Trump’s Georgia election probe cites electoral system violation

ATLANTA (AP) — The prosecutor investigating whether former President Donald Trump and others unlawfully attempted to interfere in Georgia’s 2020 election is seeking information about the alleged involvement of an ally of Trump in violating voting materials in a county about 200 miles south of his Atlanta office.

The expanded investigation highlights the latest instance in which unauthorized people appear to have gained access to voting materials since the 2020 election, mostly in battleground states Trump lost. Election experts have raised concerns that sensitive information shared online about the equipment may have revealed vulnerabilities that could be exploited by people willing to disrupt future elections.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is seeking to call attorney Sidney Powell, who vehemently tried to overturn Trump’s loss, to testify before a special grand jury investigating possible unlawful interference in the elections. In her court motion filed Thursday, Willis said Powell is “known to be affiliated” with Trump and the Trump campaign and has unique knowledge of her communications with them and others “involved in coordinated multi-state efforts.” to influence the results of the November 2020 elections in Georgia and elsewhere.”

The scope of Willis’ criminal investigation has grown significantly since it began, following a January 2, 2021 phone call in which Trump suggested Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger could ‘find’ the votes. needed to undo Trump’s narrow electoral loss in the state. Among other things, Willis wrote that she wanted to ask Powell about rural Coffee County, where Trump beat President Joe Biden by nearly 40 percentage points.

Emails and other records first reported this month by The Washington Post and also obtained by The Associated Press show Powell was involved in organizing a team from data solutions company Sullivan Strickler to go to the county elections office.

The recordings were produced in response to subpoenas issued by plaintiffs in a long-running lawsuit alleging that Georgia voting machines, manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems, are vulnerable to attack. The plaintiffs want the machines replaced with a system that uses hand-marked paper ballots.

The lawsuit filed by the Coalition for Good Governance and Individual Voters long predates and is unrelated to false allegations of widespread voter fraud pushed by Trump and his allies.

Dominion has filed libel suits against high-profile Trump supporters, including Powell, who made false claims about using Dominion voting machines to steal the 2020 election.

In an email sent to Powell on Jan. 7, 2021, SullivanStrickler COO Paul Maggio said he and his team were “on their way to Coffee County, Georgia to collect what we can from election/voting machines and systems”. He included an invoice for an “initial deposit” of $26,000 to pay a team of four for one day. The subject of the invoice is “Analysis of voting machines”.

“Everything went well yesterday with the Coffee County Collection. Everyone involved was extremely helpful,” Maggio wrote in an email the next day. that your team can access it.”

A document listing the contents of Maggio’s hard drive shows it includes forensic images of an election management system server, a constituency tabulator, compact flash cards and USB drives used to program tabulators and touch screen voting machines, a computer used to register voters and a laptop provided by Dominion. It also includes scanned images of paper ballots from the January 2021 U.S. Senate runoff election.

The company defended its actions in a statement sent by its attorney, Amanda Clark Palmer.

“Sullivan Strickler has been retained by licensed practicing attorneys and instructed to preserve and forensically copy Dominion voting machines used in the 2020 election,” the statement said. “The firm had no reason to believe that as officers of the court, these attorneys would ask or direct Sullivan Strickler to do anything improper or illegal.”

The attorneys told the firm to contact county election officials to access certain data and then distribute it to certain other people, according to the statement. The company maintains that “at the time they engaged in this work, they were operating in good faith in the belief that their client was authorized to access the voting machines and servers.”

“In hindsight, and knowing all they know now, they would not undertake any further work of this kind,” the statement said, adding that the company intends to cooperate fully with any investigation.

Willis noted that there is also “evidence in the public record” that Powell was involved in similar efforts in Michigan and Nevada around the same time. An attorney representing Powell did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Ryan Germany, general counsel for the Georgia secretary of state’s office, said in a statement filed in court Aug. 2 that the office opened an investigation in mid-March and brought in an expert to perform a medical inspection. Legal from the Coffee County Election Server. . The next steps, he said, are to complete the forensic investigation and interview witnesses.

The secretary of state’s office requested assistance earlier this month from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which on Aug. 15 opened “a computer intrusion investigation into a Coffee County election server,” the agency said. spokesperson Nelly Miles in an email.

The Coffee County case appears similar to voting hardware violations elsewhere. In addition to Georgia, these include local election offices in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Colorado.

At an event last summer hosted by Trump ally Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow who sought to prove that voting machines are being manipulated, copies of voting systems from Mesa County, Colorado, and County Antrim, Michigan were distributed and made available online.

A month earlier, Pennsylvania election officials had decertified voting equipment used in a county – also named Fulton – after officials there allowed an outside company access to “certain key components of its certified system, including the county election database, results files and Windows systems logs. .” The company was also allowed to make copies of the voting system’s hard drives.

In Mesa County, Colorado, Clerk Tina Peters and her deputy were charged with a May 2021 security breach at the election office. Prosecutors allege the pair were part of a ‘deceptive scheme’ to provide access to their voting system technology to unauthorized persons.

This week, Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Peters, who denied wrongdoing and said she had a duty to investigate.

Also in Colorado, state election officials investigated a potential violation in Elbert County, where they say the clerk made two copies of the county’s voting system and provided them to two unauthorized attorneys. to have them.

In County Antrim, Michigan, a judge had authorized a forensic examination of voting materials after a brief mix-up of the 2020 election results led to a lawsuit alleging fraud. The lawsuit was thrown out, but somehow a copy of the voting system ended up being publicly distributed at the Lindell event, according to attendees.

Michigan authorities are also investigating security breaches at four local election offices that allegedly occurred between March and the end of June 2021.

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