Kari Lake won’t defend her statements about Arizona election official

PHOENIX — Kari Lake, a Republican Senate candidate in Arizona who has amplified former president Donald Trump’s false claims about rigged elections, has decided not to defend statements she made about a top election official in the state’s largest county who sued her for defamation.

Attorneys for Lake, her 2022 campaign for governor and an affiliated nonprofit group on Tuesday asked a judge to begin the process of determining damages as part of a lawsuit brought by Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer (R), in his personal capacity. Attorneys not affiliated with the case say a judge must agree to the request.

Richer alleged in a lawsuit filed last year that Lake, her campaign and the group repeatedly and falsely accused him of causing Lake to lose the 2022 Arizona gubernatorial election, unleashing a barrage of threats against him and his family. Richer’s complaint sought to hold Lake and her allies accountable for her claims that Richer had “sabotaged the election to prevent Republican candidates, including Lake, from winning.”

Lake requested the judge set what is known as a default judgment hearing, which would essentially bypass the legal process for her to defend her comments. She instead wants the court to hold a hearing to determine whether damages are owed to Richer and, if so, the amount.

Richer has asked the court to award him damages, attorneys’ fees and a public acknowledgment that the statements about him were untrue. He also wants Lake and her allies to remove all false information about him from their social media accounts and websites.

Richer, 38, said in an interview that he and his family have suffered because of comments by Lake and her allies, who have millions of fans around the nation. In the past two months, he said federal officials have arrested two people for threatening him because of his role in the 2022 election.

“That was not a normal part of my life” before the election, he said.

The request came Tuesday as the case entered a discovery process, a behind-the-scenes phase where both sides exchange information — which can sometimes include emails, text messages and recordings — in preparation for trial.

“After months of doubling down and defending their lies across Arizona, in the media, and on social media, when push came to shove, the Defendants decided to completely back down and concede that their lies were just that: lies,” Richer said in a statement. “Because of their actions, my family and I have faced an endless barrage of threats — including calls for our execution — I have lost close personal relationships, and I have had my reputation irreparably damaged.”

Garrett Ventry, a senior adviser to Lake, responded: “Kari Lake maintains she has always been truthful.”

In a video posted on social media Tuesday, Lake echoed rhetoric employed by Trump and called the case against her a “political witch hunt.” She likened the defamation case to the lawsuits Trump is facing, saying those pursuing legal action “know they can’t beat either of us fair and square, so they hit us with lawsuits to keep us tied up and off the campaign trail” and to “try to stop me and bleed me dry.”

The political elite will do anything to hold onto power and STOP outsiders like me– they’ve resorted to filing a ludicrous defamation lawsuit to try to stop me and bleed me dry.

Taking part in this lawfare just legitimizes it

Instead, I will continue to focus on the issues…

— Kari Lake (@KariLake) March 26, 2024

Lake sought to characterize her request to move to the damages phase as a way to try to undercut the premise of Richer’s claims. Participating in the legal process, she said “would only serve to legitimize this perversion of our legal system.”

Lake said she is focused on her Senate race, where she is vying for her party’s nomination for a seat now held by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I).

Jared Davidson, an attorney at Protect Democracy, which is representing Richer, said Lake’s legal move demonstrates that “she has no defense — effectively admitting that she spread lies about Mr. Richer.”

Richer’s complaint focuses on accusations made by Lake at campaign rallies, in podcasts and on social media that Richer intentionally caused printers at polling places to jam on Election Day. The glitches caused temporary disruptions in tabulating the votes, but an independent review has found the problems were not pervasive and did not prevent people from voting.

Richer’s complaint claims that during a “Save Arizona” rally in January 2023, Lake “falsely and with actual malice” accused Richer of sabotaging the election by misprinting ballots. Lake added that Richer and Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates, also a Republican, “intentionally printed the wrong image on the ballot on Election Day so that those ballots would intentionally be spit out of the tabulators.”

“Well, these guys are really, really terrible at running elections, but I found out they’re really good at lying,” Lake said at the rally.

Vazquez reported from Washington.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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