Politics

Trump-friendly Cyber Ninjas delay report on Arizona election because CEO, 2 others are 'quite sick' with Covid

Key Points
  • Cyber Ninjas, the private firm leading a highly partisan and much-criticized audit of millions of ballots cast in Arizona during the 2020 election, has refused to comply with a congressional probe, House Democrats said.
  • The Democrats said they "will be forced to consider other steps to obtain compliance" if the company "continues to obstruct" their investigation.
  • Cyber Ninjas is delaying their full report on the Arizona audit after its CEO and two others have become "quite sick" with Covid, the Arizona GOP said.
An observer watches as contractors working for Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate, examine and recount ballots from the 2020 general election at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 8, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona.
Courtney Pedroza | The Washington Post | Getty Images

The private company conducting a partisan and much-criticized audit of ballots in Arizona will not submit a full report of its findings by Monday, in part due to its CEO and two others testing positive for Covid, said the state Republicans who hired the firm, Cyber Ninjas.

The Florida-based company, which lacked prior election auditing experience and whose owner had tweeted support for pro-Trump election conspiracies, will instead send just "a portion of the draft report" by the deadline, according to a press release from Arizona State Senate President Karen Fann.

"The team expected to have the full draft ready for the Senate today, but unfortunately Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan and two other members of the five-person audit team have tested positive for COVID-19 and are quite sick," Fann's statement said.

"In addition to the illnesses, it wasn't until Thursday that the Senate received the images of the ballot envelopes from Maricopa County and are hoping to have those analyzed as soon as possible to incorporate those results into the final report," it said.

The announcement of the delay came after two House Democrats accused Cyber Ninjas of refusing to comply with a congressional probe into the company.

House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and civil rights subcommittee Chairman Jamie Raskin, D-Md., have raised concerns about the company's lack of experience, its "sloppy and insecure" audit practices that have reportedly "compromised the integrity of ballots," and an apparent interest in furthering the false conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was rigged against former President Donald Trump.

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They also noted that several pro-Trump dark money groups raised millions of dollars to fund the audit.

In a letter dated Sunday to Cyber Ninjas CEO Douglas Logan, the Democrats said they "will be forced to consider other steps to obtain compliance" if the company "continues to obstruct" their investigation.

Democrats, including Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, have decried the Senate Republicans for embracing false conspiracy theories about a rigged election, which Trump spread frequently before and after his loss to President Joe Biden.

But election experts have also said the results of the audit should not be trusted, citing an array of concerns about the methods and motivations of the investigators.

In mid-July, Maloney and Raskin told Logan they sought records as part of a review into whether his company's actions are intended to "reverse the result of a free and fair election for partisan gain."

They asked for those documents, which included information about who is paying for the effort, by July 28.

But after receiving an extension to file the materials by Aug. 9, Cyber Ninjas "sent a letter objecting to all nine of the Committee's requests," Maloney and Raskin said in the letter shared Monday.

"Cyber Ninjas failed to produce key documents responsive to the Committee's requests," they said, including its communications with Trump, the Arizona state Senate and "the partisan dark money groups that financed this audit."

A contractor working for Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate transports ballots from the 2020 general election at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 1, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona.
Courtney Pedroza | Getty Images

The company objected on the grounds that the lawmakers' requests were "vague," "poorly-defined" or "overburdensome." But the Democrats said none of those objections provided "a legitimate justification to obstruct the Committee's inquiry."

Maloney and Raskin also responded to Cyber Ninjas' repeated assertions that the documents are protected by attorney-client privilege, calling those claims "patently invalid" and "based on a fundamental misunderstanding of Congress's authorities."

Cyber Ninjas did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment on the letter.

County officials in Arizona who conducted hand-count audits in the days after the Nov. 3 election found no discrepancies or irregularities in numerous counties.

But in March, Republicans in the Arizona Senate hired Cyber Ninjas and two other firms to conduct their own audit of the 2.1 million votes cast in Maricopa County, claiming the additional analysis would "validate every area of the voting process to ensure the integrity of the vote."

Biden beat Trump by more than 45,000 votes in Maricopa, the most populous county in the state. Biden beat Trump in the state overall by around 10,000 votes.

The Democrats told Logan they would grant Cyber Ninjas one additional extension, giving them until Aug. 27 to voluntarily share the requested documents.

"If your company, which purports to be acting in a lawful manner pursuing the public interest, continues to obstruct the Committee's investigation, the Committee will be forced to consider other steps to obtain compliance," the letter said.