ELECTIONS

Cyber Ninjas' emails touch on irony, deceit, challenge coins

Maricopa County ballots from the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors hired by the Arizona senate, June 23, 2021, at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Phoenix, Arizona.

A "journalist" who raised money for the Arizona Senate's election review tried to muzzle the media.

A fake elector from Pennsylvania ran the floor where ballots were being counted inside Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

An announcement partly crafted by Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan sought to trick supporters of an election conspiracy theorist.

These facts — along with encrypted communications, the planned purchase of challenge coins and a meeting at a swanky Philadelphia restaurant — were all part of efforts to "audit" 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County's 2020 election.

Newly released documents reveal a tangle of partisanship, irony and deceit involving the people hired by the Senate to lead the election review, indicating it was anything but impartial.

The emails were released by Logan, whose company was hired by the Senate as its lead audit contractor and who has fought for months to prevent the records from being made public. 

Cyber Ninjas and its subcontractors were paid millions by nonprofits set up by Trump allies and prominent figures in the “Stop the Steal” movement. 

Logan in September confirmed the hand count showed Trump lost the election. But his reports to the Senate minimized the ballot counts and instead raised questions about the county's election process and voter integrity that were later repudiated by election officials.

Cyber Ninjas CEO and audit leader Doug Logan testifies at the Senate hearing on the progress of the election audit in Maricopa County at the Arizona Senate in Phoenix on July 15, 2021.

The Arizona Republic last year requested emails, text messages and all other communications from Cyber Ninjas and the Senate. When they refused, The Republic and a left-leaning watchdog group called American Oversight filed lawsuits alleging violations of the Arizona Pubic Records Law.

A judge in January ordered Logan to turn over all records and communications related to the audit and fined his company $50,000 a day until he complied. The fines now total more than $4 million.

The few hundred documents released so far are only a fraction of the 60,000 or so the company estimated at one time were in its possession.

Many of the emails are partial conversations, with perhaps two or three emails between people involved in the review, but not the entire conversation. Sometimes the partial information being provided creates more questions than answers about the proceedings last year.

The emails also make clear that Logan was using an encrypted app to communicate with key figures in the audit, making it likely that no records exist of those conversations. 

"I’m sorry I’m a bit slow with email," Logan said in an April 16, 2021, email just prior to the audit's launch. "Please feel free to hit me up on Signal with questions like this, as I’m monitoring that much closer than email right now."

Signal is an app that allows users to send scrambled messages that only the intended recipient can decipher. Users can delete messages as soon as they are sent with no fear of them being cached.

Logan's April 16 email went to right-wing Arizona activist and YouTube host Lyle Rapacki, who was put in charge of running background checks on ballot counters. 

Rapacki in emails to Logan raised concerns about leaks, moles, and attempts by Democrats to infiltrate the audit. He also flagged people whom he said should be monitored if they were allowed to participate.

More documents revealed:Cyber Ninjas let Arizona right-wing activist decide who counted 'audit' ballots, emails show

Reporter sought to silence journalists

A correspondent for the conservative One American News Network, which the Senate tapped to livestream the audit, came up with a novel approach to media coverage — prevent reporters from speaking about it.

Three days before the ballot count began on April 23, 2021, OANN host Christina Bobb shopped non-disclosure agreements to Logan, emails show.

"Hi Doug, I've attached a draft of the NDA you'll need to have the media sign," Bobb said in an April 20, 2021, email.

Bobb, a right-wing activist and ardent Trump supporter who regularly broadcast misinformation and bogus claims of election fraud, was no mere observer. She also helped bankroll the election review while reporting on it for the network. 

Other news organizations, including The Republic, had to bring in lawyers to negotiate access to the coliseum.

Logan concocted a plan to require reporters to commit to working 30 hours as volunteers if they wanted to view the proceedings, without allowing them to record what they saw.

Bobb, who is a lawyer and was an executive secretary in the Department of Homeland Security during the Trump administration, said in her email she modeled her draft NDA on one she signed when visiting a government facility. But she encouraged Logan to let her know if he wanted to add more.

"The government's NDA is a lot more complex, but I don't think all of those terms are needed," Bobb said. 

Bobb urged her OAN viewers to donate to Voices and Votes, a nonprofit she created to help pay for the election review in Arizona and in other states. Her organization supplied Cyber Ninjas with volunteers to run the audit, other emails show. 

Her efforts to overturn Arizona's election results in favor of former President Donald Trump began months before the audit.

Bobb organized speakers who complained about voting issues in a Nov. 30 meeting headed by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani in Phoenix.

She also served as a go-between for Giuliani and Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, who authorized the Senate's so-called audit and hired Cyber Ninjas. 

Bobb provided documents to Fann on behalf of Giuliani in December, when Fann was considering what to do about reviewing election results.

At what cost? Here's how much the Senate's review of the 2020 election has cost Arizona taxpayers

'Cowboy Hat Andy' a fake elector

One of the most prominent figures who worked at the election review was known to reporters covering the affair only as “Andy,” though his real name is Andre C. McCoy. He is a Pennsylvania man who was part of a failed fake elector scheme in that state.

Reporters who spent hours in the press box at Veterans Memorial Coliseum referred to him as “Cowboy Hat Andy” for his propensity to wear a Western hat indoors. He often paced the floor among observers and volunteers.

After the Senate began releasing documents last year, some reporters and observers closely following the documents pieced together his real name, which he refused to disclose while the election review was taking place.

Previous documents indicated he was working for Wake TSI, one of the contractors hired by Cyber Ninjas. An email released Wednesday from McCoy to Logan and Rapacki identifies him as an employee of Wheatley SPI, a security and “intelligence services” company near Philadelphia.

American Oversight, which also sued the Arizona Senate for records from the election review, recently linked McCoy among those who served as fake electors in a failed scheme to overturn the 2020 election results in Pennsylvania.

People in seven states, including Arizona and Pennsylvania, signed certificates falsely claiming Trump won their states. The National Archives and Congress ignored the fake certificates.

McCoy’s name was released earlier this year in connection with that scheme.

Logan misleads supporters

Conspiracy theorist Jovan Pulitzer is a galvanizing force among election fraud believers, who number in the thousands. 

But once the Senate nixed his direct involvement in the review, Logan sought to mollify Pulitzer's supporters by suggesting he was still going to be part of it, emails show.

Pulitzer is an ex-treasure hunter who claimed to have invented technology called “kinematic artifact detection,” that could identify fraudulent ballots.

In the run-up to the audit, Pulitzer encouraged a mass email campaign pushing Arizona lawmakers to hire him for the audit. Records show his efforts backfired.

"Jovan posting on Youtube and Twitter is not helping us with selecting an independent, unbiased auditing firm," Fann said in a February text to retired U.S. Army Colonel Phil Waldron, who worked with Giuliani to foment concerns of election fraud.

"He will not be working with our team," Waldron responded. "I think Jovan is incapable of 'discrete.'"

The latest email shows Pulitzer issued a sweeping statement in March about how his technology would be used in the election review, sparking concerns among other contractors.

"I am happy to confirm that #ScanTheBallots for #KinematicArtifact Detection is being used," Pulitzer said in a March 31 statement. "My intellectual property is assisting one of the most impressive and qualified auditing teams ever assembled."

Contractors sent a flurry of emails to Logan about where Pulitzer posted it, who authorized it and what they should publicly say about it. 

"We are not answering the phone or emails," Chris Witt of Wake TSI, a subcontractor for the audit wrote in a March 31 email. "However, if someone gets through, our standard answer is going to be 'We cannot comment on this.'"

Wake TSI’s Gene Kern replied: "Too bad Jovan did not get the message." 

Logan assuaged any fears, saying he worked with Pulitzer on the message,

"Jovan talked with me before making that one post," Logan said in a March 31 email. "We wanted to be sure his followers knew that he had been consulted. You’ll notice none of his wording said he’d be directly involved, just that his tech / process would be."

Contractor invites Pulitzer to Philly

Another email string reveals planning for a strategy meeting at a prestigious Philadelphia country club called the Union League — once again involving Pulitzer.

Kern on March 21, 2021, invited Pulitzer to the meeting with Logan. Kern wrote that it would help them “integrate approaches to provide a better outcome.”

The meeting was to be March 26, and while the emails indicate an assistant to Pulitzer was asking about which flight he should take, the emails provided so far do not indicate whether the meeting took place or whether Pulitzer attended.

Kern offered to pay for a room at the League for Pulitzer.

Among the policies for the club are that cellphones and similar devices are only allowed in the business center or private meeting rooms “except that the brief and discrete use of cell phones and PDAs are permitted but discouraged, in the Smoking Room, Business Café … and the main hallways.”

The email instructed Pulitzer to wear a dress jacket.

“We are looking forward to working with you and successfully accomplishing this task,” Kern wrote.

The email string shows Pulitzer wanted to know more about the process that would be used in the ballot review.

“Feel a bit like I am flying blind and really have no idea if the must-haves to do what I need to do and certify are there,” Pulitzer responded to Kern.

Challenge coins designed for 'audit'

This is a mock up of a challenge coin that a Florida company designed for Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, according to emails from the election review.

As the election review work was plodding along, far behind schedule, it appears Logan sought to have commemorative coins made for the event.

Emails released last week include a cost estimate of $13,400 from a company called Signature Coins in Orlando to produce 2,500 coins molded on one side with the words “Cyber Ninjas. In God We Trust. In Man We Validate.”

“Can we make the ninja a bit bigger?” Logan asked the vendor in a June 11 email that included a mock up of the coin, complete with a cartoonish ninja performing an aerial kick.

The invoice shows the coins cost about $5 each to produce and that Logan was seeking to pay an additional 35 cents each to get an antique brass finish.

It is unclear from the records released so far whether the coins were produced. A representative from Signature Coins could not immediately be reached.  

The coins were designed months before the bulk of Cyber Ninjas’ work would be complete and the company would present its findings Sept. 24.

The documents also show that in October, officials planned an "audit party" at Dream City Church in Glendale, which was immediately followed by an "audit rally" at the same location sponsored by Kari Lake, a candidate running for governor. That came in addition to an audit volunteer "reunion" at an Arizona cafe in September that Republican Senators Wendy Rogers and Sonny Borrelli attended, along with Logan.

In November, Cyber Ninjas produced a document that indicated the work on the audit cost about $2 million more than the company raised for the effort and that it still owed another approximately $2 million to subcontractors.

The challenge coins were not specified in the broad categories of expenses in that document.

Robert Anglen is an investigative reporter for The Republic. Reach him at robert.anglen@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-8694. Follow him on Twitter @robertanglen.

Reach reporter Ryan Randazzo at ryan.randazzo@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4331. Follow him on Twitter @UtilityReporter.