By Jane Mayer
August 2, 2021
Bill Gates, a Republican official in Arizona, is appalled by his party’s “national effort to delegitimize the election system.”Photograph by Stephen Ross Goldstein for The New Yorker,
t was tempting to dismiss the show unfolding inside the Dream City Church in Phoenix, Arizona, as an unintended comedy. One night in June, a few hundred people gathered for the première of “The Deep Rig,” a film financed by the multimillionaire founder of Overstock.com, Patrick Byrne, who is a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump. Styled as a documentary, the movie asserts that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen by supporters of Joe Biden, including by Antifa members who chatted about their sinister plot on a conference call. The evening’s program featured live appearances by Byrne and a local QAnon conspiracist, BabyQ, who claimed to be receiving messages from his future self. They were joined by the film’s director, who had previously made an exposé contending that the real perpetrators of 9/11 were space aliens.
But the event, for all its absurdities, had a dark surprise: “The Deep Rig” repeatedly quotes Doug Logan, the C.E.O. of Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based company that consults with clients on software security. In a voice-over, Logan warns, “If we don’t fix our election integrity now, we may no longer have a democracy.” He also suggests, without evidence, that members of the “deep state,” such as C.I.A. agents, have intentionally spread disinformation about the election. Although it wasn’t the first time that Logan had promoted what has come to be known as the Big Lie about the 2020 election—he had tweeted unsubstantiated claims that Trump had been victimized by voter fraud—the film offered stark confirmation of Logan’s entanglement in fringe conspiracies. Nevertheless, the president of the Arizona State Senate, Karen Fann, has put Logan’s company in charge of a “forensic audit”—an ongoing review of the state’s 2020 Presidential vote. It’s an unprecedented undertaking, with potentially explosive consequences for American democracy.
Approximately 2.1 million Presidential votes were cast in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and accounts for most of the state’s population. In recent years, younger voters and people of color have turned the county’s electorate increasingly Democratic—a shift that helped Biden win the traditionally conservative state, by 10,457 votes. Since the election, the county has become a focus of ire for Trump and his supporters. By March, when Logan’s company was hired, the county had already undergone four election audits, all of which upheld the outcome. Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican and a former Trump ally, had certified Biden’s victory. But Trump’s core supporters were not assuaged.