Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., falsely claimed "we don't know" who won Arizona last November during a House hearing Thursday on Republicans' much-criticized ballot review that agreed President Joe Biden beat Donald Trump.
As the hearing got underway, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., asked Biggs whether he accepted the findings of the GOP-led review of ballots in Maricopa County, which last month affirmed Biden's victory and suggested he received even more votes over the former president than official counts had recorded.
"Who won the election in Arizona? Donald Trump or Joe Biden?" he asked.
"We don't know because as the audit demonstrates, Mr. Raskin, there are a lot of issues with this election that took place," Biggs responded.
"This is the problem we have," Raskin said, adding, "Unfortunately, we have one of the great political parties which has followed him off of the ledge of this electoral lunacy. It is dangerous for democracy. I am glad we are having this hearing today."
Biggs, a Trump ally, has previously refused to acknowledge that Biden won the presidency, but the moment underscored a dynamic that has only become more pronounced since Arizona Republicans first authorized the extraordinary ballot review, hiring outside contractors with little to no experience in elections to conduct it. In the 11 months since Biden's victory, challenging and questioning those results has emerged as a litmus test for Republicans as Trump, who continues to push the lie that the election was stolen from him, remains popular with the party's base. Demands for election investigations have proliferated, even in counties Trump won by large margins.
Democrats called the hearing in an attempt to question several county officials and election experts about Arizona's state Senate-sanctioned review of more than 2 million Maricopa County ballots, which wrapped up in September with a final report that agreed Biden won and produced no evidence of the widespread fraud alleged by Trump and his allies.
The third-party contractors, led by Florida cybersecurity firm Cyber Ninjas, nonetheless cast doubt on the election process and suggested fraud could have still occurred.
Arizona’s so-called audit, which did not adhere to normal processes used by election officials to confirm vote counts, has inspired a spate of similar ballot reviews around the country, and Arizona Republicans say they will soon write new laws based on the report.
"Let me be clear, the hyperpartisan audits pushed by President Trump and his allies are not about fairness, election security or the truth," committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said in her opening remarks. "They are instead designed to promote conspiracy theories and to raise doubts about our elections. The ultimate aim of these audits is even worse: to lay the groundwork for new laws that make it harder for Americans to cast their ballots, but easier for dishonest officials to overturn the results of elections they don't like."
The committee interviewed two Republican Maricopa County supervisors, Bill Gates and Jack Sellers, who have been critical of the ballot review; two election experts; and the state Senate's audit liaison, Ken Bennett, a Republican and former Arizona secretary of state.
While the experts sought to highlight failures of the inexperienced contractors' work and the Republican supervisors sought to defend their election administration, the hearing repeatedly ping-ponged between members who sought to perpetuate false claims of widespread fraud and those who did not.
During the hearing, Bennett agreed that Biden is the legitimately elected president, but he nonetheless argued that there were irregularities in the country's election.
Many Republican members also continued to sow doubts about the certified election results and equated the “stop the steal” movement with Democratic objections to the 2016 election results.
"I hear a lot today about the big lie. Let's remember the big lie was the Russian hoax that we had to live with for years," said Rep. Jody Hice, a Georgia Republican who is running for secretary of state there on the promise to "renew integrity."
"And yet here it's somehow wrong for Republicans to raise legitimate questions when we had an election that was fraught with irregularities and potential fraud," Hice continued.
Later in the hearing, Raskin asked Sellers what it means for democracy that the results are still being questioned after repeated inquiries.
"It's very troubling. Because when when you give people the facts, and they still do not accept them, that's a problem," Sellers responded.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee requested documents from Cyber Ninjas in July, but the firm has so far rejected the panel's attempts to get documents and additional materials, according to a late September letter seeking CEO Doug Logan’s attendance at Thursday’s hearing. The committee appears particularly interested in who paid Logan’s firm and how it was selected for the job. While more than $400,000 of taxpayer funds were spent so far on the review, according to an Arizona Republic review of state records, millions of dollars were raised by outside groups to foot the bill of the costly, monthslong operation.
Logan declined to attend, Maloney said. His seat remained empty at the hearing, with a name tag marking his place.
The Arizona review has increasingly become a talking point for Democrats. On Wednesday, at a hearing on federal voting rights legislation, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., repeatedly slammed the Arizona review, at one point referring to Cyber Ninjas as “Ninja Turtles.”
"And remember what happened in Arizona: $5.7 million spent on the Ninja Turtles who were going through all these ballots and the net result was more votes for Biden and fewer votes for Trump," he said. "This notion of voter fraud is a ruse as far as I'm concerned."