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Arizona governor becomes latest Trump target after certifying Biden's win

Trump suggested his former ally had "betrayed" his state. Gov. Doug Ducey says he was following the law.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey hands over his signed election documents to certify the election results on Nov. 30, 2020, in Phoenix.Ross D. Franklin / AP

This looks like the end of a beautiful friendship.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican and close ally of President Donald Trump throughout the 2020 election, found himself in the president's Twitter crosshairs on Monday when he signed off on the state's election certification. Trump tweeted that Ducey had "betrayed" the people of Arizona by not backing the president's false assertion that he'd actually won the state that he lost by over 10,000 votes.

Video footage of Ducey signing the certification shows his phone ringing to the tune of the "Hail to the Chief" during the ceremony — the ringtone he's said he uses to make sure he doesn't miss calls from the White House. Ducey muted the call.

Monday's back-and-forth appeared to terminate the close relationship between Trump and Ducey, who have regularly praised each other's leadership, particularly throughout the coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged Arizona and much of the country.

Their relationship started frostily: Ducey, who was first elected governor in 2014, largely stayed on the sidelines during the GOP primary in 2016, and didn't appear publicly with Trump until after he secured the Republican nomination.

The pair seemed to grow closer after Trump endorsed Ducey's re-election bid in 2018 and commended him for doing "a great job."

"Doug is strong on Crime, the Border, and our Second Amendment. Loves our Military & our Vets. He has my full and complete Endorsement," Trump tweeted.

Ducey issued a statement saying he was "very grateful to have the support."

Trump, who famously feuded with the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, invited Ducey to the White House in 2019 and sat next to him during a meeting with seven other governors. He singled out Ducey for doing a "fantastic job in a fabulous state."

U.S. President Trump meets with Arizona Governor Ducey in Washington
President Donald Trump meets with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey at the White House on Aug. 5, 2020.Andrew Harnik / Pool via Reuters

The governor repaid the favor by attending the president's numerous re-election rallies in Arizona and acting on Trump's calls to ease coronavirus restrictions even as Covid-19 was slamming the state earlier this year.

In June, when Trump held a packed rally inside a Phoenix mega-church with a largely unmasked crowd, Ducey was there, wearing a mask.

“This will be in my opinion the most corrupt election in the history of our country,” Trump said then while complaining about mail-in voting. “And we can not let this happen.”

Ducey also publicly supported the event, which health experts feared would be a superspreader.

"In terms of the rights for people to peacefully assemble, those rights are not going to be infringed on," Ducey said at a news conference beforehand. "It's a presidential election year and those rights are not going to be infringed on."

The governor also heaped praise on Trump's responsiveness to the state's Covid-19 needs.

“I’ve got a relationship with the president, and when there’s a need in Arizona, I talk to him directly," he said in July, noting that he "had to change the ringtone that it rings 'Hail to the Chief' because ... I didn’t want to miss another call from the White House."

In August, Trump again invited Ducey to the White House to hail his work on combatting the virus in Arizona.

Ducey appeared on back-to-back nights at Trump rallies in his state in October, telling the crowd at one, “Donald Trump will win the state of Arizona! Donald Trump will be returned to the White House!”

But as the votes started coming in on Nov. 3, that proved not to be the case and NBC News projected Biden as the winner there several days later.

The Trump campaign and Republican allies filed two lawsuits challenging some of the results, but both were dismissed. Ducey defended the state's election processes but managed to skirt the ire that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp — another former Trump ally overseeing a state Biden won — had received. Trump blasted Kemp as "a disaster" over the weekend for having "done absolutely nothing" to help him overturn the election results in Georgia.

But Trump turned his attention towards Ducey on Monday. The governor appeared to get a call from the White House during the election certification signing before sending it to voicemail and continuing with the ceremony.

Soon came the angry Trump tweets and retweets.

"What is going on with @dougducey? Republicans will long remember!" he said in one tweet. He also retweeted a person who wrote, "Who needs Democrats when you have Republicans like Brian Kemp and Doug Ducey?"

Trump also called into a meeting his campaign lawyers were holding with Arizona lawmakers where they were claiming the election had been rigged, and used some of his time to unload on the governor. "Arizona will not forget what Ducey did," Trump said.

Unlike many Republican officials who fear Trump's wrath and have declined to contradict the president's misinformation, Ducey defended himself and the state's election process in a lengthy Twitter thread Monday night.

"I’ve been pretty outspoken about Arizona’s election system, and bragged about it quite a bit, including in the Oval Office. And for good reason," Ducey wrote.

He noted that state law called for him to certify the results on Monday, and that's what he did. "That’s the law. I’ve sworn an oath to uphold it, and I take my responsibility seriously," he concluded.

The thread didn't impress Arizona GOP chairwoman Kelli Ward, a staunch backer of the president. She tweeted back, “#ElectionIntegrity is missing in Arizona. Period," and advised him to "#STHU" — internet slang for "shut the hell up."

It didn't quell Trump's disapproval either. On Tuesday, he retweeted a Twitter user who wrote "Why is Doug Ducey still pretending he’s a member of the Republican Party after he just certified fraudulent election results in Arizona that disenfranchised millions of Republicans?"

Over 1.6 million people voted for Trump in the state.