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'Stop the counting': Records show Trump and allies pressured top Maricopa County officials over election results

Voicemails and text messages to GOP county supervisors reveal behind-the-scenes campaign. There's also insight into Karen Fann's thinking while this was going on.

PHOENIX — The day after President Donald Trump pressured Georgia's top elections official to "find 11,780 votes" to overturn Trump's defeat in the presidential election, the White House placed a late-night call to one of the key officials overseeing Maricopa County's election, where Trump had also suffered a narrow but historic loss.

It was Trump's second call in four days to the Maricopa County Board's then-chairman, Clint Hickman. The board runs county elections.

Hickman was aware of Trump's Georgia call.

"Absolutely," Hickman told 12 News. "I had listened to the transcript, I was watching the national news."

Hickman, a Republican and Trump voter who represents one of the reddest areas of the county, never returned the president's calls.

"It was just something I'll never forget," Hickman said. "Being that I felt battle-hardened, I felt this was the right way to go."

Those two Trump calls were the culmination of an intense pressure campaign by Trump and his allies to halt or reverse the county election results, according to voice mails and text messages for Maricopa County supervisors that were obtained by 12 News under a public records request.

The Arizona Republic was the first outlet to report the story.

Trump was the first Republican presidential nominee in 72 years to lose Maricopa County, the largest county in Arizona. Democrat Joe Biden's victory here helped put him in the White House. 

Biden won Arizona by 10,500 votes. His victory margin in Maricopa County was 45,000 votes. 

Watch the full story:

'No Way I Was Going To Tape President'

Hickman received calls from the White House operator on New Year's Eve and late on the evening of Jan. 3. 

Jan. 3 was just three days before Congress was scheduled to certify the election results.

Here's the Jan. 3 message:

"Hello sir, this is the White House operator. I was calling to let you know that the president is available to take your call if you are free? If you could please give us a callback sir, that would be great. You have a good evening." 

With Trump's Georgia conversation still very fresh, Hickman said he was not "going to wade into that." 

"There was absolutely no way I was going to be involved in taping a president," Hickman said. 

Were Contacts With County Illegal?

The Georgia secretary of state taped his call with the president, with a lawyer by his side. Georgia prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into Trump's and his administration's contacts with local officials.

Arizona law bars any "interference" with or "corruption" of an election official. The crime is a felony offense.

The office of Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich, currently running for the U.S. Senate in 2022, has not responded to a request for comment.

In the legislative session that ended last week, Republican lawmakers stripped Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs of the power to enforce election laws and gave sole authority to Brnovich.

Ward: 'You Need to Stop Counting'

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward both pressed Trump's argument that there were problems with the vote and the GOP-controlled County Board should do something about it. 

Ward was the most aggressive advocate for Trump. 

Under her watch, the Arizona GOP has lost a U.S. Senate seat and the presidential election. 

"We need you to stop the counting," she texted Hickman just days after the election.

Ward bombarded Hickman with text messages as the ballots were being counted:

Days after the election: "Hand count before counts are complete is CRUCIAL. Our observers report they have not been able to see. (Hickman questioned what they couldn't see.) ... We need you to stop the counting."

On Nov. 17: "Here is Sidney Powell's number. Please call her." Powell is a former Trump lawyer who promotes falsehoods about the election.

On Nov. 20: "I know you don't want to be remembered as the guy who led the charge to certify a fraudulent election."

Ward left this voicemail for Hickman on Nov. 13, raising the prospect of a call from Trump:

"Hey, Clint. It's Kelli Ward. I just talked to President Trump and he would like me to talk to you and also see if he needs to give you a call to discuss what's happening on the ground in Maricopa. Give me a call back when you can."

Supervisor Bill Gates received the same treatment. Ward texted him baseless conspiracy theories about the county's ballot tabulators:

"From a team of fraud investigators: Our belief is the Dominion software strategically added democratic votes to these naturally strong Republican precincts."

In another text to Gates, also scolded the County Board: "Sounds like you and your fellow Repubs are throwing in the towel. Very sad. And unAmerican."

Ward tweeted a two-letter response: BS

RELATED: Maricopa County will replace election equipment inspected by auditors

Listen to the voicemails below. 

Giuliani Called 4 GOP Board Members

Giuliani made calls to the four Republican supervisors on the five-member Maricopa County Board - Hickman, Gates, Steve Chucri and Jack Sellers. 

The former New York mayor led a Nov. 30 "hearing" in Phoenix featuring the leading promoters of baseless conspiracy theories. 

At the time, Republic state and federal lawmakers from Arizona were calling for the results to be tossed out. 

Giuliani left this voice mail for Hickman on Dec. 4, when it appeared there might be an outside audit of the election results:

"Hey Clint, it's Rudy Giuliani. I was very, uh, happy to see that there's gonna be a forensic audit of the machines. And I really wanted to talk to you about it a bit. The president wanted me to give you a call. Alright? Thank you. Give me a callback, I'd really appreciate it. Thank you."

After a protracted court fight, Arizona Senate Republicans started their partisan audit in late April.

When Giuliani called Supervisor Gates three weeks later, on Christmas Eve, he told Gates: "Maybe we can get this thing fixed up":

“Bill, it's Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's lawyer. If you get a chance, would you please give me a call. I have a few things I'd like to talk over with you. Maybe we can get this thing fixed up. You know, I really think it's a shame that Republicans sort of are both in this kind of situation. And I think there may be a nice way to resolve this for everybody. So give me a call, Bill, anytime at  this number."

According to the Arizona Republic, Supervisor Chucri was the only County Board member who had any follow-up contact with Giuliani.

RELATED: Maricopa County will replace election equipment inspected by auditors

'Understand the Stress Level'

The pressure campaign started just days after the Nov. 3 election and ended three days before the Jan. 6 insurrection, when members of Congress tried to throw out the Arizona election results.

On Nov. 30, Trump placed a call to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey while Ducey was certifying Biden's election victory. Ducey said Trump didn't ask him to overturn the election when they spoke later.

Trump's campaign was pressuring the County Board as board members were receiving death threats from Republican voters.

"I just hope people read through it and understand the stress level we were under," Hickman said of the voicemails and dozens of text messages.

County supervisors provided the text messages and voicemails as required by a public records request.

Fann to Hickman: 'Love You Too :)'

The text messages also provide a window on Republican Senate President Karen Fann's state of mind while GOP state lawmakers were trying to throw out the Arizona vote.

Fann and Hickman engaged in a mutually sympathetic text exchange on the morning of Nov. 30, the day of Giuliani's Phoenix meeting with GOP lawmakers and election conspiracy promoters. 

The exchange began with a Fann question about the county's ballot-tabulating machines. Hickman then asks about the Giuliani hearing:

Hickman: "How bad am I and the Board getting beaten up? Starting to view this as a badge of honor. Easy answer for me now though when people ask "why don't good people run for office?" Bet you have an answer now too."

Fann: "LOL. You made me laugh. I’m actually getting the brunt of it now for not calling a special session and declaring the election void. And I’m not kidding about that." 

Hickman: "Ma’am you need to consider shredding the constitution as a way of protecting it."

Fann: "So right."

Hickman: "Hey, I appreciate being in the same pressure cooker with you!"

Fann: "Love you too" (with smile symbol).

Hickman, whose family owns the largest egg producer in the Southwest, responds with two emojis: a heart and a chicken.

Credit: 12News
Text messages obtained through a public records request show Senate President Karen Fann and then-Maricopa County Board Chairman Clint Hickman engaged in a mutually sympathetic exchange during Rudy Giuliani's Nov. 30 election meeting in Phoenix.

Fann also received calls from Giuliani and a personal call from Trump, according to public records released in June. 

Unlike Hickman, Fann bragged about them in an email to a constituent to show their support for her audit. 

"I have been in numerous conversations with Rudy Giuliani over the past weeks trying to get this done," Fann said Dec. 28, 2020, in response to an angry email from a self-described "Patriot voter."

Fann added, "I have the full support of him and a personal call from President Trump thanking us for pushing to prove any fraud."

Board Didn't Buckle

The County Board didn't buckle in upholding the election results.

After a court showdown between Fann and the Hickman-led County Board,Fann authorized Senate Republicans' "forensic audit" of the Maricopa County vote.

At one point, the Fann-led Senate voted on holding the County Board in contempt for not responding to a subpoena for election equipment and materials. The vote failed.

A judge gave Fann the go-ahead to perform an unprecedented partisan review of the 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County.

That review, which is led and funded by individuals who have promoted claims that the election was stolen from Trump, is now in its third month. 

Results are expected to be delivered to Senate Republicans by the end of August.

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