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Arizona legislators, Trump lawyers plan Phoenix meeting on election

President Donald Trump talks to reporters at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, in Phoenix. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP)

PHOENIX — Arizona legislators and lawyers for President Donald Trump will hold a meeting at a downtown hotel on Monday to discuss the election as they continue to dispute his defeat earlier this month despite there being no evidence of widespread fraud.

The gathering may rally Trump supporters and provide counter-programming on the same morning Arizona’s secretary of state is scheduled to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state, but it is unclear how legislators could do much of anything about the outcome of the race.

While the Trump campaign andstateRepublican Party have filed election lawsuits in Maricopa County, they have not put forward evidence of fraud and judges have so far tossed out the cases.

Republic Gov. Doug Ducey said earlier this week that he trusts the state’s election system after he had held off acknowledging Biden had won the state, citing the court cases that were ongoing.

“I’ve said several times: Arizona is a good government state,” Ducey said Tuesday. “I trust our election system. There’s integrity in our election system. Joe Biden did win Arizona.”

Nevertheless, in announcing he would chair Monday’s meeting, Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, said his “worst fears have come to light” after “examining potential fraud pathways and illegal actions through which our 2020 election could have been tainted.”

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Not a legislative hearing

The meeting at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Phoenix is not a hearing of the Legislature as Finchem and Trump campaign’s legal team have cast it. 

The state Legislature is not in session. The speaker of the House of Representatives and the president of the Senate can call for committee meetings in between sessions but they have not authorized the event.

Finchem said he requested approval a few weeks ago for a meeting of the House Federal Relations Committee, which he chairs, but has not received authorization from House leadership.

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Tucson International Airport, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (Photo: Alex Brandon, AP)

“After a review of the statistical anomalies, and there are to numbers to count [sic], affidavits of improper actions and community outrage that has grown out of what appears to voters to be an attempt to throw the election through a number of fraudulent efforts, we decided as Members of the Legislature, and not as members of any specific committee, that we should move forward with a public hearing,” Finchem wrote in a press release.

Jenna Ellis, a lawyer for the president, wrote Friday that she would be present along with Rudy Giuliani, the most prominent figure in the Trump campaign’s legal efforts. But the invitation said the president’s legal team would be “present from DC,” suggesting at least some of the participants may appear via videoconference.

The event is scheduled to last from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. MST, with an hour-long break for lunch at noon. Attendance has been limited due to COVID-19 and tickets for the public were entirely booked as of Friday afternoon. Finchem’s press release said the event would be streamed online.

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Aim is to convene special legislative session, but what then?

A public invitation for the Phoenix event said the “goal will be to gather the evidence that justifies calling a special session to contemplate what happened and take immediate action accordingly.”

It remains unclear what legislators could do about the presidential election. It’s also unclear that they could convince Ducey to call a special session or somehow bring on board Democrats to muster the supermajority needed to call a special session without the governor’s approval.

The U.S. Constitution gives the Legislature the job of deciding how the state’s presidential electors will be chosen. But the Arizona Legislature has tasked voters with choosing those electors on Election Day.

A “faithless elector” provision in state law, and backed by Republicans, requires the electors to cast their votes for the presidential candidate who wins the most votes in the state.

Senate Republicans asked lawyers at the Legislature this month to issue an opinion on the issue. The response: The Legislature would have to change these laws to change how presidential electors are appointed.

Even then, the opinion said, the changes could not apply to this election because voters have already chosen the electors at the ballot box.

Follow Andrew Oxford on Twitter at @andrewboxford.

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