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Arizona GOP chair resigns after Kari Lake bribery allegation, says she threatened him

In World
January 25, 2024

The chairman of the Arizona GOP resigned Wednesday after the release of an audiotape on which he offered Kari Lake, a top Trump ally and a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Arizona, lucrative job opportunities to take a two-year pause from politics.

“He’s got to resign. We can’t have someone who is corrupt and compromised running the Republican Party,” Lake told NBC News on Tuesday, referring to state chair Jeff DeWit.

DeWit posted a letter on X saying he was resigning “as Lake requested” — while also claiming her people had threatened to release another incriminating tape if he didn’t comply.

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

Lake advisers Caroline Wren and Garrett Ventry said in a statement on X that the “tape speaks for itself” and that “No one from the Kari Lake campaign threatened or blackmailed DeWit.”

Lake posted on X that she’d be answering questions about the “bribery scandal” on the social media platform Rumble at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday.

In the already released audio of the March 2023 conversation between DeWit and Lake posted online by Garret Lewis, a conservative talk show host in Arizona, the chair can be heard telling Lake, “There are very powerful people that want to keep you out.”

“They’re willing to put their money where their mouth is in a very big way,” DeWit continued, calling it “an incredible opportunity.”

The “they” are never identified, other than as “people back east.” Lake said: “This is crazy. They should want me. I’m a great candidate, people love me.”

DeWit declined to reveal the identity of the “very powerful people” to NBC News on Wednesday but said the offer “had everything to do with her being a drag on the ticket. There are people who want to make sure we win the election and that’s it. No one believes she can get across the finish line, particularly with independents.”

Image: Kari Lake (David Goldman / AP)

Image: Kari Lake (David Goldman / AP)

The conversation between Lake and DeWit, whom Lake had supported for chairman, came months after she lost the 2022 governor’s race to Democrat Katie Hobbs. A 2020 presidential election denier, Lake maintained she had won the gubernatorial election and sued to overturn the results. The suit was dismissed in May of last year.

DeWit is a former Arizona state treasurer who led Trump’s Arizona campaign in 2016 and was chief operating officer of his 2020 campaign.

In the conversation with Lake, DeWit can be heard saying the unidentified people “want you to stay out for two years. … they want you to be on their team.”

Lake tells him, “I’m not going to let these people in D.C. tell me not to run.”

DeWit then asks, “Is there a number at which…” “I could be bought?” Lake asks. “No.”

She told DeWit that “this is about getting Trump out. It’s about getting DeSantis in,” and “I’m with Trump.”

DeWit pushed her to at least name a price.

“I actually just wish that you’d give me a counter-offer that was big. Give me a counter,” he said.

“I can’t be bought,” she responded.

In his letter, DeWit said that Lake had released a “selectively edited audio recording of our private conversation” which she made while she was employed by DeWit’s company. “I genuinely believed I was offering a helpful perspective to someone I considered a friend,” he wrote.

DeWit said Lake had made it her “mission to destroy me” since a conversation in which he recommended she end her campaign for the Senate to focus on another run for governor. Lake officially declared her campaign for Senate in October.

Lake appeared to refer to the conversation in remarks to CPAC last year. “Somebody showed up at my door this week,” she told the crowd, and “they tried to bribe me out of getting out of politics.”

“They tried to bribe me with a job title, with a huge salary, a position on a board. I said are you kidding me?” she said. “This is how disgusting politics is.”

DeWit told NBC he feels burned by someone he considered a friend. “I definitely felt like we were in a better position of trust because of all I had done for her. And I’m blown away that she had no respect for that at all,” he said.

It’s unclear why the audio was released now, but the Arizona GOP is holding its annual meeting in Phoenix on Saturday.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Steve Daines said he didn’t know anything about the recording.

“Just saw the report on it,” the Montana senator said, but “I have not listened to it.”

Asked about DeWit’s claim that people “back east” wanted her to stay out of the race, Daines said, “Look, I think Kari Lake is a great candidate, and she’s gonna win that race in Arizona.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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