous pressure from party activists and from President Trump to find evidence of fraud that would change the outcome of the election. Trump criticized Arizona’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, for rebuffing the fraud claims and certifying Biden’s victory in the state. “Why is he rushing to put a Democrat in office, especially when so many horrible things concerning voter fraud are being revealed at the hearing going on right now,” Trump tweeted in late November 2020.

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