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Chair of the Arizona GOP resigns amid leaked Kari Lake audio

‘This morning, I was determined to fight for my position. However, a few hours ago, I received an ultimatum from Lake’s team: resign today or face the release of a new, more damaging recording,’ said Jeff DeWit

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 25 January 2024 18:29 GMT
Related video: AZ GOP chair purportedly offers to pay Kari Lake to drop Senate bid

The chair of the Arizona Republican Party has resigned after audio leaked of him allegedly suggesting to Kari Lake to drop her US Senate bid for financial benefit.

Jeff Dewit, who served as Nasa’s chief financial officer before joining the Arizona Republican Party, has left his role of chair following pressure from Ms Lake, a former TV anchor and 2022 GOP Arizona gubernatorial nominee.

Ever since she lost the 2022 election, Ms Lake has rejected the results and claimed she was a victim of fraud, despite there being no evidence to support that notion. She has also supported former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of fraud regarding the 2020 presidential election.

Her fervent support for Mr Trump and his wing of the party proved divisive in Arizona, a state narrowly won by President Joe Biden in 2020, becoming the first Democrat to win the state on the presidential level since President Bill Clinton’s re-election in 1996.

Ms Lake is now running for the Republican nomination for senate in Arizona. Incumbent senator Kyrsten Sinema left the Democratic Party in December 2022 to become an independent. What appears to be a three-way race for the seat also looks set to include Democratic Rep Ruben Gallego.

Mr DeWit said he’s resigning following pressure from Ms Lake after published audio of a conversation in which he presented her with the financial incentives of staying out of the senate race.

He added that Ms Lake had threatened that she would publish “more damaging” audio if he didn’t leave his post on Wednesday.

Lake advisers Caroline Wren and Garrett Ventry said that Mr DeWit was making “false claims”, according to CNN.

“No one from the Kari Lake campaign threatened or blackmailed DeWit,” they said. “It is unfortunate that Dewit hasn’t recognized how unethical his behavior was and still hasn’t apologized to Arizona Republicans.”

Mr DeWit, who previously served as the Trump campaign’s chief operating officer, said that the conversation occurred at Ms Lake’s home about 10 months ago. She worked for his business at the time.

The Arizona GOP shared a statement from Mr DeWit on Wednesday, saying that he “was set up” by Ms Lake as she attempts to retain “control over the state party”.

“This morning, I was determined to fight for my position. However, a few hours ago, I received an ultimatum from Lake’s team: resign today or face the release of a new, more damaging recording,” he said.

“I am truly unsure of its contents, but considering our numerous past open conversations as friends, I have decided not to take the risk. I am resigning as Lake requested, in the hope that she will honor her commitment to cease her attacks, allowing me to return to the business sector — a field I find much more logical and prefer over politics.”

In the recording published on Tuesday, Mr DeWit tells Ms Lake that he had been asked by “very powerful people ... back east” if there were any companies that could place Ms Lake on their payroll to keep her out of the race, adding that he would want to see a “fresh face” in the Senate.

“Is there a number at which,” Mr DeWit starts to say in the recording.

“I can be bought? That’s what it’s about,” Ms Lake says as she interrupts.

“Not be bought,” he says. “You can take a pause for a couple of years. Then go right back to what you’re doing.”

“No,” she adds. “$10m, $20m, $30, no. $1bn, no. This is not about money, this is about our country.”

“The tape speaks for itself: The Arizona GOP Chairman Jeff DeWit attempted to bribe Kari Lake,” Ms Wren and Mr Ventry added. “Thankfully Kari is an extremely ethical person who rejected DeWit’s multiple attempts to offer her money and corporate board seats in exchange for Kari not running for public office. She will be an incredible senator for Arizonans.”

During a campaign event on Wednesday, Ms Lake called Mr DeWit’s actions “disgusting”, adding that he “did a horrible job” as state party chair.

She said that his resignation “came very late”, adding that she “didn’t see an apology to the people of Arizona. He tried to act like the behaviour you heard on that audio is normal communication amongst friends. It’s disgusting”.

“I think he did a horrible job, and he should have just apologized, resigned and apologized and said he’s going to work to do better,” she said.

Mr DeWit argued that what he told Ms Lake was “intended to offer perspective, not coercion”.

He said it was an “open, unguarded exchange between friends in the living room of her house”, adding that he told her to run for governor again in 2026 instead.

Ms Lake “has been on a mission to destroy me” since that conversation, he claimed. “The release of our conversation by Lake confirms a disturbing tendency to exploit private interactions for personal gain and increases concerns about her habit of secretly recording personal and private conversations. This is obviously a concern given how much interaction she has with high-profile people including President Trump.”

“I question how effective a United States Senator can be when they cannot be trusted to engage in private and confidential conversations,” he added.

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