Former president Donald Trump appeared on a largely empty bandstand at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to assure a smattering of his adoring fans that Arizona was hard at work recounting votes to prove the 2020 election was a fraud.
Mr Trump’s appearance was a far cry from the days of his stadium rallies, but it did reveal that the former president is still utterly fixated on the results of the 2020 election, and still buys into his own lies about its legitimacy.
‘Let’s see what they find. I wouldn’t be surprised if they found thousands and thousands and thousands of votes,’ Mr Trump said in a video of his speech.
The former president then insinuated that similar recounts might take place in other states he lost, like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
In Maricopa County, Arizona – home to Phoenix – the state’s Republicans have launched a vote audit conducted by a group called Cyber Ninja.
The group has no history or experience dealing with ballots or elections. According to Forbes, the company’s owner, Doug Logan, helped to spread debunked and nonsensical conspiracy theories about voting software, including the idea that long-dead Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez had a hand in rigging the election against Mr Trump.
The audit is being recorded, but its organisers have very strict press restrictions, forcing reporters to huddle together far from where the actual workers and volunteers are reviewing the ballots.
Volunteers are inspecting the ballots with UV lights – which could potentially damage the paper – to search for “watermarks” that QAnon believers and other conspiracists in broader Trump-land claim the former president put on the ballots. The conspiracy theory alleges that Mr Trump watermarked legitimate ballots as a way to catch Democrats who were illegally inserting their own ballots into the election.
Why Mr Trump would use a method of catching voter fraud that could only be effective months after the election was over is not clear.
It is the potential for audits like the one in Arizona to degrade the public’s trust in the country’s electoral legitimacy that worries Republican Kim Wyman, who serves as the secretary of state in Washington state.
“I’m very concerned this has ramifications for every state in the country,” she told The Washington Post. “This is politicising an administrative process with no real structure or laws or rules in place to guide how it goes.”
She said that the continued efforts to challenge the 2020 elections set a dangerous precedent moving forward.
“Every time in the future the party in control loses, they will use some post-election administrative process to call it into question, and people will no longer have confidence that we have fair elections,” she said.
The recount’s corrosive effect on US democracy does not seem to cause Mr Trump any concern; according to reporting from Business Insider, the event in Maricopa County has become the former president’s latest obsession.
“He talks about it constantly,” a source told Insider.
The source also claimed that the former president was “fixated” on the recount, and asks about it several times a day.
In addition to discussing the recount, the former president also told supporters he was leaving Florida before the hottest temperatures of summer set in to live at his golf resort at Bedminster, New Jersey.
He said he would likely be back at Mar-a-Lago by October.