President Donald J. Trump tried to call the Republican leader of Arizona’s most populous district twice last winter when the Trump campaign and its allies tried unsuccessfully to undo Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s narrow win in the state’s presidential contest . according to the Republican official and records from The Arizona Republic, a Phoenix newspaper.
But the leader, Clint Hickman, then chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said in an interview Friday that he put the calls – made in late December and early January – on voicemail and not returned them. “I told people, ‘Please don’t let the president call me,'” he said.
At the time, Mr. Hickman was being urged by the state’s Republican Party leader and Mr. Trump’s attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani to investigate allegations of fraud in the district election, which Mr. Biden had won by approximately 45,000 votes.
Liz Harrington, a spokeswoman for Mr Trump, said in a statement that “it is no surprise that Maricopa County’s electoral officials did not wish to investigate significant irregularities during the election,” although there was no evidence of widespread problems of choice in Arizona there. It did not directly address the calls allegedly made by Mr Trump. Two former campaign workers said they did not know about how to contact the Maricopa District official.
The Arizona Republic received the recordings of Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani’s phone calls following an inquiry under the Freedom of Information Act.
Mr. Hickman and the four other county overseers confirmed the election results and repeatedly called the vote free and fair. But the Republican-controlled state senate began its own review of all 2.1 million votes cast in the county, which has been heavily criticized by officials from both parties and is still ongoing.
The Arizona Republic reported that the calls came when Republican chairman of the state, Kelli Ward, tried to connect Hickman and other district officials with Mr Trump and his allies so they could discuss alleged irregularities in the district’s election.
Ms. Ward first told Mr. Hickman on November 13, the day after the Maricopa vote count sealed Mr. Biden’s victory in Arizona that the president would likely call him. But the first call didn’t come in until New Year’s Eve when Hickman said the White House operator called him while he was dining with his wife.
Mr Hickman said the operator left a voicemail message saying Mr Trump wanted to speak to him and asking him to call back. He did not do it.
Four nights later, the White House operator called Mr. Hickman again, he said. At that point, Mr. Hickman recalled, he had read a transcript of Mr. Trump’s call to Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia Secretary of State, whom Mr. Trump had pressured “to find more votes” to undo his defeat in the state .
“I saw what happened in Georgia and I was like, ‘I don’t want to be part of this madness and the only way I can get into it is to call the president back,'” Hickman said.
He sent the call to voicemail and did not return it as the county was in litigation over the election results at the time.
In November and December, Mr. Giuliani also called Mr. Hickman and the three other Republicans on the board, The Republic reported. That call to Mr. Hickman went to his voicemail, he said, and he didn’t return it.
Among those with whom he debated whether to return Mr Trump’s calls, Hickman said was Thomas Liddy, the Maricopa County’s chief litigation officer. Mr. Liddy is a son of G. Gordon Liddy, the key figure in the Watergate break-in.
“The story collides,” said Mr. Hickman. “It’s a small world.”
Annie Karni contributed to the coverage.