Media Falsely Reports Arizona Election Auditors ‘Walked Back’ Deleted Election Databases Claim

Recently, the team behind the audit of the Maricopa County 2020 election audit alleged that election-related databases had been deleted. Maricopa County officials denied this, prompting several fact-checks rating the claim as “false” after President Trump issued a statement that said, “The entire Database of Maricopa County in Arizona has been DELETED!”

Snopes, for example, rated Trump’s claim as false, citing Maricopa Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers response to the allegations detailed in a letter by Arizona Senate President Karen Fann from May 12, calling them “false and ill-informed.”

“After reviewing the letter with County election and IT experts, I can say the allegations are false and ill-informed,” Sellars said. “Moreover, the claim that our employees deleted election files and destroyed evidence is outrageous, completely baseless and beneath the dignity of the Arizona Senate. I demand an immediate retraction of any public statements made to the news media and spread via Twitter.”

Snopes says they obtained a May 17 technical memo that was prepared by the Maricopa County Elections Department—which, I should point, opposes the audit—responding to the allegations by Fann. “In it, the department explained that, roughly speaking, those who received the server in question, on behalf of the state senate investigators, appear to have erred when using software to reconstruct those directories.”

“This in turn created the mistaken impression that the underlying databases and files had been deleted, when in fact they were merely inaccessible because of those errors.”

Here’s where things get interesting. From Snopes:

On May 18, after this fact check was originally published, one of the investigators tasked by the Senate with conducting the audit admitted that he had access to all the databases in question. At a special hearing on the audit, Ben Cotton, founder of CyFIR, told Republican state senators “I have access to that data,” and “I have the information I need from the recovery efforts of the data.”

This prompted a lot of stories claiming the audit team had “walked back” the allegations of deleted databases. “Auditors hired by the Arizona state Senate backtracked Tuesday from claims that a key database had been deleted from Maricopa County’s elections servers,” claimed CNN.

But, Ben Cotton says his words are being taken out of context.

“My testimony on May 19th before the AZ Senate is being taken out of context by some media outlets,” Cotton said in a statement posted to Twitter. “To confirm: the ‘Databases’ directory on the EMS Primary Server WAS deleted containing the voting databases.”

“I was able to recover the deleted databases through forensic data recovery processes,” Cotton added. “We are performing data continuity checks to ensure that the recovered databases are usable.”

While the usual suspects in the liberal media tried to make it appear that Cotton had walked back the original claims that a database was deleted, clearly, he has not. One outlet that got it right was the Washington Times, which notes in their headline “Arizona election auditors say they recovered ‘deleted’ data.”

Ken Bennett, the former Arizona secretary of state and the Senate’s liaison to the audit, did say that that the audit team’s tweet revealing the deleted database “could have been worded differently” but he “thought it was correct that there was deleted files.”

“We didn’t say there was anything malicious. Maybe it was deleted because it was a duplicate of something that was elsewhere,” Bennett added.

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