Arizona man who wore horns in riot pleads guilty to felony

 In this Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 file photo, supporters of President Donald Trump, including Jacob Chansley, center with fur hat, are confronted by Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol in Washington. Chansley’s lawyer says that he reached out White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about a possible pardon on behalf of the Arizona man, acknowledging it might be a reach but that “there’s nothing to lose.” (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
In this Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 file photo, supporters of President Donald Trump, including Jacob Chansley, center with fur hat, are confronted by Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol in Washington.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

An Arizona man who sported face paint, no shirt and a furry hat with horns when he joined the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 pleaded guilty Friday to a felony charge and wants to be released from jail while he awaits sentencing.

Jacob Chansley, who was widely photographed in the Senate chamber with a flagpole topped with a spear, could face 41 to 51 months in prison under sentencing guidelines, a prosecutor said. The man who called himself “QAnon Shaman” has been jailed for nearly eight months since his arrest.

Before entering the plea, Chansley was found by a judge to be mentally competent after having been transferred to a Colorado facility for a mental health evaluation. His lawyer Albert Watkins said the solitary confinement that Chansley faced for most of his time in jail has had an adverse effect on his mental health and that his time in Colorado helped him regain his sharpness.

“I am very appreciative for the court’s willingness to have my mental vulnerabilities examined,” Chansley said before pleading guilty to a charge of obstructing an official proceeding.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth is considering Chansley’s request to be released from jail while he awaits sentencing, which is set for Nov. 17.
Chansley acknowledged in a court record to being one of the first 30 pro-Trump rioters to stream into the Capitol building. He riled up the crowd with a bullhorn as officers tried to control them, posed for photos, profanely referred to then-Vice President Mike Pence as a traitor while in the Senate. He wrote a note to Pence saying, “It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.” He also made a social media post in November in which he promoted hangings for traitors.

The image of Chansley with his face painted like the American flag, wearing a bear skin head dress and looking as if he were howling was one of the first striking images to emerge from the riot.

Chansley is among roughly 600 people charged in the riot that forced lawmakers into hiding as they were meeting to certify President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Fifty others have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanor charges of demonstrating in the Capitol.

Only one defendant who pleaded guilty to a felony charge has received their punishment so far. Paul Hodgkins, a crane operator from Florida who breached the U.S. Senate chamber carrying a Trump campaign flag, was sentenced in July to eight months in prison after pleading guilty to obstructing an official proceeding.

Chansley’s lawyer said his client has since repudiated the QAnon movement and asked that there be no more references to his past affiliations with the movement.

After the hearing, attorney Watkins told reporters that Chansley was under pressure from family members not to plead guilty because they believed Trump would be reinstated as president and would pardon him. Watkins said Chansley previously felt like Trump’s message spoke to him and that his client’s fondness for Trump was akin to a first love.

The man had long been a fixture at Trump rallies. Two months before the riot, he appeared in costume and carried a QAnon sign at a protest alongside other Trump supporters outside an election office in Phoenix where votes were being counted.

His attorney has said Chansley believed like other rioters that Trump called him to the Capitol, but later felt betrayed after Trump’s refusal to grant Chansley and others who participated in the insurrection a pardon.

After spending his first month in jail, Chansley said he re-evaluated his life, expressed regret for having stormed the building and apologized for causing fear in others.

Chansley twice quit eating while in jail and lost 20 pounds (9 kilograms) until authorities gave him organic food.

Watkins has characterized the spear Chansley carried as an ornament and disputed that his client’s note to Pence was threatening.

Arizona Senate race could impact confirmation of new justice

Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., smiles as she removes her face covering to speak prior to Vice President Mike Pence arriving to speak at the "Latter-Day Saints for Trump" coalition launch event Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., smiles as she removes her face covering to speak prior to Vice President Mike Pence arriving to speak at the “Latter-Day Saints for Trump” coalition launch event Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

If Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly wins a seat in the U.S. Senate, he could take office as early as Nov. 30, shrinking the GOP’s Senate majority at a crucial moment and complicating the path to confirmation for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

Kelly has maintained a consistent polling lead over Republican Sen. Martha McSally, who was appointed to the seat held by John McCain, who died in 2018.

Because the contest is a special election to finish McCain’s term, the winner could be sworn in as soon as the results are officially certified. Other winners in the November election won’t take office until January.

Trump has pledged to nominate a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal icon who died Friday, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed that Trump’s nominee “will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

Mark Kelly rallies supporters at the launch of his campaign for U.S. Senate on Feb. 24, 2019, at the Van Buren in Phoenix. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Mark Kelly rallies supporters at the launch of his campaign for U.S. Senate on Feb. 24, 2019, at the Van Buren in Phoenix. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

If Kelly wins, the timing when he formally takes office could be crucial in determining who replaces Ginsburg. It could eliminate a Republican vote in favor of Trump’s nominee — the GOP currently has 53 seats in the 100-member chamber — or require McConnell to speed up the nomination process.

With McSally in the Senate, four GOP defections could defeat a nomination, while a tie vote could be broken by Vice President Mike Pence.

McSally quickly laid down a marker, declaring on Twitter within hours of the announcement of Ginsberg’s death that “this U.S. Senate should vote on President Trump’s next nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.”

She has not elaborated on whether the confirmation vote should come before or after the election. But she highlighted the renewed stakes of her race in a fundraising pitch on Saturday.

“If Mark Kelly comes out on top, HE could block President Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee from being confirmed,” she wrote.

Democrats in 2018 found success in Arizona, a state long dominated by the GOP, by appealing to Republicans and independent voters disaffected with Trump. The Supreme Court vacancy could shake up the race and boost McSally’s lagging campaign by keeping those voters in her camp.

Kelly said late Saturday that “the people elected to the presidency and Senate in November should fill this vacancy.”

“When it comes to making a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, Washington shouldn’t rush that process for political purposes,” Kelly said in a statement.

FIn this Feb. 10, 2020, file photo U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks during a discussion on the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
FIn this Feb. 10, 2020, file photo U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks during a discussion on the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Republican and Democratic election lawyers agreed that Arizona law is clear: If Kelly wins, he will take office once the results are official.

Arizona Supreme Court precedent favors putting elected officials in elected positions as soon as possible, said Tim LaSota, the former lawyer for the Arizona Republican Party and a McSally supporter.

“Somebody who has only been appointed does not have the imprimatur of the electorate,” LaSota said. “It’s sort of intuitive that the law should favor somebody who has won an election as opposed to someone who’s just been appointed.”

Arizona law requires election results to be officially certified on the fourth Monday after the election, which falls this year on Nov. 30. The certification could be delayed up to three days if the state has not received election results from any of the 15 counties.

Mary O’Grady, a Democratic lawyer with expertise in election law, said the deadlines are firm and there’s little room for delay.

“I don’t see ambiguity here,” said O’Grady, who was Arizona’s solicitor general under two Democratic attorneys general.

Arizona law allows recounts and election challenges only under very limited circumstances, she said.

“Usually, the Secretary of the Senate’s office goes out of its way to accommodate the new senators coming in,” former Senate Historian Don Ritchie told The Arizona Republic, which first reported on the prospect for Kelly taking office early a day before Ginsburg’s death. “The old senator is out of their office there. I mean, they actually literally put a lock on the door so their staff can’t go in.”

Border became more secure in the last four years

Donald Trump,Rodney Scott

When Democratic candidates for President Joe Biden and Kamala Harris stood on stage earlier this year and pledged to give illegal immigrants free healthcare and a free college education, political pundits left and right agreed that illegal immigration would certainly once again be a main issue in the November election.

Yet despite these shockingly wrong-headed policy positions, illegal immigration, and government handouts for illegals have barely been discussed. Here in Arizona, where voters consistently rank immigration as one of their top five issues of concern, the debate has largely been about healthcare, education and tax hikes.

These are certainly important and critical issues for Arizona voters, but it is curious that this hot topic is absent from our public discourse.

So, what changed? As President of the National Border Patrol Council, I can tell you that a lot has changed – for the better – during the Trump administration.

Brandon Judd
Brandon Judd

Essentially, under the leadership of President Trump, the “magnets” for those who wantonly disregard the rules and laws for legally immigrating to the United States have been removed. For example, the refugee system — set up to provide refuge for victims of war and persecution who had nowhere else to go, often on an explicitly temporary basis — had long since been abused.  Today the system has finally been returned to its proper role.

As a result, the data show that our refugee slots are finally being used for their intended purpose of helping genuinely oppressed people and groups, while excluding “refugees” from areas rife with terrorist groups or those just trying to game the system.

The asylum system, too, has been reined in, and no longer serves as a backdoor visa program. Under the “Remain in Mexico” policy initiated by President Trump and related cooperative agreements with Mexico and other countries to the south, claiming a “credible fear” of oppression in one’s home country is no longer a free ticket into the United States.

The Justice Department has finally halted the rapid expansion of hardships that qualified someone as an “asylum seeker,” which allowed economic migrants to avoid scrutiny of their claims for months or years.

These are just some of the reforms and President Trump’s policy successes that helped defeat the so-called caravan waves of 2018 and 2019 and made the border safer and more secure than at any point in recent memory.

Finally, President Trump kept his 2016 campaign promise to “build the wall” and today we have made real progress. More physical barriers go up every day, making Border Patrol agents more effective, while also protecting our border communities.

With the wall and other long-sought improvements to the border infrastructure, the Border Patrol is making tremendous gains in the fight against drugs and the brutal cartels that smuggle them into our country. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of violent gang members, including members of the vicious MS-13, have been evicted from our country.

This election will be close. But voters need to ask themselves what would happen under a Biden-Harris administration. Would President Trump’s reform policies remain, or would they be dismantled?  Will the promise of free healthcare and a free college education serve as a strong “magnet,” thus increasing the number of those entering our country illegally? Would construction of the border wall cease, allowing drug and human smuggling to continue unabated?

The reality is efforts over the last four years have finally put us on the path to truly securing our border.  Perhaps voters feel like this issue has been resolved. They’d be wise to consider the consequences of a Biden-Harris administration.

Brandon Judd is President of the National Border Patrol Council.

Court dismisses Ward election suit

Cork, Ireland

A federal judge has tossed out a bid by Kelli Ward and other Arizona would-be Republican electors to force Vice President Mike Pence to use a different procedure when counting electoral votes this coming Wednesday.

In a 13-page order, Judge Jeremy Kernodle said that Ward, who is chair of the Arizona Republican Party, and her fellow plaintiffs lack standing to even sue Pence in the first place.

He said what they want is for him to order the vice president to ignore the procedures set forward in the federal Electoral Count Act, one that should result in a finding that Democrat Joe Biden won the race with 306 electoral votes versus 232 for President Trump. That would set the set the stage for Pence, as presiding officer of the U.S. Senate, to reject the election results, certified by Gov. Doug Ducey, which found that Biden had outpolled Trump in Arizona by 10,457 votes.

Kernodle said that, in the minds of the Arizona challengers, that would open the door for Pence to decline to give the state’s 11 electoral votes to Biden — and possibly do the same in other states where Biden won. At that point, the way Ward and the other GOP “electors” see it, Pence could either count their votes for Trump despite the fact they’re not the electors certified by the governor, or refuse to count either slate, setting the stage for the House, with one vote per state, to choose the president.

But the judge said their lawsuit is based on the premise that Ducey unlawfully certified and transmitted the votes of the Biden electors. And even if that were true, Kernodle said is not the fault of Pence who is named as the sole defendant in the lawsuit.

“Plaintiffs do not allege that the vice president had any involvement in the certification and transmission of a competing slate of electors,” he said.

“That act is performed solely by the Arizona governor, who is a third party not before the court, the judge continued. “The vice president’s anticipated actions on Jan. 6 will not affect the decision of Gov. Ducey regarding the certification of presidential electors — which occurred more than two weeks ago on Dec. 14.

And Kernodle said there’s something else.

He pointed out that what Ward and the other electors want him to do is order Pence to follow a certain procedure when opening the votes, one they contend gives the vice president the “exclusive authority and sole discretion in determining which electoral votes to count for a given state.”

But Kernodle pointed out that even if he were to do that, that still doesn’t guarantee they will get the result they want: rejection of the 11 Democratic votes, whether by Pence or the full Congress. And that, he said, means they lack legal standing to bring the lawsuit.

The judge reached a similar conclusion that Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas, who also is part of the lawsuit, lacks standing to sue.

He said Gohmert intends to raise an objection on Wednesday when the electoral votes are counted for Arizona and several other states where voters chose Biden over Trump.

The Electoral Count Act then requires each member of the House and Senate to vote to resolve the objections. But Gohmert contends that violates the Twelfth Amendment which he said requires state-by-state voting, with each state having one vote, for which slate to accept, a process that likely would favor Trump.

“Members of Congress lack standing to bring a claim for an injury suffered solely because they are members of Congress,” Kernodle wrote. “And that is all Congressman Gohmert is alleging here.”

He said Gohmert is not alleging that he was denied the right to vote in the 2020 presidential election.

“Rather, he asserts that under the Electoral Count Act, he will not be able to vote as a congressional representative in accordance with the Twelfth Amendment,” the judge wrote, something Kernodle said he is legally powerless to address.

The judge also said that Gohmert’s claim suffers from the same flaw as does the one by Kelly and the other would-be GOP electors: It is based on what Gohmert believes would happen in “a series of hypothetical — but by no means certain — events.”

That ranges from what Pence will do on Wednesday in opening and counting the votes, whether any member of Congress would object, how members of Congress would vote individually if that were the process and how a one-vote-per-state result might be different.

There was no immediate response from Ward to the ruling. But the attorneys representing her, the other would-be Arizona GOP electors and Gohmert already have filed notice they intend to seek review by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

This is the second federal court defeat for Ward and that Republican “slate.”

Last month Judge Diane Humetewa tossed out claims of fraud and irregularities based on theories that Secretary of State Katie Hobbs conspired with various foreign and domestic individuals and companies to manipulate the results and allow Biden to win.

“The allegations they put forth to support their claim of fraud fail in their particularity and plausability,” the judge wrote. “The various affidavits and expert reports are largely based on anonymous witnesses, hearsay and irrelevant analysis of unrelated elections.”

That is among more than four dozen lawsuits filed by Trump or his supporters that have been rejected by state and federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court also has turned away several appeals, though Ward is involved with two more which technically remain on the court’s docket.

Democrats seek ouster of Republican Finchem

Democratic Rep. Athena Salman on Monday introduces a resolution to expel Republican Mark Finchem from the House based on his activities before and including the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Democratic Rep. Athena Salman on Monday introduces a resolution to expel Republican Mark Finchem from the House based on his activities before and including the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Rep. Athena Salman and 22 other House Democrats introduced a resolution Monday to expel Rep. Mark Finchem from the body.

“Every day the member remains in office is a threat to the Arizona House of Representatives, a threat to national security and a threat to our democracy,” Salman, a Tempe Democrat, said at a news conference.

Finchem, R-Oro Valley, was a vocal supporter after the election of efforts to overturn President Biden’s narrow win in Arizona. He was in Washington, D.C. to speak on Jan. 6 and he had planned to deliver evidence of fraud in Arizona to Vice President Mike Pence. Although Finchem said he wasn’t near the Capitol when a pro-Trump mob stormed it trying to stop the certification of the electoral vote, he said he learned of it hours later and put out a statement blaming the violence on Antifa.

Since then, Democrats have been trying to keep the spotlight on Finchem’s role in challenging the election results and in the Jan. 6 riot that led to five deaths. House and Senate Democrats sent a letter to the FBI on Jan. 13 asking the bureau to investigate Finchem’s conduct, and Rep. Cesár Chávez, D-Phoenix, on Jan. 14 formally called on the House Ethics Committee to investigate Finchem’s actions and possibly recommend his expulsion.

Salman, who is leading the effort, conceded under questioning that many of the individual allegations detailed in what was introduced as HR 2006, by themselves, might not rise to the level of her contention that the conduct of the Oro Valley Republican “was dishonorable and unbecoming of a member of the House.” She also contends that his activities “undermine the public confidence in this institution and violated the order and decorum necessary to complete the people’s work.”

“When you look at these things in a vacuum, sure, they can appear random,” she said,  But Salman said that, taken together, they amount to evidence that Finchem “participated in, encouraged and incited the events of Jan.6,” making him complicit of “insurrection and rebellion” and therefore unqualified to serve.

Finchem declined to comment “on advice of counsel.”

He already has obtained legal representation in connection with at least one issue not now in Salman’s bill of particulars: his refusal to turn over text messages sought as part of a public records request. His attorney, Alexanader Kolodin — the same lawyer who filed lawsuits to challenge the results of the Arizona election — argued that the messages are on their own personal devices and therefore not public.

Although several dozen people, many of them residents of Finchem’s Legislative District 11, have filed complaints with the committee also calling for an investigation, it has not scheduled any hearings or taken any other action on the matter yet. Salman said the FBI has acknowledged receiving the Democrats’ letter but she hasn’t heard anything else. She acknowledged that the apparent disinclination from House Republicans, who hold a 31-29 majority, to act on the Democrats’ complaints could be an obstacle.

“The conservative majority has made it very clear that they’re not responding or even doing anything,” she said.

The resolution recounts the actions of the mob at the Capitol on Jan. 6, and highlights Finchem’s membership in the Oath Keepers, which the resolution describes as “a far-right group with a well-documented history of domestic terrorism and violence against the government, and whose founder threatened to hang Arizona’s former United States Senator  John McCain in 2015.” Several people affiliated with the Oath Keepers are facing federal conspiracy charges, over their alleged actions on Jan. 6.

It also highlights Finchem’s ties with Ali Alexander, one of the “Stop the Steal” organizers. And, the resolution says Finchem has “failed to denounce these domestic enemies, and further, has sought to conceal the consequences of his actions by promoting a baseless conspiracy blaming leftists that has been disproven by federal law enforcement agencies” and has “a documented history of pushing conspiracies that blame the left for violence by white nationalists, including deflecting blame for neo-Nazi violence at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017.” It concludes by calling for his expulsion for taking part in an attempt to overthrow the government.

“Finchem has no honor, is unfit to serve in the Arizona state Legislature and poses a clear and present danger to American citizens,” said Dana Allmond, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who lives in LD11. “We cannot settle for anything less than his expulsion now.”

Allmond accused Finchem of violating his oath of office.

“It’s apparent Finchem doesn’t understand what that oath embodies,” she said. “He claims a stolen presidential election and celebrates murder.”

Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services contributed to this report. 

Ducey heading to border to meet Vice President Pence


This April 2, 2017 file drone photo shows the U.S.-Mexico border fence on the outskirts of Nogales in southern Arizona. (AP Photo/Brian Skoloff, File)
This April 2, 2017 file drone photo shows the U.S.-Mexico border fence on the outskirts of Nogales in southern Arizona. (AP Photo/Brian Skoloff, File)

Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey plans to meet with Vice President Mike Pence in southern Arizona and get a status update on the border.

Ducey says he will meet with Pence Thursday afternoon as the vice president tours the border at Nogales.
The governor and Pence built a relationship when the vice president was governor of Indiana and they frequently meet in Washington or when Pence is in Arizona.
Ducey says he wants to make a case for “common-sense legislative changes” that Congress can make to address the border. A surge of asylum-seekers from central America have overwhelmed aid agencies and border officials. He also wants more resources for border security and to help care for the migrants.

Ducey plays starring role at RGA conference

Gov. Doug Ducey hosts a panel of Republicans at the Republican Governor’s Association conference November 18, 2021, at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. (Photo by Nick Phillips/Arizona Capitol Times)

Doug Ducey was one of the stars of the Republican Governor’s Association show last week at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. 

He kicked off the RGA’s annual conference with Mike Pence on November 16 at an event closed to the press, fielded the majority of questions at a November 17 news conference, and hosted a panel discussion on Nov. 18. A news release sent by the governor’s office said RGA governors “discussed policy wins and ideas, the strategies their states have taken to recover, and the importance of electing conservative leaders across the nation this coming election.”  

But attendees hoping for more than the usual talking points left disappointed. At least during the public portions of the event, the governors spent a lot of time asking and applauding each other’s answers to variations on the question: “How badly has Biden failed” in different areas.  

There were plenty of digs at the president and notably few references to Donald Trump. Ducey got plenty of compliments, direct and indirect. Pete Ricketts, the RGA’s co-chair with Ducey, hosted a panel on Wednesday and namedropped Ducey’s Border Strike Force during a discussion about Republican governors leading on border issues. And a group of six governors at the November 17 news conference largely deferred to Ducey when asked questions about RGA strategy in various races around the country.  

The event underscored Ducey’s continued high stature in the rarefied circles of Republican politicos, something that was clearly bolstered by Glenn Youngkin’s victory in Virginia and Jack Ciatarelli’s stronger-than-expected showing in New Jersey earlier this month, two races that were frequently discussed at the Biltmore. Matt Benson, a GOP consultant working for gubernatorial candidate Karrin Taylor Robson’s campaign, tweeted that Ducey “held court” at the conference. But the governor’s popularity among conference hob-nobbers won’t do much to change the sense that he’s not as well-liked by average Arizonans.  

Poll results released by Morning Consult on November 18 showed Ducey has the second-worst approval rating in his own state among all governors, besting only Kate Brown, the Democratic governor in Oregon. Comments from the governors during the event also seemed to confirm that the RGA is betting on the Youngkin formula for winning elections: don’t alienate the Trump base, but keep the former president at an arm’s length.  

Ducey used state plane for Trump events

In this October 19, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump pauses with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey during a campaign rally in Tucson. Ducey spent much of Trump's presidency trying not to provoke confrontation with the president or his fervent defenders. When state law required Ducey to certify Arizona's presidential election results and sign off on Trump's defeat, four years of loyalty wasn't enough to protect him from the president. PHOTO BY ROSS D. FRANKLIN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
In this October 19, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump pauses with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey during a campaign rally in Tucson. PHOTO BY ROSS D. FRANKLIN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

For three months in 2020, Arizona taxpayers fronted the bill of nearly $10,000 so Gov. Doug Ducey could campaign for President Trump and Vice President Pence.  

Ducey, as governor, can rent out planes from the Department of Public Safety to use for any purpose. Governors before him have used the planes to travel to their hometowns among other trips statewide.  

Ducey took five trips between August and October, each of them campaign stops. 

The $10,000 was eventually reimbursed at the end of November from Ducey’s political action committee, Arizonans for Strong Leadership, which was used primarily to keep the Arizona Legislature in Republican control.  

The disbursement was found through the secretary of state’s campaign finance website. 

The Department of Public Safety confirmed to Arizona Capitol Times the five trips were: August 11, 2020, to Tucson; August 18, 2020, to Yuma; August 19, 2020, to Tucson; October 28, 2020, to Bullhead City; and October 30, 2020, to Flagstaff and Tucson. 

Further research showed these trips coincided with a campaign stop for Pence on August 11, where state health director Cara Christ also attended for a coronavirus roundtable. The Yuma trip was for Trump, who spoke at an airport rally. The October 19 trip to Tucson was for Trump as well as was the Bullhead City campaign event where Trump suggested his Arizona election success was in Ducey’s hands.  

“I’m going to be so angry at you if I don’t get there,” he said, only hinting at what was going to come.  

DPS spokesman Bart Graves said the $9,654.59 payment on the finance report from November 24 “reflects reimbursement for the governor’s travel on a DPS aircraft to campaign events last year, ensuring that no taxpayer funds were used for campaign activities.” 

But the roughly $10,000 interest-free loan still came at the taxpayer’s expense before a political committee paid it back and it was legal. 

Doug Cole was the spokesman for Gov. Fife Symington in the 1990s. Cole said Ducey did not do anything wrong because the governor has certain privileges laid out in statute allowing him or her to use the plane for any means necessary.  

Unless those means conflict with other laws like electioneering, but the amount in full was repaid. 

Symington took some heat for using the state plane to take his family to California during his fraud trial that eventually forced him to resign as governor. Symington’s trips also coincidentally cost $10,000, according to the Associated Press.  

Cole likened what Ducey did to what the president does while campaigning. He uses the plane for those purposes and then a committee will pay the bill so it’s not on the taxpayers’ dime, he said.  

Cole cited the state law that reads, “The director of the department of public safety shall provide transportation, security and protection for the governor and security and protection for the governor’s family to the extent and in the manner the director of the department of public safety and the governor deem appropriate and adequate.” 

Other elected officials can join the governor on the plane, but they cannot use it without approval and they cannot use the plane for political purposes like the governor can because other elected officials don’t have travel privileges.  

Several election statutes raise some questions about Ducey’s activities. One says “any public agency, department, board, commission, committee, council or authority shall not spend or use public resources to influence an election” specifically mentioning the use of vehicles.  

Another section of that same law states that any person or entity that knowingly violates that law “is liable for a civil penalty of not more than five thousand dollars for each violation.” 

Also, given the trips took place in the third and fourth quarter of the 2020 election cycle filing periods, statutes suggest reimbursement taking place in the respective period rather than at the end of the cycle. The report wasn’t filed until the fourth quarter, which ended December 31, 2020.  

“For an agreement to purchase goods or services, the expenditure or disbursement is deemed made either on the date the parties enter into the agreement or the date the purchase order is issued,” the statute reads.   

Ducey has shown a pattern of using state resources to his benefit for campaigning and none of them were illegal. 

In 2018, during his campaign for re-election, Ducey once again used DPS to his advantage to aid his campaign.  

Invited to a DPS and media-only event was a photographer and videographer who were there to collect footage for a future campaign ad. Ducey didn’t think the press conference, which was put together using taxpayer dollars and then used to help his own election efforts, was improper.   

“This is a public event. Anyone who wants to come can come,” Ducey said at the time. 

The event was only attended by media and Ducey’s staff. 

Additionally, last year, Ducey took a call with business leaders in his government office and instructed those on the call to vote “no” on Proposition 208, an education tax on the wealthy that he adamantly opposed. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich launched an investigation to see if Ducey broke the law, but Brnovich didn’t find sufficient evidence 

Joel Edman, an election attorney with the progressive Arizona Advocacy Network, said it being an interest-free loan is what will bother Arizonans the most.  

“There’s the state resources, there’s potentially endangering people’s lives with unnecessary gatherings during the pandemic and him bringing all of the security personnel and everybody else to those events. It boils down to this pattern that we see over and over where he and the folks around them care only about his political career and apparently little else.” 

Ducey, health director urge caution, calm as coronavirus spreads in US

Doug Ducey (Photo by Dillon Rosenblatt/Arizona Capitol Times)
Doug Ducey (Photo by Dillon Rosenblatt/Arizona Capitol Times)

Gov. Doug Ducey and public health officials said Monday the risk of a coronavirus outbreak is low for the vast majority of Arizonans, but they urged people to take precautions to prevent one.

In the case the virus, known as COVID-19, spreads exponentially quicker than experts expect, Ducey has power to issue mandatory vaccinations, quarantine people and utilize the national guard and he said he would use it if the situation calls for it.

“I’m aware of the authorities under the governor and, if necessary and needed, I will use every tool possible to protect public health in Arizona,” Ducey said. His comments came hours after he was briefed by Vice President Mike Pence and senior administration officials and said his team and theirs are in “close and frequent communication.”

Ducey was joined by Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, who helped the state navigate the H1N1 epidemic in 2009, the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and the measles outbreak in 2016.

While there is no current risk for a community-wide spreading of the virus, Christ urged people to maintain proper hygiene and businesses and schools to be ready to work remotely if needed. Christ, a medical doctor and infectious disease expert, said while she understands the news can make people afraid and nervous, people should rest easy.

“The top priority of every data driven and evidence-based action that we take is to keep our communities and families safe while having as minimal of an impact on Arizona’s daily lives as possible,” Christ said.

Starting Monday, the state began testing samples from people suspected to have the virus in the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory, on the same block as the state Capitol Mall, after being cleared to do so Friday. That clearing came after Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Arizona, wrote a letter to Pence and said, according to Maricopa County health officials, the kits used to determine if patient samples had the virus were defective.

Christ said the state was one of dozens working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and said they were unable to validate the results correctly because of the way the test kits worked. As a precaution to ensure accuracy, the state sent the samples back to CDC labs in Atlanta, Georgia, and results were delayed by weeks.

“There wasn’t any difference in how that changed our testing,” Christ said. “So while we were able, we would have been able to do it faster here, the CDC was still able to provide testing for public health.”

After officials were able to determine that a portion of the test wasn’t needed to validate the results correctly, the state continued testing normally and didn’t tell the public because as of that afternoon, Christ said, the state had tested 26 people for COVID-19 and 24 were negative. One person, a young man with ties to Arizona State University, tested positive for it in late January and has since recovered, while the results for the other person are pending.

Christ said that case in January was a “blessing in disguise,” that activated the state’s emergency response protocol and made it more aware of the issue.

In its facility, the state can test 450 samples per day, some of which could come from the same person depending on the sample, with a same or next-day turnaround. The department will be updating its website daily with testing statistics and other useful information for the public.

But, Christ said, the public needs to do their part too. The best way to prevent a spread is by maintaining proper hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and items and staying home if one is feeling sick and seeking a medical evaluation.

On Saturday, Pence announced new travel restrictions and warnings for certain countries and said the White House’s task force is “very strongly” considering closing the U.S.-Mexico border if the situation worsens. While that issue didn’t come up in the conference call with Pence and the nation’s governors, Ducey said he is leaving that decision up to the federal government.

“My first concern is for public health, of course, and there’s going to be certain decisions that are made from Washington, DC,” Ducey said. “I’m going to defer to the subject matter experts in a situation like this, when you’re talking about a potential pandemic so that we make the proper decisions to protect public health.”

Lawmakers’ arguments to overturn election fall short

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., objects to certifying Arizona's Electoral College votes during a joint session of the House and Senate convenes to count the electoral votes cast in November's election, at the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., objects to certifying Arizona’s Electoral College votes during a joint session of the House and Senate convenes to count the electoral votes cast in November’s election, at the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Arizona finally got its 11 electoral votes for Joe Biden counted late January 6 after Congress reconvened – and after a majority of federal lawmakers rejected claims on how the tally here was unreliable.

The ratification of the 10,457-vote victory for the president-elect in Arizona came after just six senators refused to accept the results.

In the House, the number of foes was larger at 121. But that that compares with 303 who found the objection led by Arizona Republican Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs to be not credible.

Foes raised a series of arguments about what went wrong. But the story behind each of them is more complex.

‘Illegal Votes’

Biggs in particular cited what he said were 32,000 illegal votes.

What actually happened is a federal judge agreed with two groups who said the pandemic interfered with their ability to register to vote by the October 5 deadline. He gave them – and everyone else – until October 23.

That decision was overturned by the 9th Circuit of Appeals. But a majority of the three-judge panel said anyone who had registered in the interim could vote in the general election.

Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., speaks on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., speaks on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Biggs said that was “without justification” and that the inclusion of those voters makes the results of the entire election suspect.

The actual tally of people registered in that period according to the Secretary of State’s Office was 35,134.

But what Biggs did not say is that more members of his own Republican Party signed up during that period than Democrats: 10,922 versus 8,292. There also were 15,422 independents and 498 Libertarians.


Federal lawmakers seeking to disallow the results and demand an audit argued that it’s irrelevant that state and federal judges had rejected various claims of fraud and irregularity. They said these lawsuits were tossed on technical grounds and that courts never actually addressed the merits of the allegations.

But that fails to tell the whole story.

Consider the claim of the Arizona Republican Party over the audit procedures used in Maricopa County.

Party lawyers argued the Arizona law requires the sampling of ballots of 2% of precincts to compare the machine tally with a hand count. Instead, the county – and some others – audited the ballots of 2% of vote centers, centralized locations where anyone could cast a ballot rather than going to his or her own home precinct.

Maricopa County Superior Court John Hannah said the party waited far too long to bring its suit.

He pointed out that Maricopa County used voting centers in the presidential preference election in March and in the state’s primary in August – and that the party didn’t object to the audit procedures in either case. In fact, Hannah said, the state GOP did not raise any concerns ahead of the November 3 general election, even though the county informed officials of the Republican and Democratic parties about the upcoming audit process.

But even if that were not the case, Hannah said the challengers were misreading the law.


In a separate case, U.S. District Court Judge Diane Humetewa dismissed the claims of the 11 would-be Republican electors who sued Gov. Doug Ducey and asked the judge to throw out the results based on claims that Secretary of State Katie Hobbs conspired with various foreign and domestic individuals and companies to manipulate the results and allow Biden to win.

Diane Humetewa
Diane Humetewa

Humetewa said federal courts can hear only those cases where challengers have actual standing. That the judge said, requires them to show an actual injury, that the injury is fairly traceable to the conduct they are challenging, and that their injury could be addressed by a favorable court ruling.

In this case, she said, the 11 suffered no injury as they, themselves, were not candidates for office but, under Arizona law, have a purely “ministerial function” to cast their ballots for the presidential candidate who got the most votes.

But Humetewa did not ignore the underlying claims.

“The allegations they put forth to support their claims of fraud fail in the particularity and plausibility,” the judge wrote.

“Plaintiffs append over 300 pages of attachments, which are only impressive for their volume,” Humetewa said. “The various affidavits and expert reports are largely based on anonymous witnesses, hearsay, and irrelevant analysis of unrelated decisions.”

Adjudication Panels

Other courts also looked at the various allegations and found them lacking.

Kelli Ward, who chairs the Arizona Republican Party, complained about what happens when ballots are rejected by counting machines because they have stray marks, are damaged or an individual appears to vote for more than one person for an office.

That requires the ballots be “adjudicated” by election workers, one from each political party, to determine what was the actual intent of the voter. That adjudication panel then prepares a new ballot reflecting the consensus that can be fed through counting machines

Ward produced witnesses who said they saw errors in the process, claiming that ballots that should have been marked for Trump were instead prepared for Biden, or otherwise altering them so that Trump would not get the vote.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Randall Warner ordered inspections of more than 1,600 of these adjudicated ballots. And that review did find nine errors, seven cases where the vote should have gone to Trump and two where it should have gone to Biden.

Ward argued that amounts to an error rate of slightly more than 0.5% in a race where the difference between the candidates statewide was just 0.3% of the total.

But Warner concluded – and the Arizona Supreme Court agreed – that error rate applies only to the 27,859 duplicated ballots in Maricopa County. And at best, he said, it added no more than 155 votes for Trump, far short of what would be needed to change the outcome.

Ward argued that she would have been able to prove greater error had she been allowed to examine every adjudicated ballot in the state. But the trial judge concluded time had run out because of the federal law setting December 14 as the date Arizona’s electors would cast their votes.


Closely related was the “Sharpiegate” lawsuit claiming that pens used at Maricopa County vote centers bled through to the other side of the two-sided ballot and changed votes. But even the state Attorney General’s Office concluded there was no basis to believe ballots were left uncounted based on a bleed-through of ink.

And Attorney General Mark Brnovich separately said that if there was some “great conspiracy” to steal votes from Republicans “it apparently didn’t work” as shown by the fact that, with the exception of the presidential and U.S. Senate races, Republicans did fairly well in Arizona.

Ward had no better luck with a bid asking a federal judge in Texas to order Vice President Mike Pence to exercise what she said is his unilateral authority to decide, as presiding officer of the U.S. Senate, whether to accept the votes of the 11 Democratic electors from Arizona. A judge concluded that Ward, the other would-be GOP electors and Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas had no legal standing to make such a demand.

In fact, attorneys for Pence opposed the litigation even though it would have given the vice president more powers.


Lobbyists navigate lawmakers’ bad behavior, professional relationships


In 2018, at the height of the Me Too movement, investigators for the House of Representatives dismissed a lobbyist’s allegations of harassment against a state representative because the lobbyist sent friendly text messages after the alleged incident occurred.

The mental calculations she described in a sworn deposition made public earlier this month are all too familiar: Looking past an offensive comment or off-color joke, because the fight wasn’t worth it. Pretending an unwanted romantic advance never happened. Marshalling colleagues and meeting in public places to avoid being alone.

At the Capitol, where relationships are everything and the caprice of a single lawmaker can derail months of policy work, lobbyists must balance representing clients and fighting for policy positions with the costs of not calling out bad behavior.

And as women at the Capitol and across the country grow more empowered to speak out about behavior that would have been ignored in years past, some male lawmakers have responded by doubling down on a boys’ club mentality, granting greater access to male lobbyists than their female counterparts out of a stated wish to avoid even a whiff of impropriety.

Tory Roberg
Tory Roberg

In some instances, lobbyist Tory Roberg said, lobbying for issues she cares about means putting up with a lot in the hopes that it will someday get a bill across the finish line.

“In order to serve our clients, we have to build up relationships,” Roberg said. “I have to weigh whether keeping this relationship is worth it to pass a bill.”

Mental math

Not only lobbyists but also female lawmakers have to manage balancing acts.

Other representatives often don’t listen to Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, when she speaks on the floor of the House. On the evening of February 26, a few of her Republican colleagues went further than simply ignoring her, instead joking and guffawing over a sexual innuendo they perceived in her remarks.

Blanc ignored them and continued speaking. She said later that it was another example of an uneven power dynamic she can’t stop thinking about.

“I’m continuously reminded that it’s a power dynamic, and my colleagues across the aisle have all the power,” she said. “If I feel this way and I’m an equal, I cannot imagine what it would be like to be a lobbyist — a female or a male lobbyist — in this power dynamic.”

Marilyn Rodriguez, a lobbyist at the progressive firm Creosote Partners, said she thinks often of a piece of advice Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg shared: It helps sometimes to be a little deaf.

Ginsburg’s mother-in-law advised her on her wedding day to tune out small thoughtless or unkind words, and it’s a strategy she used in the workplace as well. Tuning out offensive jokes and comments helps at the Capitol, Rodriguez said.

“There are definitely things that I don’t laugh off, but that I have to pretend not to hear,” she said.

For lobbyists representing clients whose issues don’t align with the prevailing view at the Capitol, finding votes often means putting up with unacceptable behavior, Roberg said. Roberg represents the Secular Coalition of Arizona and often advocates for issues unpopular with the GOP majority.

“It’s just really hard when you’re already the underdog in a fight,” she said. “If you have an opportunity to get into someone’s office, you have to take it.”

“I’ve never crossed any lines,” she quickly added.

Blurred lines

High-profile scandals involving lawmakers and lobbyists — from the seemingly consensual relationship between Rep. David Cook and an agricultural industry lobbyist who supported his bills, to accusations of harassment levied against Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita and former Rep. Don Shooter — draw attention to the uneven power dynamic between lobbyists who push for bills and the lawmakers who control their fate.

Barry Aarons, the de facto dean of the Arizona lobbying corps, said those incidents are the exception, not the rule.

“Every year or couple of years, there’s an incident or two that pops up unfortunately and all of us [lobbyists] tend to take the spatter on it,” he said. “Basically, the ethical level of the Arizona Legislature and all of us involved in it is relatively high, with the exception of a couple of lapses that have occurred over time.”

Barry Aarons
Barry Aarons

Aarons said he teaches his staff to be “extremely cautious when socializing” with lawmakers and their staff, and prohibits romantic relationships between his employees and lawmakers. The employees also aren’t allowed to drink with lawmakers “on company time,” he said, but he rejected a suggestion that lobbyists stop buying drinks for lawmakers.

“I think it’s unfortunate that we think that we can’t have a casual meal and refreshments,” Aarons said. “If you want to ban [drinking], ban it. It’s not a lobbying technique.”

Complicating matters is a lack of clear, industrywide ethical standards for lobbyists, paired with the Legislature’s lack of a formal code of conduct.

The American League of Lobbyists has a code of ethics it urges members to comply with, but the code doesn’t get into murky matters like relationships between lawmakers and lobbyists. Other states, including Colorado, have their own professional lobbyist associations that regulate lobbying ethics and seek to prevent harassment at state capitols.

Matt Benson, a former Arizona Republic reporter who now lobbies for Veridus, said lobbyists and reporters have similar difficulties navigating ethical boundaries with lawmakers. Both reporters and lobbyists operate more casually than people in most jobs, he said.

Reporters have relationships with sources they talk to during regular business hours and after hours over dinner or drinks, he said.

“Being a lobbyist isn’t so much different,” Benson said. “Lobbyists interact with other lobbyists, with staff members, and with legislators during the day and sometimes off hours, and there’s nothing inappropriate about that, provided that you stay between the bright lines.”

Veridus follows a code of common sense, Benson said, adding that formal enforced ethical guidelines regulating lawmaker-lobbyist relationships are hard to imagine. And trying to craft rules will only muddy waters, he said.

“What would that look like? One drink is OK, but three and you cross the line?” he said.

If anyone on his team feels uncomfortable with a specific lawmaker they have to meet, another employee will tag along, Benson said.

“Clearly there have been some incidents that have come to light – not just this session, but in past sessions. I don’t know that that necessarily means the system is broken. What it speaks to is the fact that we’re dealing with human beings and they make mistakes and I don’t know that you eliminate that by putting a set of rules on paper.”

Former Republican lawmaker Maria Syms acknowledges people are flawed and said doing nothing about it at all won’t solve the problem. When Syms was in the House, she was one of the most outspoken members calling for a formal code of conduct in the wake of Shooter’s expulsion and asking to “get the frat house out of the state House.”

Rep. Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley (Photo by Rachel Leingang/ Arizona Capitol Times)
Maria Syms

Syms said she even provided examples from another state legislature that could be used as a starting point, but nothing ever happened.

Syms said the longer the rules governing relationships, which need to be as objective and ethical as possible, continue to be vague or non-existent, the worse the problem could get.

“Lawmakers and lobbyists are saying we can self-regulate, but that’s not enough,” Syms said. “It’s a lot easier to not have a code of conduct for that when these things come up because you can pick and choose whose actions and what actions are appropriate or inappropriate depending on the political climate at the time. These scandals keep coming up and we have some work to do.”

The Pence policy

Longshot Mississippi gubernatorial candidate Robert Foster found an Arizona fan in Sen. Vince Leach last summer, when Foster told a female reporter she couldn’t accompany him on a day of campaign events unless she brought along a male colleague.

“I’m not going to ever put myself in a position where a female could come back and say that I made advances on her, I tried to assault her and there’s no witness there to say that did not happen,” Foster told NPR.

Leach shared a version of the story on his campaign Facebook page, adding that he agreed totally with Foster’s position.

“This has been my policy going back probably 20 years,” Leach said via text. “Have forgotten the mentor that gave me this advice. Same policy for constituents and lobbyists and others I meet with. It seems to have worked well so far and see no reason to change.”

Foster and Leach follow the “Billy Graham rule,” named for the late evangelical preacher, which prohibits spending time alone with anyone of the opposite gender other than a spouse. Another notable adherent is Vice President Mike Pence, who refuses to dine alone with a woman or attend events with alcohol unless his wife is with him.

Leach’s announcement last summer surprised some of his female colleagues and lobbyists, who couldn’t recall if they had met alone with him. And knowing that a male lawmaker treats women differently because of their gender is really uncomfortable, Rodriguez said.

“Now every time I see him I wonder, ‘how do you view me?’” Rodriguez said.

Leach is far from alone in refusing to meet alone with female lobbyists, Senate President Karen Fann said. She even had a male representative, who she declined to name, who turned down a woman who asked to catch a ride with him to Tucson but told Fann he would have readily agreed if a man had asked him.

Other male lawmakers make sure to have an assistant come in to meetings with female lobbyists, or keep the door open during those conversations out of “self-preservation,” Fann said.

“It is sad that we have gone so far with trying to be careful about not being perceived as anything that, yes I do believe that some of the female lobbyists are unfortunately not getting the same equal (treatment) as a male because of the fact they are female,” she said.

Slow changes

Discussions of sexual harassment at the Legislature, as in the nation at large, reveal generational differences between the Baby Boomers and older Gen-Xers who entered a male-dominated arena and the younger women who expected a more equal playing field. Fann, who also owns a highway construction business, noted that she has been dealing in a male-dominated world her entire life.

“You just get in and you roll up your sleeves and you do it,” Fann said. “Those of us in our generation, our whole lives we’ve had to work a little harder just to show that women can do as good a job — if not better — than men in some areas.”

When Stacey Morley started working as an intern at the Senate in the mid-90s, there was an unwritten rule that female interns shouldn’t go into certain male members’ offices alone.

“We all knew what happened, but no one ever really said anything,” she said. “And there were a lot more affairs between lobbyists and members. All that kind of stuff used to be a lot more common and accepted, whereas now it’s very hush hush.”

Morley, now the government affairs director for Stand for Children, said she has never been put in a position where she felt harassed — something she attributes in large part to her own brash personality and inappropriate sense of humor. For instance, Morley said, she loved Shooter, the former lawmaker who was ejected from office.

“He was like a dirty old man,” Morley said. “He never made me feel uncomfortable, but that’s probably because my standards are way lower than most people.”

She said she could see where younger or more sheltered lobbyists, who come from a different background than she did, could feel very uncomfortable at the Legislature.

“Not to say that I haven’t flirted with members to get my bills passed, but I never felt like anything was expected of me,” she said. “I’ve just had a different experience about it.”

Lela Alston
Lela Alston

Sen. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix, said she’s dismayed that the Legislature hasn’t yet solved the problem of sexual harassment. Everyone at the Capitol should be able to do their jobs without fear, she said.

“Whether you’re a lobbyist or a reporter or you’re a page or you’re a staffer, you should be able to pursue your careers free from any kind of that expectation and you should have no concerns about members’ behavior,” Alston said. “I’m particularly offended if young women are compromised in their ability to do their jobs, perfect their professional skills, be able to rise to their highest level of potential in their chosen career. That should not be hampered by gender.”

After the AzScam scandal in 1991, the Legislature brought a nationally recognized expert on ethics to train lawmakers on ethical behavior. It might be time to do that again, Alston said, or at least adopt and enforce a code of conduct.

“We’re not a court of law by any stretch of the imagination, but we do have the ability to say what should and should not go on in our own little realm right here,” Alston said. “And we should all have the expectation that those rules of conduct should be maintained, that there’s no wink-wink, nod-nod going on, that we have these rules but we don’t really mean it.”

Man who wore horns, hat apologizes for storming Capitol

 In this Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 file photo, supporters of President Donald Trump, including Jacob Chansley, center with fur hat, are confronted by Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol in Washington. Chansley’s lawyer says that he reached out White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about a possible pardon on behalf of the Arizona man, acknowledging it might be a reach but that “there’s nothing to lose.” (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
In this Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 file photo, supporters of President Donald Trump, including Jacob Chansley, center with fur hat, are confronted by Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

An Arizona man who participated in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol while sporting face paint, no shirt and a furry hat with horns said he regrets storming the building, apologized for causing fear in others and expressed disappointment with former President Trump.

In a statement released late Monday through his attorney, defendant Jacob Chansley said he has re-evaluated his life since being jailed for over a month on charges stemming from the Jan. 6 riot and realizes he shouldn’t have entered the Capitol building. Chansley, who previously said Trump inspired him to be in Washington that day, said Trump “let a lot of peaceful people down.”

Chansley said he’s coming to terms with events leading to the riot and asked people to “be patient with me and other peaceful people who, like me, are having a very difficult time piecing together all that happened to us, around us, and by us. We are good people who care deeply about our country.”

Chansley’s attorney, Al Watkins, released the statement about a half-day before the second impeachment trial of Trump was scheduled to begin in the U.S. Senate.

Watkins, who unsuccessfully sought a pardon on Chansley’s behalf from Trump, said the Senate didn’t take up his offer to have his client testify on how he was incited by the former president.

The defense lawyer said his client’s apology wasn’t self-serving but rather a genuine expression of culpability. Still, he said he doesn’t think it’s right for the government to prosecute people who were incited.

“If you believe the government is correctly prosecuting the (former) president, you can’t at the same time hold criminally culpable those who were incited, because the people incited become victims,” Watkins said in an interview.

Chansley has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of civil disorder and obstructing an official proceeding, plus four other misdemeanor charges.
The U.S. Justice Department declined to comment Tuesday on Chansley’s apology.

Chansley was among hundreds of pro-Trump supporters who charged past outnumbered police officers and stormed the Capitol as Congress was meeting to certify Joe Biden’s electoral win.

Authorities say Chansley was one of the first people in the Capitol building, disobeyed orders by an officer to leave, refused the officer’s request to use Chansley’s bullhorn to tell rioters to leave the Senate chamber, and wrote a note to then-Vice President Mike Pence saying, “It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”

Prosecutors said a spear on top of a flagpole carried by Chansley was a weapon, though his attorney has characterized the spear as an ornament.
Since being jailed, Chansley has had two instances in which he wasn’t eating because the detention facilities where he was being held didn’t serve organic food. He lost 20 pounds during the latest starvation episode. Chansley, who calls himself the “QAnon Shaman,” said he has been following such a diet for eight years while practicing Shamanism.

Last week, a judge ordered corrections officials to provide Chansley with organic food. He was later moved to a jail in Virginia after the District of Columbia Department of Corrections said it couldn’t honor the court’s order to feed him organic food.

Mark Kelly sworn into Senate, narrows GOP edge

Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., talks with his wife former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., after participating in a re-enactment of his swearing-in Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, by Vice President Mike Pence in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Nicholas Kamm/Pool via AP)
Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., talks with his wife former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., after participating in a re-enactment of his swearing-in Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, by Vice President Mike Pence in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Nicholas Kamm/Pool via AP)

Arizona Democrat and former astronaut Mark Kelly was sworn into the Senate on December 2, narrowing Republican control of the chamber and underscoring his state’s shift from ruby red to purple.

Kelly, 56, defeated GOP Sen. Martha McSally in last month’s election, making her one of only three incumbents to lose. By taking office, he has reduced the Republican edge in the chamber to 52-48.

That will have scant impact on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s control over the chamber for the final month of this congressional session. But it sets the stage for two pivotal Senate runoff elections in Georgia on January 5.

If Democrats win both, they will command the 50-50 chamber for the new Congress that begins in early January because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would cast tie-breaking votes.

Kelly was sworn into office by Vice President Mike Pence, and both men wore masks and bumped arms in congratulations when the oath was over. Among those watching from the visitors’ gallery were his wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., and Scott Kelly, his twin brother and fellow retired astronaut.

Kelly’s Arizona colleague, Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, held the Bible on which he took his oath. In what may be a Senate first for such ceremonies, Sinema, known for dramatic fashion, wore a zebra-striped coat and had purple hair, or perhaps a wig.

Kelly’s Senate arrival marks a political milestone for Arizona, which has two Democratic senators for the first time since January 1953. That is when GOP Sen. Barry Goldwater took office, barely a decade before he became his party’s unsuccessful 1964 presidential candidate.

In other evidence of Arizona’s political shift, the state backed President-elect Joe Biden last month, the first time it was carried by a Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton won in 1996. Republicans held the Legislature by a slim margin and won convincingly down the ballot.

McSally was appointed to her seat in 2019 to replace the late GOP Sen. John McCain. Her appointment lasted only until last month’s special election was officially certified, which occurred this week. That cleared the way for Kelly to take office and fill the rest of McCain’s six-year term, meaning Kelly will face re-election in 2022.

Kelly was parachuting into a fractious lame-duck session in which lawmakers and President Donald Trump are so far deadlocked over whether to provide a pre-holiday COVID-19 relief package worth hundreds of billions of dollars. They’re also trying to address year-end budget work and a defense policy bill.

Kelly cast himself as a problem-solving centrist during his campaign. His slender 2 percentage point victory over McSally suggests he will be part of Democrats’ moderate wing.

In what was one of the country’s most expensive Senate races, Kelly raised $89 million. That was second only to the $108 million collected by defeated South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Jaime Harrison, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Republican Cory Gardner of Colorado and Democrat Doug Jones of Alabama were the only other Senate incumbents defeated last month.

The son of two police officers, Kelly is a retired astronaut who flew four space missions, including spending time aboard the International Space Station. He was also a Navy pilot who flew combat missions during Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s.

Giffords was grievously wounded in a 2011 mass shooting in which six people were killed and a dozen others hurt. She and Kelly became leading figures in unsuccessful efforts to pressure Congress to strengthen gun controls.

“Great day, excellent day,” Giffords told reporters afterward.

Kelly is the fourth astronaut to be elected to Congress. John Glenn was a Democratic senator from Ohio and Harrison Schmitt was a GOP senator from New Mexico. Republican Jack Swigert was elected to the House from Colorado, but died of cancer before taking office.


Mormons cool to Trump are finding new influence in Arizona

In this Aug. 11, 2020, photo Yasser Sanchez, a lifelong Republican, member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and immigration attorney, is supporting Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, repelled by Republican President Donald Trump, shown here in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
In this Aug. 11, 2020, photo Yasser Sanchez, a lifelong Republican, member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and immigration attorney, is supporting Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, repelled by Republican President Donald Trump, shown here in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Yasser Sanchez has twice worked to defeat Joe Biden’s bids for the vice presidency by building support for Republican candidates among his fellow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It wasn’t hard.

Now the lifelong Republican finds himself in the surprising position of supporting Biden — and repelled from his party, he says, by President Donald Trump.

“We’re taught to be steady, to be basically the opposite of the way he’s lived his life,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez’s view isn’t as unusual as the Trump campaign would like.

While many conservative-leaning religious voters warmed to him long ago, Trump has struggled to win over Latter-day Saints. His penchant for foul language clashes with the church’s culture teaching modesty and self-restraint, and his isolationist foreign policy is anathema to a faith spreading rapidly around the world.

In this Aug. 11, 2020, photo Norma Hastings, a 71-year-old Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints member from Gilbert, waits for Vice President Mike Pence to speak at the "Latter-Day Saints for Trump" Coalition launch event in Mesa, Ariz. Hastings said she thinks Pence "keeps Trump on the right road." (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
In this Aug. 11, 2020, photo Norma Hastings, a 71-year-old Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints member from Gilbert, waits for Vice President Mike Pence to speak at the “Latter-Day Saints for Trump” Coalition launch event in Mesa, Ariz. Hastings said she thinks Pence “keeps Trump on the right road.” (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

It hasn’t helped that Trump has made a show of feuding with Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, among the best known members of the church.

Once just a headache for the White House, Trump’s relative weakness with Latter-day Saints is now a growing political liability. His standing has slumped in several pivotal states, including Arizona, where members of the faith make up 6% of the population. Many are clustered around Phoenix, areas where Republicans have struggled to hold their ground in the Trump era.

This past week the Trump campaign launched its Latter-day Saints for Trump Coalition, sending Vice President Mike Pence to Mesa, a suburb of Phoenix, for the kickoff. Pence, who often serves as Trump’s emissary to religious conservatives, appealed to church members’ opposition to abortion rights and longstanding concerns over religious liberty.

Trump “has stood for the religious freedom of every American of every faith every day of this administration,” Pence told the group of about 200 people.

Last month, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., hosted a conference call with reporters to commemorate Pioneer Day, a church holiday celebrating the arrival of the first church settlers in Utah’s Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Trump Jr., said he was in Utah at the time for a fishing trip.

Still, signs of discontent were clear. More than 200 people identifying themselves as Republicans who belong to the church published an open letter Wednesday declaring their opposition to Trump and calling him “the antithesis of so much the Latter-day Saints community believes.”

To be sure, Latter-day Saints have traditionally voted Republican and are likely to remain part of the GOP coalition. Clustered in solidly Republican states, they have long been a major force in GOP primaries and local politics across the West, but they have not held much sway in national elections.

Trump won Arizona in 2016 by 91,000 votes. There are about 436,000 Latter-day Saints in Arizona, according to church statistics. Many live in Phoenix’s East Valley suburbs popular with young families, including Gilbert, Chandler and Mesa, which traces its modern history to a settlement founded by pioneers from the faith in the 1800s.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the "Latter-Day Saints for Trump" Coalition launch event Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the “Latter-Day Saints for Trump” Coalition launch event Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

In recent elections, political consultants have considered these areas a barometer of swing voters, including women and college-educated white voters who have recently shifted Democratic. In 2018, several neighborhoods east of Phoenix popular with church members voted both for Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.

“From the time we’re young we’re taught — as are all Christians — that we’re supposed to love God and love our neighbor,” said Kathy Varga, a 39-year-old speech therapist from Mesa. “I don’t see that happening right now. I just see the country becoming more divided.”

Varga reluctantly voted for Trump in 2016 because she was worried about Democrat Hillary Clinton putting liberal justices on the Supreme Court. Now Varga says she believes Trump is threatening government institutions and the Constitution. She plans to vote for Biden, even though she disagrees with many of his policies, because “the most important thing right now is to unify the country.”

It’s unclear precisely how common Varga’s view is among her faith. In the 2018 midterm elections, about two-thirds of voters who are members of the church nationwide favored Republicans. But Latter-day Saints were less likely than other traditionally Republican religious groups to approve of the way Trump was doing his job.

Among members of the faith, 67% voted for Republicans, and 56% said they approved of Trump’s job performance. By comparison, 80% of white evangelical Christians nationwide voted for Republican candidates, and nearly as many said they approve of Trump, according to an analysis of 1,528 midterm voters who are members of the faith, based on data from VoteCast, a broad national survey conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

Even Latter-day Saints who turned out to hear Pence this past week acknowledged they were disappointed in Trump’s infidelity or uncouth language. But they also viewed it as a tolerable consequence of electing a straight-talking man unafraid to ruffle feathers.

Although Trump rarely speaks about his faith or attends church services, these supporters said they believed he was a defender of religious freedoms, which is of paramount importance to members of a faith that settled in what is now Utah to escape persecution.

“We’re able to continue practicing our religion. That’s how our country was founded,” said Norma Hastings, a 71-year-old church member from Gilbert. She said she thinks Pence “keeps Trump on the right road.”

Jenn Crandall, a 48-year-old pianist from Mesa, said she looks to other figures in the administration and the campaign for connection.

“I like how hard working his kids are, his wife,” Crandall said. “He’s a family guy.”

Biden’s campaign is also targeting Latter-day Saints in Arizona and elsewhere. A Latter-day Saints for Joe group was formed more than a year ago. In a virtual town hall for church members on Saturday, campaign surrogates tied Biden’s economic, health care and immigration agendas to church teachings on self-reliance, family values and refuge.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “prioritizes caring for the poor. It prioritizes strong families, a strong moral code, sacrifice,” said Eric Biggart, co-chair of LDS Democrats who lives in Salt Lake City. “To me, it’s hard to be a Republican and a member of the church at the same time.”

The church does not back candidates or political parties.

Opioid deaths, overdoses on the rise despite states efforts to curb crisis


Two years after Gov. Doug Ducey called a special session to fast-track the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act, more Arizonans are overdosing and dying from opioid-related overdoses now than any time since the state started recording those figures.

The bill pushed by Ducey and health care advocates, allocated millions for educational outreach and treatment for addicts and changed regulations for how to fill opioid prescriptions. But after two years of following through on that plan, the state has failed to meet its goal of lowering opioid overdoses and overdose deaths – and addiction and recovery experts say the data doesn’t tell the whole story.

Although overdoses and overdose deaths are not decreasing, they at least now have more and better data on the problem, the governor’s spokesman and health director say. 

Gov. Doug Ducey’ spokesman Patrick Ptak said the Governor’s Office, which has maintained a cautious tone since the signing and gave no lofty promises of the proposals, is pleased with the “progress” the state has made in addressing the problem. The fact that numbers haven’t gone down, he said, “proves we have more work to do.”

“[The problem is] decades in the making, but we’ve seen progress in Arizona. We have more tools and data available to us than ever before.”

Cara Christ
Cara Christ

Department of Health Services Director Cara Christ said its goal was to decrease the number of overdoses by 5% each year. Instead, overdoses and deaths have climbed since lawmakers approved the legislation.

Christ, who helped inform and oversee the changes, said these programs and regulatory changes have “allowed Arizona to become the front runner in these issues,” and because of it, the state has a better idea of the scale of the problem, who is primarily affected and how to better treat them.

Christ boasted of the legislation’s success, saying since the bill was signed, the state has seen a 13% decrease in opioid prescriptions and a 95 percent decrease in prescriptions to so-called “opioid-naive” patients – those who have not gotten the drug in the 30 days prior to the injury or surgery. Both of those numbers are promising, she said.

Deaths may be trending up, Christ said, because of drug trafficking trends. Neither Christ nor her spokesman was able to elaborate on this hypothesis in detail and said it is not “in our wheelhouse.”

The effort to stunt skyrocketing overdose deaths started in January 2018, when Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, then-speaker of the House, helped shepherd the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act, which passed unanimously within a week in a rare display of bipartisanship. The bill limited how doctors can prescribe opioids to new patients, expanded the availability of addiction treatment for the uninsured and added a Good Samaritan law encouraging people to call police during a suspected overdose without fear of prosecution.

It was a quick, however measured, response to an urgent problem that needed a solution, Mesnard said.

“Much of the bill was aimed at trying to prevent addiction from happening in the first place,” Mesnard said. “Even though it’s sort of early in trying to measure the things, that legislation, and I think part of the national discourse as well has led to greater hesitation by prescribers on these drugs, and I think that’s a good thing.”

J.D. Mesnard
J.D. Mesnard

Those efforts to curb new addiction have made a dent, but overdoses are still climbing and while the state can explain how, it can’t definitively explain why.

In 2018, there were 3,433 confirmed overdoses, according to DHS data. Last year, there were 3,668.

The number of people dying from opioid overdoses has also increased, from 959 in 2017, to 1,167 in 2018 – numbers for 2019 are still being verified, according to DHS, and are expected to be released in June. That increase is far from the Department of Health Service’s goal and it’s sobering.

Those trends are one of several interconnected problems fueling this problem, problems that Christ said have been piling up for decades and will take much longer than two years to solve.

Haley Coles
Haley Coles

In order to better tackle the issue, the department has since collected data and displayed it publicly, charting and mapping the total opioid-related overdoses. But people in the addiction and recovery arena like Haley Coles, executive director of Sonoran Prevention works, said DHS data, however helpful, is somewhat limited.

“They only focus on opioids and we know that it’s not just opioids that are killing people anymore,” Coles said. “There always have been people who die from heart attacks and over ramping from stimulants and we know that that’s increasing nationally.”

The map displayed by the department, Coles said, doesn’t tell the whole story because it displays county totals, not rates. If rates were displayed, it would better highlight the disparity of rural or smaller counties with less access to treatment face.

“It’s not useful to tell us that there are more people dying of opioid overdoses in Maricopa than other counties – of course they are,” Coles said. “I think that a lot of misinformed people look at that data and make meaning of it when there really isn’t enough meaning from it.”

Coles also said the state’s approach of curbing new addiction and its hyper-focus on opioids through prescription procedural changes in particular reduced the number of opioid prescriptions, but it’s only pushing people to other cheaper, easier drugs to get, like Fentanyl. This approach, Coles said, is misguided and just shows how out of touch the state is.

While Coles applauded the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System grant program, which funds addiction treatment for the underinsured and uninsured, more needs to be done to earn the trust of people who still haven’t asked for help. If addiction isn’t treated in a more people-centric way and if public perception doesn’t change, Coles said, the problem could get worse.

One step in the right direction, Coles said, would be to allow cities, towns, counties or any nongovernmental organization to run overdose and disease prevention programs that allow addicts to access clean needles and better educate them — which are currently illegal.

Tony Rivero
Tony Rivero

Coles and others are working with Rep. Tony Rivero, R-Phoenix, to push HB 2608, which would do just that. This is the third year Rivero has pushed for the bill, and he said it was something he and most Democrats wanted included in Ducey’s opioid bill.

Ignorance on the issue of addiction and what fuels it, Rivero said, is what’s kept his bill from getting to the House floor. Perception from lawmakers on these programs, mostly skeptical Republicans, Rivero said, “hasn’t changed completely.” 

This approach shouldn’t be controversial, Rivero said, as a similar program was implemented under then-Republican Governor of Indiana Mike Pence and lauded by his surgeon general and now U.S. Surgeon General Gerome Adams.

These programs are proven to be effective in earning trust of people whose disease has been criminalized, Rivero said. Without trust, the problem may only worsen or plateau at best.

“The goal here is to have access for these individuals to have access to clean needles, but during that process, the nonprofit’s who are going to be overseeing these programs will be engaging these individuals and pushing them in the direction of rehabilitation,” Rivero said. “My goal here is to save costs for taxpayers and in order to decrease the spreading of HIV and Hepatitis B.”

But no matter how much money the state throws at this problem, Mesnard said, there are conflicting federal limitations that make solving it difficult. But above that, he said, seeking recovery is a personal choice, getting addicted isn’t.

There’s only so much the government can do. The opioid bill, Mesnard said, largely aimed to fix the influx of addicts, to help stop people from getting addicted in the first place.

While there was focus, and money spent, on helping those already addicted, there are so many variables in that, including personal choice and mental state, that solving that completely is nearly impossible — and the numbers show that, for now.

“There’s no way always to prevent every conceivable situation, and very few people grow up and think I want to be a drug addict,” Mesnard said. “There’s plenty that we can’t do, the law that we pushed, was always going to be imperfect, but we gave it our best shot.”

Push to legalize needle exchanges in Arizona gets new life


Following strong support in the Legislature last year for legalizing needle exchanges, a Republican lawmaker is trying again to allow drug users to legally trade in their used needles.

Legalized needle exchanges allow drug users to trade in dirty or used needles for clean needles without fear of retribution from law enforcement.

Needle exchanges were formed, in part, to prevent addicts from sharing needles and perpetuating the spread of diseases like HIV and forms of Hepatitis.

Rep. Tony Rivero introduced a striker amendment to HB2718 this week to allow local governments or nongovernmental agencies in Arizona to form needle exchanges in order to reduce the spread of disease, reduce instances of law enforcement officers being stuck with used needles and to have another avenue to drug users with present treatment options.

Current Arizona law expressly prohibits needle-exchange efforts because syringes are classified as drug paraphernalia.

The Peoria Republican initially introduced HB2148 to legalize needle exchanges, but was forced to turn to an alternative plan when his bill stalled in the House Health and Human Services Committee when its chairwoman Rep. Nancy Barto declined to give the bill a hearing.

Rivero introduced a similar bill last year, which passed the House unanimously, but failed to gain traction in the Senate. In order to push the bill further this year, Rivero said he’s doing more educational outreach with lawmakers and trying to show the diverse group of people who support the measure.

Similar to last year’s bill, needle exchange programs under Rivero’s striker amendment would provide drug users with access to mental-health treatment and to naloxone, which can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose. A needle exchange center could also offer drug overdose prevention education.   

Ultimately, Rivero is trying to get across the point that needle exchanges are not a new idea. Other states have tested them out with proven results, he said. “There’s history and credibility behind this and there’s data. This is not an experiment we’re going to try here in the state of Arizona,” he said.


As an example, Rivero cited Indiana, which allowed for needle exchange programs after the state declared a public health crisis, under former Gov. Mike Pence.

At least 29 other states have enacted laws authorizing public health organizations to distribute clean needles and syringes, according to Pew.

Needle exchange programs, which first came about as part of the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, are growing in popularity as the opioid epidemic sweeps across the country — with increasing numbers of drug users turning to heroin when they can’t get or afford prescription pain pills.

Rivero’s striker will be heard at 2 p.m. Wednesday in House State and International Affairs Committee..


Trump lashes out at long, predictable list of foes in Phoenix rally

Anti-Trump protesters chant behind a barricade across the Phoenix Convention Center, where President Donald Trump is holding a rally, on August 22, 2017. (Ellen O'Brien, Arizona Capitol Times)
Anti-Trump protesters chant behind a barricade across the Phoenix Convention Center, where President Donald Trump is holding a rally, on August 22, 2017. (Ellen O’Brien, Arizona Capitol Times)

President Donald Trump disparaged the media, Democrats, Americans who want Confederate monuments taken down, “weak leaders,” his White House predecessor and a long list of other opponents at a rally in Phoenix tonight.

Trump always found large, energetic audiences when he campaigned in Arizona, and his supporters inside the Phoenix Convention Center tonight were no different.

Outside, protesters spoke out against Trump’s policies and a potential pardon of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which the president hinted is coming. Phoenix Police used tear gas to disperse protesters after the rally ended.

In a wide-ranging speech, Trump keyed in on several issues affecting Arizona. Here’s what you need to know about how his visit intersected with state politics:

**Arpaio pardon coming?**

Much of the speculation about today’s rally centered on a pardon for Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt of court for defying a court order related to his anti-immigrant policies.

Trump didn’t pardon Arpaio tonight, but hinted a pardon is coming soon.

In this Jan. 26, 2016, photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is joined by Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio at a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
In this Jan. 26, 2016, photo, then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is joined by then Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio at a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

“Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?” Trump asked the crowd, who responded with sustained cheering.

Trump said Arpaio was convicted for doing his job, and he should have been tried by a jury, something Arpaio’s lawyers also argued for.

“I’ll make a prediction,” Trump said. “I think he’s going to be just fine.”

But Trump said he didn’t want to pardon Arpaio tonight because he didn’t want to cause any controversy.

**McCain and Flake**

Though the president never mentioned either of Arizona’s U.S. senators by name, he went after them. He said aides had asked him not to name any names in his speech tonight, so he decided not to, which he called “very presidential.”

Trump repeatedly said the country was “just one vote away” from repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, a clear swipe at Sen. John McCain, who was the deciding vote against a “skinny repeal” plan a few weeks ago and whose opposition halted the repeal-and-replace effort for now.

Trump urged Arizonans to “speak to your senator,” meaning McCain, about health care. Trump also said he would repeal Obamacare even if he has to shut down the federal government.

He didn’t say Sen. Jeff Flake’s name either, but noted that Arizona’s other senator was “weak on borders,” eliciting boos from the crowd.

Plus, Trump added about Flake, “nobody knows who the hell he is.”

**No endorsement**

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., left and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Tom Tingle)
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., left and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Tom Tingle)

Despite his digs at Flake, Trump didn’t endorse or even mention anyone who is or could run against the incumbent in a Republican primary.

Some had speculated that a Trump tweet from last week praising Kelli Ward, the former state senator who is running against Flake, could mean a presidential endorsement today.

People entering the Phoenix Convention Center said they weren’t allowed to bring in Ward signs or wear Ward shirts, though some people standing in line had Ward campaign paraphernalia.

One man recounted how he had to borrow a shirt from a random person in line after he wasn’t allowed in because he wore a Ward t-shirt.

Former Arizona GOP chairman Robert Graham and Arizona Treasurer Jeff DeWit have been floated as potential Flake opponents who Trump could back, but they, too, remained unmentioned tonight.

**Where was Ducey?**

Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell, Arizona Capitol Times)
Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell, Arizona Capitol Times)

Gov. Doug Ducey met Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport this afternoon, but he did not attend the rally.

Instead, Ducey spent the evening at the Emergency Operations Center, where state law enforcers worked to keep the downtown area safe for the large, tense event.

During the rally, Trump said he thought it was a good idea that Ducey decided to spend his time on security, though, the president joked, not that many protesters had shown up anyway. (Many protesters showed up and later clashed with the police.)

Trump said Ducey was a “hell of a governor.”


Arizona’s business and political leaders have for months emphasized how the North American Free Trade Agreement positively affects the state’s economy. But their efforts may not have worked, at least with the president.

Trump said the United States has been “badly taken advantage of,” largely by Mexico, through NAFTA, and he would “probably end up terminating” the trade deal. (Actually, negotiators from Canada, U.S. and Mexico this month began sifting through the decades-old trade deal.)

Trump told the crowd he had promised them from the beginning that NAFTA would be renegotiated or terminated.

“I personally don’t think you can make a deal without terminating it, but we’ll see. You’re in good hands,” he said.

**Arizona regulars**

As was the case during Trump’s campaign rallies, DeWit, who was also the chief operating officer of Trump’s campaign, kicked off tonight’s rally.

Arizona Treasurer Jeff DeWit

DeWit highlighted the stock market’s rise and new jobs added, and said Obamacare will hopefully be done for soon if Congress gets its act together.

“We elected our president to go and drain the swamp, and drain the swamp he’s doing,” DeWit said.

Trump also acknowledged and thanked Republican Reps. Andy Biggs, Trent Franks and Paul Gosar, who attended the rally tonight.

Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva, meanwhile, led a peaceful anti-Trump protest in Phoenix before the rally began.

Once Trump took the stage, he praised Arizonans, saying they were “hardworking, American patriots,” and said the state has been on his side since he held his first rally here.

“You were there from the start, you’ve been there ever since, and I will never forget. Believe me, Arizona, I will never forget,” Trump said.

Vice President Pence arrives in Phoenix to tout tax reform

Vice President Mike Pence has arrived in Arizona to tout the administration’s tax overhaul plan and attend a political reception.

The Republican landed in Phoenix Tuesday afternoon and was met by Gov. Doug Ducey. He’ll join Ducey and local business and community leaders for a discussion on the need for tax reform.

Pence plans to attend a political reception in the evening and spend the night before leaving the state Wednesday morning.

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Ward pleas to Alito to step into election dispute

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The head of the Arizona Republican Party is making a last-minute plea to a member of the U.S. Supreme Court to give her the ruling she wants that could keep President Trump in the White House for another four years.

“We are asking that our case go straight to the justice in charge of the Fifth Circuit,” Kelli Ward said on Monday in a Twitter post to followers. She figures that going directly to Justice Samuel Alito and asking him to immediately bar Vice President Mike Pence from following the procedures in the federal Electoral Count Act might get her the legal relief she wants, relief that both a trial judge and the Fifth Circuit refused to provide.

What going to Alito also could do is speed up the process, something crucial for Ward and her allies as Congress meets Wednesday, with Pence presiding, to count the electoral votes.

Ward contends the Electoral Count Act does not comply with the U.S. Constitution. So she wants Alito to order Pence to follow a different process, one where Trump would have an edge.

“That gets away from us having to file and wait for all nine justices to weigh in,” Ward said. “And it really expedites the process.”

But whether Alito is willing to act on his own and void the Electoral Count Act is questionable at best.

In fact, the full Supreme Court has turned away various prior challenges to the result of the November election. And the justices have refused to expedite two other cases on their docket, both involving Ward.

All this comes two days after the Fifth Circuit ruled that Ward, the other 10 would-be Arizona Republican electors and Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas lack legal standing to challenge that federal law.

Dr. Kelli Ward, chairperson of the Republican Party of Arizona, speaks to a gathering inside the Yuma GOP Headquarters, Monday Aug. 17, 2020, before introducing U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar. (Randy Hoeft/Yuma Sun via AP)
Dr. Kelli Ward, chairperson of the Republican Party of Arizona, speaks to a gathering inside the Yuma GOP Headquarters, Monday Aug. 17, 2020, before introducing U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar. (Randy Hoeft/Yuma Sun via AP)

“That’s unfortunate,” Ward said.

The judges, all appointed to the appellate bench by Republican presidents — including one tapped three years ago by President Trump — declined to say who, if anyone, might actually have standing to challenge the 1887 law that governs how Congress is required to deal with the electoral votes and a move by any federal lawmakers to contest the votes of any state.

Absent intervention now by Alito or the full the U.S. Supreme Court, that clears the way for Congress to meet on Wednesday to count the electoral votes which, according to results already certified by the states and upheld by various state and federal courts, would make Democrat Joe Biden is the next president, with 306 electoral votes — including 11 from Arizona — against 232 for the incumbent.

In the meantime Trump supporters in Congress are going ahead proceeding with their plans on Wednesday to challenge the results in several states that were won by Biden

In a press release Saturday, several lawmakers said they will vote on Wednesday to reject electors from what they say are “disputed states” until there is an electoral commission “with full investigatory and fact-finding authority” to conduct an emergency 10-day audit of the election result in those states. They said the results would be turned over to individual states to evaluate the commission’s finding, a move that they said would allow lawmakers in those states to “convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed.”

All that, however, appears to depend on the Gohmert, Ward and the other 10 would-be Republican electors form Arizona getting Alito or the full Supreme Court to change the procedures for Wednesday’s count.

The U.S. Constitution puts Pence, as presiding officer of the Senate, in charge of what is normally a routine process. But the plan of some GOP members of Congress to object changes all that.

That’s where the lawsuit comes in.

If there is an objection, under the Electoral Count Act, both the House and Senate vote separately on whether each state’s disputed votes should be counted.

If the two chambers disagree, however, then the votes of the electors whose appointments have been certified by the governor of each state are the ones counted, just as already has been done in Arizona by Gov. Doug Ducey. That would be give the election to Biden.

Ward, however, argues the U.S. Constitution requires a process in which each state gets just one vote on such disputes, regardless of the number of members of Congress. The plea to Alito seeks to require Pence to follow that procedures.

That’s crucial.

Following the Electoral Count Act likely means insufficient votes to reject the electors. By contrast, Ward has admitted that the procedure she wants — the one vote per state — would give the edge to Trump, as there are more state delegations where Republicans outnumber Democrats.

While Pence, through his attorneys, fought the lawsuit against him, that doesn’t mean he is hostile to what Republican supporters of the president are trying to do.

“Vice President Pence shares the concerns of millions of Americans about voter fraud and irregularities in the last election,” his chief of staff, Marc Short, said in a statement Saturday. “The vice president welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring evidence before the Congress and the American people on January 6th.”

That comes despite the fact that audits conducted in the disputed states have so far failed to show any level of fraud or misconduct that would alter the outcome of elections. And Trump, his attorneys and his allies, including Ward in separate litigation, have failed more than four dozen times to convince state and federal courts there is any reason to reject the outcome of the vote.