The Skinny: Big Lie Gets Bigger: Maricopa County GOP officials call Cyber Ninja crew 'grifters and con men,' say they are done with election audit nonsense

The Skinny spilled a lot of ink on the Arizona Senate's ridiculous "audit" of the 2020 election in Maricopa County last week, noting that if the Cyber Ninjas released a false-but-damning report, it would just add fuel to the belief that the election was stolen.

As if on cue, the audit's Twitter feed claimed last Thursday that "Maricopa County deleted a directory full of election databases from the 2020 election cycle days before the election equipment was delivered to the audit. This is spoliation of evidence!"

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (which counts four Republicans among its five members) as well as Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer (also a Republican) didn't mince words when they responded earlier this week. They flatly denied deleting anything and demanded a retraction of the accusation that they had.

In a letter to Senate President Karen Fann, they said the accusation shows that the Senate "is only interested in feeding the various festering conspiracy theories that fuel the fundraising schemes of those pulling your strings. You have rented out the good name of the Arizona State Senate to grifters and con artists, who are fundraising hard-earned money from our fellow citizens even as your contractors parade around the Coliseum, hunting for bamboo and something they call 'kinematic artifacts' while shining purple lights for effect. None of these things are done in a serious audit. The result is that the Arizona Senate is held up to ridicule in every corner of the globe and our democracy is imperiled."

Team Maricopa County had a number of other blistering things to say about this nonsense and said they were done working with the auditors. Instead, they told Fann to finish her audit and they would see her in court regarding its findings.

Not that it mattered much: By the time the Maricopa County officials countered the claims, Donald Trump had already stretched the story further in a statement alleging "the entire database of Maricopa County in Arizona has been DELETED! This is illegal and the Arizona State Senate, who is leading the Forensic Audit, is up in arms."

Fann, for her part, sent a text to CBS5 News political reporter Dennis Welch: "It saddens me some supervisors have decided to make personal attacks on me and the Senate members. I have never disparaged them and have considered them my friends for many years."

Karen, you also threatened to jail them when they resisted your efforts to go down this rabbit hole.

Here's what saddens The Skinny: The people who are embracing reality at this point—that is, the Maricopa County GOP elected officials—are probably doomed in the effort to persuade their fellow Republicans that this latest allegation is just a bunch of BS. And they're probably doomed to lose a primary challenge should they seek reelection in 2024.

That's because Arizona Republicans have embraced Trump's Big Lie about the stolen election. A recent poll from Phoenix political consulting firm HighGround notes a recent poll showed while only 42% of the Arizona voters surveyed believed "there was significant fraud in the 2020 United States presidential election which compromised the integrity of the election," more than 78% of Republicans answered yes to the question.

As HighGround honcho Chuck Coughlin noted in an analysis of those numbers, Senate Republicans are doing what their constituents want them to by hiring the Cyber Ninjas to do this review.

It also demonstrates why other Republicans—such as Gov. Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich—are not going to criticize the absurd audit. They can't afford to upset their base. Hell, Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee, who sold her soul to Trump during the 2020 campaign (and who announced this week she'd be seeking the governor's office in 2022), has repeatedly refused to answer questions from the press as to whether Joe Biden was legitimately elected president last year.

But Coughlin notes there's a danger for Republicans who go down this road: "Republicans bent on claiming fraud and making that an integral part of their statewide election campaign should understand the electoral cul-de-sac they are living in. Only 42% of voters believe there was fraud; that is clearly not a majority. That is a losing proposition on the general election ballot in 2022."

Whether that turns out to be the case remains to be seen. We've got a redistricting process underway that will scramble the political maps, so it's impossible to say what the 2022 landscape will look like. And the party in the White House traditionally loses seats in the midterms, so there's a decent chance Republicans will retake the House of Representatives and/or the U.S. Senate.

But there's only one thing that will stop Republican elected officials from embracing Trump's Big Lie about stolen elections: They'll have to lose elections. Until then, they'll either be crazy or pretend to be crazy. Neither option inspires much confidence about the future for those of us in the reality-based world.