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In a phone call in late 2020, President Donald Trump tried to pressure Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) to overturn the state’s presidential election results, saying that if enough fraudulent votes could be found it would overcome Trump’s narrow loss in Arizona, according to three people familiar with the call. Wp Get the full experience. Choose your plan ArrowRight Trump also repeatedly asked Vice President Mike Pence to call Ducey and prod him to find the evidence to substantiate Trump’s claims of fraud, according to two of these people. Pence called Ducey several times to discuss the election, they said, though he did not follow Trump’s directions to pressure the governor.
The extent of Trump’s efforts to cajole Ducey into helping him stay in power has not before been reported, even as other efforts by Trump’s lawyer and allies to pressure Arizona officials have been made public. Ducey told reporters in December 2020 that he and Trump had spoken, but he declined to disclose the contents of the call then or in the more than two years since. Although he disagreed with Trump about the outcome of the election, Ducey has sought to avoid a public battle with Trump.
Ducey described the “pressure” he was under after Trump’s loss to a prominent Republican donor over a meal in Arizona earlier this year, according to the donor, who like others interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. The account was confirmed by others aware of the call. Ducey told the donor he was surprised that special counsel Jack Smith’s team had not inquired about his phone calls with Trump and Pence as part of the Justice Department’s investigation into the former president’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election, the donor said.
Ducey did not record the call, people familiar with the matter said.
Now out of public office, the former governor declined through a spokesman to answer specific questions about his interactions with Trump and his administration.
“This is neither new nor is it news to anyone following this issue the last two years,” spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said in a statement. “Governor Ducey defended the results of Arizona’s 2020 election, he certified the election, and he made it clear that the certification provided a trigger for credible complaints backed by evidence to be brought forward. None were ever brought forward. The Governor stands by his action to certify the election and considers the issue to be in the rear view mirror.”
A spokesman for Trump declined to respond to questions about the call with Ducey and instead falsely declared in a statement that “the 2020 Presidential election was rigged and stolen.” The spokesman said Trump should be credited for “doing the right thing — working to make sure that all the fraud was investigated and dealt with.”
A large number of declared and potential GOP presidential candidates were in Iowa this weekend, where voters are debating who best could top President Biden. (Video: Rich Matthews/The Washington Post)
It is unclear if Ducey has been contacted by Smith’s office since meeting with the donor. Investigators in the special counsel’s office have asked witnesses about Trump’s calls with governors, including the one to Ducey, according to two people familiar with the matter. It is unclear if prosecutors plan to eventually bring charges or how the calls figure into their investigation. Prosecutors have also shown interest in Trump’s efforts to conscript Pence into helping him, according to witnesses and subpoenas previously reviewed by The Washington Post.
Trump phoned the governor’s cellphone on Nov. 30, 2020, as Ducey was in the middle of signing documents certifying President Biden’s win in the state during a live-streamed video ceremony. Trump’s outreach was immediately clear to those watching. They heard “Hail to the Chief” play on the governor’s ringtone. Ducey pulled his phone from out of his suit jacket, muted the incoming call and put his phone aside. On Dec. 2, he told reporters he spoke to the president after the ceremony, but he declined to fully detail the nature of the conversation. Ducey said the president had “an inquisitive mind” but did not ask the governor to withhold his signature certifying the election results.
But four people familiar with the call said Trump spoke specifically about his shortfall of more than 10,000 votes in Arizona and then espoused a range of false claims that would show he overwhelmingly won the election in the state and encouraged Ducey to study them. At the time, Trump’s attorneys and allies spread false claims to explain his loss, including that voters who had died and noncitizens had cast ballots.
After Trump’s call to Ducey, Trump directed Pence, a former governor who had known Ducey for years, to frequently check in with the governor for any progress on uncovering claims of voting improprieties, according to two people with knowledge of the effort.
Pence was expected to report back his findings and was peppered with conspiracy theories from Trump and his team, the person said. Pence did not pressure Ducey, but told him to please call if he found anything because Trump was looking for evidence, according to those familiar with the calls.
A representative for Pence declined to comment.
In each of the calls, Ducey reiterated that officials in the state had searched for alleged widespread illegal activity and followed up on every lead but had not discovered anything that would have changed the outcome of the election results, according to Ducey’s recounting to the donor.
After learning that Ducey was not being supportive of his claims, Trump grew angry and publicly attacked him.
It is unclear if Ducey and Trump had additional conversations. Publicly, the governor said the state’s election systems should be trusted, even as Trump and his allies sought to reverse his loss.
In Arizona, Trump and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, called then Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers (R) on Nov. 22, 2020. They asked the speaker to convene the legislature to investigate their unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, which included that votes had been cast en masse by undocumented immigrants and in the names of deceased people. Weeks later, on Dec. 31, 2020 the White House switchboard left a message for the chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, Clint Hickman, seeking to connect him with Trump. The supervisor, a Republican, did not return the call.
Trump and his allies made similar appeals to officials in Michigan and Georgia. On Jan. 2, 2021, Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) and said he wanted to undo his loss there by finding additional votes. The next night, the White House switchboard left Hickman another voice mail seeking to connect him to Trump. Hickman did not call back.
Investigators with Smith’s office interviewed Raffensperger this week, and they interviewed Giuliani last week. “The appearance was entirely voluntary and conducted in a professional manner,” said Giuliani spokesman Ted Goodman.
More than half a dozen past and current officials in Arizona contacted by Trump or his allies after his defeat have either been interviewed by Smith’s team or have received grand jury subpoenas seeking records, according to four people familiar with the interviews. Those interviewed include Bowers, the former Arizona House speaker, and three current members of the governing board of Maricopa County, the largest voting jurisdiction in the state that affirmed that Biden won.
Spokespeople for Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) and Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes (D), told The Post this week that their offices have not received correspondence from Smith’s team seeking records about the 2020 election. The Arizona Secretary of State’s office received a grand jury subpoena dated Nov. 22, 2022, that sought information about communications with Trump, his campaign and his representatives, according to an official familiar with the document but not authorized to publicly speak about it.
During his time as governor, Ducey navigated a hot-and-cold relationship with Trump. Ducey, who struck a more conventional approach to governing, was slow to embrace Trump during his first bid for the White House. The two men warmed to each other, and amid the pandemic and Trump’s second bid for the White House, Ducey campaigned for him.
But after Ducey certified Arizona’s election results, affirming the wins of Biden and other Democrats, Trump ridiculed him on social media: “Why is he rushing to put a Democrat in office, especially when so many horrible things concerning voter fraud are being revealed at the hearing going on right now … What is going on with @dougducey?”
That same day, allies of the president gathered in Phoenix to air unproven claims of widespread fraud and claim that state lawmakers could reject the will of voters. Giuliani attended the event, along with Republican lawmakers and activists; Trump dialed in.
The president invoked Ducey repeatedly in the days that followed, according to an archive of his tweets. On Dec. 3, Trump asked if “allowing a strong check of ballots” in Arizona would “be easier on him and the great State of Arizona.” On Dec. 5, Trump wrote that Ducey and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) “fight harder against us than do the Radical Left Dems.”
A week later, Trump attacked the men again, asking “Who is a worse governor?” He labeled them “RINO Republicans” and baselessly claimed that “They allowed states that I won easily to be stolen.”
Ducey, long eyed by national Republicans as a formidable candidate for the U.S. Senate, passed on a 2024 bid after his standing with the Trump base cratered after Trump’s attacks. After leaving office in January, he was a fellow at the Sine Institute of Policy & Politics at American University, where he spoke about the policies he enacted while in office. Earlier this month, Ducey announced that he is leading a free-enterprise focused political action committee, Citizens for Free Enterprise.
Jacqueline Alemany contributed to this report.