During a House Oversight Committee hearing addressing the results of the audit of the independent Maricopa County ballot audit ordered by the Arizona Senate, one of the Maricopa County Supervisors who fought the audit admitted that hundreds of thousands of election related files were deleted. Instead of producing them in response to the legislative subpoena, he said the county “archived” them.
Responding to a question from Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ-05) asking him whether it was appropriate to delete files on a server after an election, Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates said, “I would say it is appropriate to maintain files, and that is exactly what we did. We deleted — the files that have been discussed, they were archived.”
Biggs asked him to “admit that Maricopa County did delete these files off the server after the election — that are archived?” Gates confirmed, “That are archived.”
Biggs asked him to clarify that the files weren’t turned over in response to the subpoena, “When you release these servers and this information to the auditors to begin with, they did not have access to those archived files at first. Is that fair to say?”
Gates responded, “They did not not subpoena those. That is correct.” Biggs pressed him further, “You did not feel obligated to turn that over to them?” Gates insisted, “We responded to the subpoena.”
Ken Bennett, the liaison between the Senate and the ballot auditors, who is also a former Arizona secretary of state, expressed his surprise at Gates’ response immediately afterwards during the hearing. “I find it frankly laughable to suggest that a county in response to a subpoena could say we will delete files from the hard drives and the materials that we give to the auditors, because we have those files archived on data that we did not give to the auditors when the subpoena said turn over all the records related to the election.”
Biggs next asked Gates about the accuracy of a tweet that Maricopa County issued after the deleted files became an issue, stating that it is common practice for the county to delete election files in February after an election. The tweet generated some controversy since it wasn’t clear who was behind it. Gates would not confirm the tweet’s claim, saying he would have to get back to Biggs.
The controversy over deleted files arose after Ben Cotton, the founder of CyFIR, who assisted with the Maricopa County election audit, discovered that hundreds of thousands of files were deleted from the county’s servers the day before the auditors were to begin looking at them. He said this is a violation of federal law, which requires federal election records to be retained for 22 months. Although the name of the account that deleted them was not tied to a specific election worker, Cotton said there is video of the person who accessed those servers at that time.
Some were skeptical of Gates’ answers. Liz Harrington, the chief spokesperson for Donald Trump currently, tweeted that it was a coverup to hide files from auditors.
Maricopa County admits they DELETED and moved the election data to hide it from auditors AFTER they got a subpoena
This is a total cover up, and they admit it! pic.twitter.com/W6jD2X8NwP
— Liz Harrington (@realLizUSA) October 7, 2021
Also during the hearing, in response to a question by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD-08) asking whether Trump or Biden won the election, Biggs said, “We don’t know. There are a lot of issues with this election that took place.” Raskin started to interrupt him, and Biggs interjected, “Speaking of the ‘big lie,’ you can continue to perpetuate it as long as you want.”
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is currently investigating the results of the audit. He ordered Maricopa County to put a litigation freeze on all election materials from the 2020 election, including the ballots. He found in August that the county violated the law by not complying with the legislative subpoena. He threatened the supervisors that he would instruct the state treasurer to withhold their state funding.
It is not known yet whether all of the deleted files – reportedly more than a million in all – that were allegedly archived are recoverable.
– – –