The chairman of Arizona’s Republican Party announced his resignation on Wednesday, a day after The Daily Mail published audio that purported to show him attempting to bribe U.S. Senate hopeful Kari Lake to stay out of politics for the next two years.
In a statement to The Daily Beast explaining his decision to step down, Jeff DeWit blamed Lake for the leak of the tape, which he characterized as “a selectively edited audio recording” of a private conversation between friends more than 10 months ago. He said he’d intended to offer her “a helpful perspective,” and that his intention had not to be coercive.
DeWit also claimed that the discussion had taken place at a time when Lake was working at his private company.
“This act of recording was not just a betrayal of trust but also a violation of the fiduciary responsibilities of an employee,” he said.
In the 10-minute audio recording, which was published in full by The Daily Mail, DeWit can be heard repeatedly probing Lake for a “number” she’d want to wait a few years before running for political office again, warning her there are “very powerful people that want to keep you out.”
Lake seems offended by his overtures, saying at one point, “I can’t be bought.”
In his Wednesday statement, DeWit said that he had been “determined” to fight to remain in his position, but that Lake’s team had given him an ultimatum that morning: resign or “face the release of a new, more damaging recording.”
DeWit said he was unaware of this purported tape’s contents, but “decided not to take the risk.” He said he would return to private business, “a field I find much more logical and prefer over politics.”
At Trump’s victory party in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Lake had publicly called for DeWit’s resignation.
“He’s gotta resign. We can’t have somebody who is corrupt and compromised running the Republican Party,” she said. To KTAR News, she added that the audio was “reprehensible.”
“Lake has a massive megaphone that I cannot compete with,” DeWit said in his statement, adding that the senatorial hopeful “has been on a mission to destroy me.”
Lake, a fervid denizen of MAGA World, has been claiming for months that “powerful people” have been trying to kick her out of politics, according to The Arizona Republic. She ran unsuccessfully for Arizona governor in 2022 on a platform that foregrounded conspiracy theories, including Trump’s baseless claims about the 2020 presidential election having been stolen.
Following her gubernatorial loss, Lake declined to concede and mounted a months-long campaign to prove that she, like Trump, had been the victim of an allegedly “rigged” election marred by widespread voter fraud.
Her legal battle to overturn the 2022 Arizona election ultimately ended in failure as well.
Having secured Trump’s endorsement last year, she is considered the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to represent Arizona in the Senate. Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Democrat who represents Arizona in the U.S. House, is running for the Democratic nomination and is widely expected to lock horns with her in the general election.
It remains unclear whether Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) will enter the fray and vie to retain her seat.
Garrett Ventry and Caroline Wren, senior advisers to Lake, denied to The New York Times that her campaign had tried to blackmail DeWit.
In an interview with NBC News, DeWit declined to reveal the identities of the “very powerful people” behind his overtures to Lake. “There are people who want to make sure we win the election and that’s it,” he said. “No one believes she can get across the finish line, particularly with independents.”
In a Wednesday night livestream on Rumble, Lake said she didn’t know who these shadowy figures were. “I thought about it many a day since then,” she said. “And I’ve laid awake at night wondering who it could have been.”
She insisted that she wouldn’t be controlled or dissuaded from her mission to “save” the United States. “We have to start praying for the people who are opposing bringing our country back,” she said.
“I don’t even want to call them enemies because I don’t think I have any enemies, but we have to pray for the people… pray that they find God, because this is really—good versus evil, the battle that we’re in.”