Sunday Jan 29, 2023

Election Data Breach Attracts Georgia Investigators – The New York Times


The day after Donald J. Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol, a small group working on his behalf traveled to rural Coffee County, Ga., about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta.

One member of the group was Paul Maggio, an executive at a firm based in Atlanta called SullivanStrickler, which helps organizations analyze and manage their data. His company had been hired by Sidney Powell, a conspiracy theorist and lawyer advising Mr. Trump, who was tasked with scouring voting systems in Georgia and other states. It was part of an effort by Trump allies in a number of swing states to access and copy sensitive election software, with the help of friendly election administrators.

“We are on our way to Coffee County, Georgia, to collect what we can from the election/voting machines and systems,” Mr. Maggio wrote to Ms. Powell on the morning of Jan. 7, 2021, according to an email exchange that recently emerged in civil litigation. Weeks later, Scott Hall, an Atlanta-area Trump supporter and bail bondsman who traveled to Coffee County on a chartered plane, described what he and the group did there.

“We scanned every freaking ballot,” he said in a recorded phone conversation in March 2021. Mr. Hall said that the team had the blessing of the local elections board and “scanned all the equipment, imaged all the hard drives and scanned every single ballot.”

This week, court filings revealed that the Coffee County data breach is now part of the sprawling investigation into election interference being conducted by Fani T. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Ga., which encompasses most of Atlanta.

Though Coffee County is well outside of her jurisdiction, Ms. Willis is seeking to build a broad conspiracy and racketeering case that encompasses multifaceted efforts by Trump allies to disrupt and overturn the lawful election of Joseph R. Biden Jr. On Aug. 16, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation also confirmed that it was working with the Georgia secretary of state’s office on an investigation into the Coffee County data breach, court records show. Many of the details of the Coffee County visit were included in emails and texts that surfaced in civil litigation brought by voting rights activists against Georgia’s secretary of state; news of the breach was reported earlier by The Washington Post.

Similar breaches coordinated by Trump allies played out in several swing states. This month, Michigan’s attorney general, Dana Nessel, a Democrat, sought the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate data breaches there. She is seeking to remove herself from the case because one of the people potentially implicated in the scheme is her likely Republican election opponent, Matthew DePerno.

Ms. Powell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

SullivanStrickler, in a statement released by a law firm representing the company, said it “has never been part of a ‘pro-Trump team’ or any ‘team’ whose goal is to undermine our democracy,” adding that it was a “politically agnostic” firm that was hired to “preserve and forensically copy the Dominion voting machines used in the 2020 election.” The statement said it was “categorically false” that SullivanStrickler was part of an effort that “illegally ‘breached’ servers” or other voting equipment, adding that it was retained and directed by “…….


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