PHOENIX (AP) — Three Pennsylvania
lawmakers traveled to Arizona
on Wednesday to review the state Senate GOP
's partisan audit of the 2020 election
They are the latest Republicans
to travel to Phoenix, the epicenter of the “stop the steal
” movement’s efforts to rally support for conspiracy theories that former President Donald Trump
’s election was stolen.
Last month, U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene
and Matt Gaetz
applauded the audit at a rally just outside Phoenix, and the following day, several prominent Trump supporters
and conspiracy theorists were advertised as speakers at a Phoenix megachurch. Enrique Tarrio, leader of the Proud Boys
extremist group, recently posted a short video of himself at the Arizona Capitol
Political pilgrimages are nothing new in Arizona, where Republican politicians have long enjoyed photo ops in front of the border wall
, but now the draw is the Arizona State Fairgrounds, site of a former basketball
arena where a Trump supporter who has promoted election conspiracies is overseeing a hand recount
of 2.1 million Maricopa County
Pennsylvania Sens. Doug Mastriano
and Cris Dush, as well as Rep. Rob Kauffman, are the most recent visitors. They met with Arizona legislators at the Capitol before traveling to the audit site for a briefing from the auditors.
“We’ll bring the information back to the Senate leadership, we’ll back-brief them on the way forward, and hopefully we can come up with an approach here to ensure that every person in Pennsylvania can rest assured they have one vote and it counts,” Mastriano told a WEEO-FM radio host.
The Pennsylvania legislators and others in their delegation spent about 20 minutes on the arena floor, where volunteers counted and photographed ballots, and were led around by Doug Logan, the head of Cyber Ninjas
, the firm leading the audit.
Following that, Mastriano spoke with conservative media
outlets while ignoring journalists
from the Associated Press
and other mainstream news
When asked if he wants the Arizona audit replicated in Pennsylvania, Dush responded, "Without a doubt. Absolutely."
Last year, as Trump and his supporters claimed without evidence that his Arizona loss was tainted by fraud, the Arizona Senate GOP used its subpoena power to obtain access to all ballots, counting machines, and hard drives containing election data in Maricopa County, which is home to Phoenix and 60% of Arizona's voters
They turned it all over to Cyber Ninjas, a small consulting firm with no prior election experience, for a hand recount and analysis of vote-counting machines and data.
The effort will not change President Joe Biden
's victory, and election experts have pointed out significant flaws in the process, but it has become a model for Republicans in other states hoping to uncover evidence supporting conspiracy theories.
“I believe that Arizona will serve as a springboard for election audits and election integrity efforts across this great country,” Gaetz said, listing the swing states where Trump lost in 2020.
Greene and Gaetz chose Mesa, a Phoenix suburb, for the second stop on their tour of America First rallies because of the audit.
“Matt said, ‘You been following that Arizona audit?’” Greene explained. “I said, ‘Yeah, I’ve been following it.’ He said, ‘Lets go to Arizona.’ I said, ‘Count me in.’
Mastriano has emerged as a one-man conservative political force in Pennsylvania, leading anti-mask protests last year, campaigning to overturn Trump's reelection loss, and appearing outside the United States
Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot.
Mastriano organized a hearing in Gettysburg in November that included Rudy Giuliani
and a phone call appearance by Trump, who claimed the election was rigged and urged state lawmakers to overturn the results.
All three visiting Pennsylvania lawmakers were among the 64 Republican legislators who signed a letter requesting that the state's congressional delegation object to Pennsylvania's electoral college votes
going to Biden.
Marc Levy of the Associated Press contributed from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.