The Georgia election-related indictment highlights broader attempts to illegally access voting equipment
ATLANTA (AP) – The day after January 6, 2021, Attack on the US CapitolAs the country was still reeling from the violent attempt to stop the transfer of presidential power, a group of computer experts were greeted by a local GOP official outside the election office in a rural county in southern Georgia, where they were given access to voting equipment.
Their goal was to copy software and data from election systems in an effort to substantiate claims by President Donald Trump and his allies that voting machines were rigged to overturn the 2020 election to his Democratic rival Joe Biden, according to Extensive indictment Released late Monday.
Several of those involved were among the 19 people charged, including the former president Multiple counts In what Georgia prosecutors described as “a conspiracy to illegally change the outcome of the election in Trump’s favour.”
fees related to breach of electoral equipment In Coffee County, she highlights, the pressure campaign of the former president and his allies did not stop at state officials and lawmakers, but rather extended to local government. Count on Georgia extortion lawthe type of prosecution usually associated with gangs, the indictment alleges that the events in Coffee County were part of a broader effort by Trump associates Illegal access to voting equipment in multiple countries.
said Lawrence Norden, an election security expert at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. “Continued efforts to undermine and sabotage the elections continued.”
The security breach inside the election office in Coffee boycott, about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta, was among the first known attempts by Trump allies to gain access to voting systems as they sought evidence to support their unsubstantiated claims that the equipment had rigged the presidential election. He followed soon after in three counties in Michigan Involve some of the same persons and again in Western Colorado County Which Trump won easily.
While equipment breaches at the county level have raised alarms about Election data falling into the wrong hands and led to two more pursuits, which were absent from the latter Federal indictment Concerning Trump’s alleged interference in the 2020 election. The Georgia case is the first to argue that the violations were part of a plot by Trump and his allies to overturn the results.
Four people are facing six counts of the breach in Coffee County, including conspiracy to commit election fraud, conspiracy to commit computer theft, and conspiracy to defraud the state. They are lawyers and Trump allies Sydney Powellformer Coffee County election director Misty Hampton, former Coffee County GOP chairwoman Kathy Latham, who also served as a fake voter for Trump, and Scott Graham-Hall, the Atlanta-area bail officer who prosecutors say is linked to longtime Trump advisor David Posey.
Powell’s attorney declined to comment, while messages seeking responses from others were not immediately returned.
Trump persisted though reinforce his claims about elections, Multiple reviewsAnd audit And Tells In the battlefield countries Where he argues his loss – Including in GeorgiaThat counted the presidential votes three times – confirmed Biden’s victory. So were Trump’s allegations Dozens of judges rejected it, including several sample. for him Attorney General And Full review by The Associated Press found no evidence of widespread fraud that could have altered the results.
After the 2020 election, Trump and Powell pushed in a number of ways Conspiracy theories about voting machines, particularly with regard to Dominion Voting Systems equipment used in Georgia. Dominion earlier this year It reached a settlement of $787 million with Fox News regarding false allegations aired on the network, including airings by Powell.
Court documents in Georgia show that Powell hired a forensic data firm on December 6, 2020, to collect and analyze Dominion equipment in Michigan and elsewhere.
On January 7, 2021, Hall and data company employees traveled to an election office to copy software and data from voting equipment and were greeted outside by Latham GOP official and then given a tour of the office by election director Hampton, according to the indictment and video surveillance obtained in An issue unrelated to electronic voting machines in Georgia.
Later videos showed Hampton opening the office on January 18, when it was closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. It allowed Douglas Logan and Jeff Linberg, both of whom have been active nationally in efforts to challenge the 2020 election and were part of the effort to inspect voting machines in Michigan.
Neither Logan nor Linberg were charged in Monday’s indictment.
Logan’s company, Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based firm with little election experience, was subsequently hired by Republican Arizona state lawmakers to conduct an audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County. in the end Confirmed Biden’s victory But he claimed to find various irregularities — claims that election experts said were inaccurate, misleading, or based on a faulty understanding of the data.
In Coffee County, the men worked late into the evening, and returned the next day. Linberg was also seen in the office at least three more days later that month, according to information gathered in the separate voting machine lawsuit. Hampton resigned shortly after their visit amid allegations of fraudulent schedules.
As stated in the indictment issued this week, dated December 18, 2020, Sitting in the Oval OfficeTrump allies, including Powell and Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, proposed ordering the military to seize voting machines and appointing a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of voter fraud in Georgia and other states Trump lost.
In Michigan, authorities have charged three people with abuse in three counties, including the former Republican attorney general nominee. Matthew DiPernowho with the others pleaded not guilty.
To date, the special counsel assigned to the case has neither charged any of the employees who handed over the voting equipment nor assigned those who were asked to analyze it. The Special Counsel said in a statement that they were duped.
With Monday’s indictment, Hampton became the second most senior election official in the county to be charged in connection with a security breach at their office. The first was Tina Peters, the former clerk in Mesa County, Colorado, who has emerged as a prominent figure among those who say voting machines are rigged. Both are no longer running elections.
Prosecutors allege that Peters and her deputy were part of a “deceptive scheme” to provide unauthorized access to the county’s voting systems during a May 2021 breach that ultimately led to a copy of the voting system’s hard drive being posted online.
Weeks later, Peters appeared at an event hosted by a Trump ally Mike Lindell, CEO, MyPillow who sought to prove the 2020 election was stolen and called for voting machines to be banned.
Peters has denied any wrongdoing and will face trial later this year with her deputy Admission of guilt For lower charges as part of an agreement with prosecutors.
Experts called Colorado’s unauthorized release dangerous, saying it could provide a “practice environment” that would allow anyone to investigate vulnerabilities that could be exploited during future elections. Experts are also concerned they could be used to spread misinformation about voting equipment.
Colorado’s top election official, Democratic Secretary of State Gina Griswold, said accountability is crucial to deterring any future attempts to illegally gain access to voting systems.
“We cannot allow election officials to destroy elections from within,” she said.
Associated Press writers Kate Brumback in Atlanta; Joy Cappelletti in Lansing, Michigan, and Eric Tucker and Farnoush Amiri in Washington, DC, contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on apnews.com