Republicans ostracized former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey because he refused to join then-President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn Arizona’s 2020 election results. Ducey’s realization that he couldn’t win a Republican primary with Trump disparaging him as a “Republican in name only” most likely led to his decision not to run for the Senate last year.
Even though we already knew that Trump had labeled Ducey disloyal, it is only because of recent reporting from The Washington Post that we know more about the extent of the pressure Trump reportedly put on to him to deny Joe Biden’s win.
In his apparent desire to keep the peace with Trump, Ducey kept details of the pressure campaign a secret and withheld information the American people deserved to know.
At around 11:20 p.m. ET on election night 2020, Fox News projected that Biden had won Arizona. Less than half an hour later, Ducey tweeted, “It’s far too early to call the election in Arizona.” It was a message the Trump campaign later mentioned in a news release when it claimed Trump was “on pace to win the state.”
But in the end, Trump was more than 10,000 votes short, and Ducey signed the election certification declaring Biden the winner that Nov. 30. As he signed the document, he silenced an incoming call to his cellphone — but not before the tune “Hail to the Chief” was heard playing.
Ducey kept details of the pressure campaign a secret and withheld information the American people deserved to know.
Two days later, Ducey confirmed that it was Trump who called as he’d certified the election. “The president has got an inquisitive mind,” he told The Associated Press of their conversation when he called Trump back later that evening. “And when he calls he’s always got a lot of questions, and I give him honest answers, direct feedback and my opinion when it’s necessary. And that’s all I’m going to say about it.”
And that is as much as Ducey has said — in public at least.
According to the Post, which cites an unnamed Republican donor who shared a meal with Ducey this year, the former governor told that donor that Trump had insisted in their November 2020 call that if enough “fraudulent votes” were discovered, Biden’s win could be reversed. The newspaper reported that two other people familiar with the call confirmed that that’s what Trump said. According to two of those three sources, Trump tapped then-Vice President Mike Pence to stay in touch with Ducey “and prod him to find the evidence to substantiate Trump’s claims of fraud,” the Post reported.
According to the Post, none of the sources claim Pence actually leaned on Ducey like Trump wanted him to. In an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” this week, Pence confirmed that he had called Ducey but said there was “no pressure involved.” Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Ducey told the Post the details of the call were “neither new nor is it news to anyone following this issue the last two years,” adding that Ducey “considers the issue to be in the rear-view mirror.”
But that deeply undersells the magnitude of what Ducey kept back.
Yes, we saw the very public attacks Trump launched against Ducey in the days and weeks after the certification. We also saw similar behavior toward officials in Georgia and other key states that Trump insisted he won. But Trump’s call suggesting that Georgia just find 11,000 more votes for him came over a month after Gov. Brian Kemp signed the state’s certification documents. The audio from that call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger made clear that the efforts to overturn the election were more serious and ongoing than many Republican officials had been willing to admit. Ducey should have come forward with what Trump had said to him as soon as that news first broke over two years ago.
Ducey’s reticence is hard to parse.
That he didn’t is a shame, especially given how his state became ground zero for many of the most dangerous election truthers. It’s an obsession that cost Arizona Republicans in last year’s midterms. Election deniers rose to the top of the Arizona GOP, only to lose races for governor, secretary of state and the Senate. Likewise, even as Karen Fann, the former Republican president of the Arizona Senate, wasted time and taxpayers’ money by spearheading the effort for an “audit” of the 2020 election, Ducey didn’t divulge what Trump had said to him.
It makes sense to me on an academic level that there can never be a truly definitive account of any major historic event. New discoveries are constantly being made in archives and archaeological sites around the globe that have the opportunity to fundamentally shift the way we view the past. In that light, it’s not surprising that new things are still being revealed about Trump’s post-2020 election machinations, even after years of investigations.
The difference here, though, is that the information Ducey was sitting on wasn’t lost to time. To our knowledge, it wasn’t even being withheld to be included in a forthcoming book, as we’ve seen with other bombshells from the Trump era. Ducey’s reticence is hard to parse. It didn’t serve his own political ambitions. It didn’t serve the interests of his party statewide, not when he could have used his voice to push back against the likes of failed gubernatorial candidate-slash-conspiracy theorist Kari Lake. In the end, I can think of only one person whose interests it did serve: Donald Trump — a man who most likely still can’t stand him.