Prosecutors in Arizona are probing the extent to which Donald Trump and his allies were still working behind the scenes to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election — years into Joe Biden’s presidency. According to two people with knowledge of the situation, investigators with the Arizona attorney general’s office are inquiring about efforts to overturn the election that continued well into 2021 and 2022.
The sources say that investigators have asked about a 2022 pressure campaign from Trump allies aimed at decertifying the state’s electors, and inquired about how deeply the former president and his senior advisers were involved in supporting Arizona Republicans’ privately-run 2021 election audit.
In May, Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes’ office opened an investigation into a Trump-backed effort by Arizona Republicans to put forth a bogus slate of electors sworn to support the former president when it came time to cast Arizona’s electoral college votes. But investigators have recently been asking questions that indicate an interest in efforts to overturn the 2020 election that took place well after Biden’s inauguration.
In the months since Mayes’ office began investigating the “fake electors” plot, sources say officials have interviewed individuals with intimate knowledge of internal Trumpworld discussions, and solicited and reviewed documents circulated by Trump lieutenants and local allies related to those later efforts.
In response to questions from Rolling Stone, a spokesperson for the Arizona attorney general’s office said they were “unable to confirm these details and will have to decline to comment.”
The 2022 campaign to overturn Arizona’s election results described by the sources closely mirrors events reported on by The Arizona Republic. In that incident, senior Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn phoned House Speaker Rusty Bowers in February 2022 to urge his support for legislation drafted by far-right former state Rep. Mark Finchem. Finchem’s bill, introduced after Arizona Republicans’ own audit failed to challenge Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona’s largest county, aimed to decertify the state’s 2020 slate of electors.
In introducing the bill, Finchem himself appeared to acknowledge how unusual the legislation would be. “[T]here is no process under current law for the Arizona Legislature to ‘decertify’ an election,” he wrote in a press release.
Two sources tell Rolling Stone that investigators from the attorney general’s office have also inquired about funding that supported the 2021 audit of Maricopa County’s vote. The review of vote tallies from Arizona’s most populous county aimed to prove massive fraud in the 2020 election. But that effort, led by the now-defunct Florida firm Cyber Ninjas, devolved into a farce, featuring a baseless, conspiracy-fueled hunt for bamboo fibers. When the group announced the results of its audit in September 2021, they showed Biden won the county by a slightly larger margin than originally reported.
In July, The Arizona Republic reported that the attorney general’s office had begun scrutinizing the audit, in addition to the fake elector scheme.
Investigators’ questions have centered on the involvement of Trump and his top aides in the audit. In particular, investigators inquired about a million dollar donation from former President Trump’s Save America PAC to fund Cyber Ninjas’ work.
A spokesperson for Save America PAC did not respond to questions from Rolling Stone.
Investigators have also shown an interest in the activities of top Trump campaign aides who helped with the fake elector scheme. In August, Rolling Stone reported that the attorney general’s office had asked questions about Rudy Giuliani and his efforts to organize a conference of far-right Arizona state legislators to air bogus election fraud allegations in November 2020.
Experts say that investigators’ line of inquiry may indicate an interest in determining the existence of a broader conspiracy. “If agents of the attorney general’s office are asking questions about events that took place after the substantive event — the actual day in which they put their pen to paper and sign off as fake electors — it is, in my mind, a possibility that they are investigating what, if any, conspiracy may have existed after the substantive offense took place, if they believe that a substantive offense took place,” Paul Charlton, a former U.S. Attorney for Arizona, tells Rolling Stone.