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An observer watches a contractor for Cyber Ninjas recount Arizona ballots from the 2020 general election. Photo: Courtney Pedroza/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is threatening to withhold millions in state funds from Maricopa County if it doesn't comply with the state Senate's partisan audit of the 2020 election, according to a new report sent to the County Board of Supervisors reviewed by Axios.

Why it matters: Nine months after Election Day, this represents an escalation of a fight by Donald Trump-aligned Republicans — in this case, backed by state laws involving taxpayer funds and the power of the Attorney General's office — to continue baselessly questioning the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

Between the lines: Brnovich is running for Sen. Mark Kelly's (D-Ariz.) seat next year. Keeping the audit alive could curry favor among some Republican voters ahead of a crowded primary.

  • "Election integrity and upholding the rule of law has been a priority for Attorney General Brnovich since he was elected in 2015," spokesperson Katie Conner told Axios.

Details: According to the letter, Brnovich is giving the county 30 days to turn over the latest subpoenaed information — including routers, which were requested by Republican state senators.

  • If the county "fails to resolve the violation within 30 days, the [Attorney General Office], in accordance with state law, will notify the Arizona Treasurer to withhold state revenue from Maricopa County until MCBOS complies," according to a press release.
  • The ability to withhold funds when a city or county is in violation of state law comes from an Arizona law passed in 2016. Up until now, there have been only two other violations of state law found. Both times, the municipalities ultimately complied so funding was not withheld.

Background: Maricopa County has fought baseless attempts to investigate the 2020 election in the state. There's no evidence of mass voter fraud in the state or anywhere else.

  • Board members already have been forced by courts to comply with earlier subpoenas for ballots and voting machines.
  • In May, the Republican-majority Board of Supervisors sent a letter calling out the auditors' lack of knowledge about elections, refusing to provide access to routers citing security concerns and urging for the audit to be called off. They wrote it had "become a spectacle that is harming all of us. Our state has become a laughingstock."
  • But the Arizona Senate's Republican President Karen Fan denied the request to end the audit. The Florida-based Cyber Ninjas, whose chief has supported baseless voter fraud claims, is conducting the recount. The audit was recently delayed again because of three auditors contracting COVID-19.
  • U.S. House Democrats have accused Cyber Ninjas of obstructing a congressional committee investigation.

Go deeper

Democratic Senators ask DOJ for info on threats to election workers

Attorney General Merrick Garland. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Twenty-one Democratic senators sent a letter on Monday asking the Justice Department for new information on threats to election workers.

Why it matters: The 2020 election led to an increase in threats against election workers prompting the department to launch a task force to ensure those who work on elections "be permitted to do their jobs free from threats and intimidation."

Updated 28 mins ago - World

Reports: Brazil leader to be accused of crimes against humanity over COVID

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Photo: Andressa Anholete/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Brazilian Senate panel will recommend President Jair Bolsonaro be charged with "crimes against humanity," alleging his COVID-19 pandemic response led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, per the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The latest: The lawmakers initially said Bolsonaro should be charged with mass homicide and genocide, but lawmakers updated the report to replace these with the new charge, its lead author, Sen. Renan Calheiros, told the NYT.

California governor declares drought emergency for entire state

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speakinng to reporters in Los Angeles in September. Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) extended a drought emergency declaration to cover the entire state on Tuesday.

Why it matters: "California is experiencing its worst drought since the late 1800s, as measured by both lack of precipitation and high temperatures," per a statement from the governor's office. This past August was the driest and hottest one on record, "and the water year that ended last month was the second driest on record," the statement added.

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