KPNX contributed to this report.
In the November 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump by over 45,000 votes in Maricopa County, Arizona, which is the state’s largest county and typically a Republican stronghold.
On Sept. 24, Cyber Ninjas, the contractor hired by the Arizona Senate to review the ballots, released an executive summary of its findings. But online users were sharing a false version of the summary, claiming the report said the “election should not be certified, and the reported results are not reliable.” The report also claimed there were at least 10 “major issues” with the ballots.
A screenshot of the report with that text highlighted was viewed more than 95,000 times in one Telegram channel that has more than 100,000 subscribers. Exact text from the false report was also shared hundreds of times across Facebook, examples here and here.
Did the Executive Summary of the Maricopa County Forensic Election Audit say the “election should not be certified, and the reported results are not reliable”?
No, this was copied from a false version of the election summary. Cyber Ninjas, the contractor hired to review the ballots, confirmed a draft circulating online is fake.
The true election summary released by Cyber Ninjas did confirm that Joe Biden won the election in Maricopa County.
WHAT WE FOUND
“There is a false version of the Executive Summary of the Maricopa County Forensic Election Audit report that is circulating. This false version claims to be an earlier version of the Cyber Ninjas Executive Summary, but because of supposed threats from the Senate, it was not used. This is absolutely false,” a statement from Cyber Ninjas said.
The statement was sent to VERIFY from The Thomson Group, a public relations firm representing the Cyber Ninjas.
The statement links to a Scribd page containing the draft, which has since been deleted but archived, uploaded by a user named Jim Hoft. Hoft is the founder of conservative website Gateway Pundit, and an embed containing the draft was posted in this Gateway Pundit article (archived here). The article was still active as of Oct. 1, despite the Cyber Ninjas statement dated Sept. 28. VERIFY has not been able to confirm where the false document originated.
The true final executive summary and presentations were published to the official website of the Arizona State Senate Republican Caucus on Sept. 24.
The actual results did confirm Joe Biden won the election in Maricopa County. There is also no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
The false draft dated Sept. 24 says “the election should not be certified, and the reported results are not reliable.” The false copy also states there were at least 10 major issues identified.
“The exact origins to the Executive Summary found at the following Scribd link are unknown. But it was not written by Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, nor was it in any version that was ever sent or shown to the Senate for review. Specifically, this false version of the Executive Summary states, “the election should not be certified,” the statement from Cyber Ninjas said.
The statement continues: “That was not written by Cyber Ninjas. It is Cyber Ninjas’ perspective that whether an election should or should not be certified is to be determined by the legislature, and not auditors. The audit team’s job is to supply all the facts and findings surrounding the election and recommend legislative reforms.”
Leaked documents obtained by Phoenix station KPNX and sent to VERIFY show the original draft, dated Sept. 23, does not contain any of that language.
Tweets from the official account of Maricopa County also posted multiple times about the final report from Cyber Ninjas, and fact-checked some findings from the consulting agency.
The Maricopa County Elections Department issued a statement that in the coming weeks, the department will provide their own comprehensive technical report in response to the Cyber Ninjas audit.