Several Trump-linked operatives were allowed to access a Georgia elections office with help from a local Republican official who was trying to get Trump reelected, according to new surveillance video taken the same day the county’s voting system was breached—the latest twist in the alleged breach of Coffee County’s voting data now under investigation by state and local authorities.
Far-right attorney Sidney Powell conducts a news conference at the Republican National Committee on … [+] November 19, 2020.
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Computer experts from the forensics firm SullivanStrickler were sent by pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell on January 7, 2021, to the election office in Coffee County, Georgia, where they copied a wide range of data from the county’s voting systems for a reported $26,000 fee, the Washington Post first reported in August.
Cathy Latham, the county’s former GOP chairwoman and one of the Republicans who signed on to a false slate of electors in Georgia, let the operatives into the office that day, according to surveillance video reported by CNN and the Post that was obtained as part of a civil lawsuit over Georgia’s election security.
Former elections supervisor Misty Hampton also told the Post in June she let the operatives into the office to identify potential election vulnerabilities, after uploading a viral video that alleged issues with voting machines, but claimed she did not know whether they accessed the county’s election management system server.
Latham had previously denied being at the office that day in conjunction with SullivanStriker’s visit—though the Daily Beast previously reported text messages showing her involvement in coordinating the effort—and her attorneys told CNN she “was not personally involved in whatever was done.”
Tech consultants Jeffrey Lenberg and Doug Logan—whose firm Cyber Ninjas conducted the widely criticized audit of Arizona’s election results—then made several visits to the Coffee County office in subsequent days, the Post reports, raising further concerns about possible breaches of security.
The files taken from Coffee County were put on a server and downloaded by “at least” four people outside of SullivanStrickler, the Post reported in August, including Logan, cybersecurity consultant Jim Penrose, former pro surfer Conan Hayes and a man known only as “Scott T.”—the latter two of whom were also involved in an alleged voting systems breach in Antrim County, Michigan.
What To Watch For
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has opened a criminal investigation into the alleged breach of voting data in Coffee County, it told the Post, which is a “computer trespass investigation” regarding the county’s election server. Under Georgia law, knowingly using a computer “without authority” or with the intention to delete, obstruct, alter or damage a computer program or data is a felony offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison or a $50,000 fine. The Fulton County District Attorney’s office has also indicated it’s looking into the Coffee County breach as part of its investigation into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, according to court documents. Latham herself is also under investigation by the Fulton County DA’s office and federal prosecutors as one of the “fake electors,” who assembled false slates of electors in Georgia and other battleground states falsely claiming that Trump had won the state and submitted them to Congress.
Coffee County is one of several counties nationwide where Trump-linked forensics experts allegedly breached voting systems or were given court permission to do so, including multiple counties in Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Colorado, where Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters was indicted for her role in facilitating the security breach. Michigan is investigating allegations of voting machine tampering in several counties, and Attorney General Dana Nessel requested a special prosecutor to oversee the probe because her Republican opponent in the midterm election, Matthew DePerno, is one of the people who’s under investigation.
What We Don’t Know
Whether the breaches will pose a security risk for future elections. The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency warned in June of a security vulnerability involving voting machines from Dominion Voting Systems, which pro-Trump election deniers have targeted and were used in Georgia. The vulnerability can only be exploited with in-person access to the devices, however, which has raised concerns about the pro-Trump forensics experts’ elections office visits. Cybersecurity experts cited by the Daily Beast and the Post said that with voting data being uploaded to servers and viewed by people outside SullivanStrickler, there’s a concern that people could find vulnerabilities in the election systems and share them with hackers who could exploit them and pose a risk to election security.
Coffee County, which Trump carried in 2020 with 69.5% of the vote, was the only county in the state that didn’t certify its election results, CNN notes. The county is one of two referenced in draft executive orders from Trump that would have ordered the Department of Defense to seize voting machines in an effort to challenge the election results, according to CNN, along with appointing a special prosecutor—likely Powell—to oversee the effort. There is no evidence to support allegations of widespread election fraud in the 2020 election or otherwise, but Trump proponents have seized on voting machines and alleged issues with them as a central part of their fraud claims, alleging that machines “flipped” votes from Trump to President Joe Biden. Those allegations have resulted in Dominion Voting Systems and rival company Smartmatic bringing a slew of defamation lawsuits against far-right figures and media outlets, including Powell.
Election deniers repeatedly visited Ga. county office at center of criminal probe, video shows (Washington Post)
Newly obtained surveillance video shows fake Trump elector escorted operatives into Georgia county’s elections office before voting machine breach (CNN)
Trump-allied lawyers pursued voting machine data in multiple states, records reveal (Washington Post)
Files copied from voting systems were shared with Trump supporters, election deniers (Washington Post)