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Trump told Arizona GOP Senate nominee ‘you’ll lose if you go soft’ on election fraud claims

<i>Rebecca Noble/Reuters</i><br/>
REUTERS
Rebecca Noble/Reuters

By Kyung Lah, Kate Sullivan and Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Former President Donald Trump took Blake Masters to task after the Arizona Republican Senate nominee said in a debate this month that he hadn’t seen evidence of election fraud in Arizona.

During a phone call between Trump and Masters captured in a Fox documentary at some point after the debate, the former President can be heard encouraging Masters to lean into his unfounded election fraud claims.

“If you want to get across the line, you’ve got to go stronger on that one thing. That was the one thing, a lot of complaints about it,” Trump told Masters before pointing to Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake as an example.

“Look at Kari. Kari’s winning with very little money. And if they say, ‘How is your family?’ she says the election was rigged and stolen. You’ll lose if you go soft. You’re going to lose that base,” Trump said.

“I’m not going soft,” Masters replied.

The call underscored how central election denial is to the GOP’s midterm efforts. Dozens of Republicans trying to be elected in 2022 as governor, state secretary of state or US senator have joined Trump in baselessly rejecting or questioning the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s victory in 2020, with some having attempted to overturn the 2020 results.

Such unfounded allegations of widespread election fraud inspired a slew of restrictive new voting laws and have led to growing safety concerns around elections.

While it’s unclear when the phone call occurred, Masters struck a far different tone on voter fraud during an appearance on Fox days after the October debate. When asked why claims of the 2020 election being stolen were removed from Masters’ website, he responded, “Well I still believe it, that’s for sure.”

He added later in the interview, “If we had a free and fair election, President Trump would be sitting in the Oval Office today.”

Blake appeared to build on that message Tuesday as he encouraged people to continue filming ballot drop boxes as voter intimidation allegations mount in the state.

“If you are planning on watching the drop boxes, hey, stay whatever the — is it 75 feet? Whatever it is, stay that distance away, don’t intimidate any voters, get your video camera out and record to make sure people aren’t ballot harvesting,” Masters said on “The Mike Broomhead Show” on KTAR News 92.3 FM.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office responded to a ballot drop box in Mesa, Arizona, Friday night because two armed individuals dressed in tactical gear were watching the drop box. Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone on Monday said the two armed individuals were not breaking the law, but condemned people trying to “passively intimidate others trying to just cast a vote.”

As of Monday, the Arizona Secretary of State’s office had sent six reports of potential voter intimidation near ballot drop boxes to law enforcement. The office has also referred a report of election worker harassment.

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