Investigators prepared a report in March 2022 stating that virtually all claims of error and malfeasance were unfounded, according to internal documents reviewed by The Washington Post. Brnovich, a Republican, kept it private.
In April, the attorney general — who was running in the GOP primary for a U.S. Senate seat — released an “Interim Report” claiming that his office had discovered “serious vulnerabilities.” He left out edits from his own investigators refuting his assertions.
His office then compiled an “Election Review Summary” in September that systematically refuted accusations of widespread fraud and made clear that none of the complaining parties — from state lawmakers to self-styled “election integrity” groups — had presented any evidence to support their claims. Brnovich left office last month without releasing the summary.
That timeline emerges from documents released to this week by Brnovich’s successor, Kris Mayes, a Democrat. She said she considered the taxpayer-funded investigation closed and, earlier this month, notified leaders on Maricopa County’s governing board that they were no longer in the state’s crosshairs.
The records show how Brnovich used his office to further claims about voting in Maricopa County that his own staff considered inaccurate. They suggest that his administration privately disregarded fact checks provided by state investigators while publicly promoting incomplete accounts of the office’s work. The innuendo and inaccuracies, circulated not just in the far reaches of the internet but with the imprimatur of the state’s attorney general, helped make Arizona an epicenter of distrust in the democratic process, eroding confidence in the 2020 vote as well as in subsequent elections.
Brnovich did not respond to questions about his conduct of the probe, his decision not to release additional documents, or differences between his public statements and his office’s private findings.
The documents — two investigative summaries and a draft letter with edits, totaling 41 pages — are far from an exhaustive record of Brnovich’s investigation. But they fill in details about the sometimes-enigmatic actions of the state’s former top law enforcement officer.
Brnovich quickly affirmed then-President Donald Trump’s loss in Arizona in November 2020, angering fellow Republicans. And he went on to resist Trump’s efforts to overturn the vote. Yet he flirted with claims of fraud as he courted GOP support over the subsequent two years, trumpeting his interim report on a far-right radio show and saying, “It’s frustrating for all of us, because I think we all know what happened in 2020.” It was only in the final days before this past November’s midterm election, several months after Brnovich had lost his Senate primary, that he began to denounce politicians who denied Trump’s defeat, calling them “clowns” engaged in a “giant grift.”
In releasing materials that Brnovich’s administration had kept from public view, Mayes said she was reorienting the work of the attorney general’s office — away from pursuing conspiratorial claims of fraud and toward protecting the right to vote, investigating the few cases of wrongdoing that typically occur every election, and preventing threats against election workers.
“The people of Arizona had a right to know this information before the 2022 election,” Mayes said in an interview. “Maricopa County election officials had a right to know that they were cleared of wrongdoing. And every American had a right to know that the 2020 election in Arizona, which in part decided the presidency, was conducted accurately and fairly.”
The records released this week represent a fraction of the thousands of pages produced by investigators and attorneys during the investigation, including additional material from drafts of reports and interviews and correspondence with witnesses and election officials. Mayes’s staff is reviewing those documents and is redacting sensitive information before making them public in the coming months, said Richie Taylor, her spokesperson.