ATLANTA (AP) — Two months after the 2020 presidential election, a team of computer experts traveled to southern Georgia to copy software and data from voting equipment into a apparent violation of a county electoral system. They were greeted outside by the leader of the local Republican Party, who was part of then-President Donald Trump’s efforts to reverse his electoral defeat.
A security camera outside the election office in rural Coffee County captured their arrival. The footage also shows some local election officials were at the office during what the Georgian secretary of state’s office described as “suspected unauthorized access” to election materials.
Security footage from two weeks later raises further alarms – showing two people who have been instrumental in Trump’s broader efforts to undermine the election results entering the office and remaining there for hours.
Security video from the office of elections in the county about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta offers insight into the efforts of Trump’s allies serving his fraudulent electoral claims. It further shows how access was facilitated by local officials tasked with protecting election security while raising concerns about the release of sensitive voting technology into the public domain.
Georgia was not the only state where voting equipment was accessible after the 2020 presidential election. Important information about voting systems was also compromised at election offices in Georgia. Pennsylvania, Michigan and Colorado. Election security experts worry about information obtained – including full copies of hard drives – could be exploited by those who want to interfere in future elections.
“The system is only as safe as the people who are responsible for keeping it safe,” said attorney David Cross, who is representing the plaintiffs in a longstanding Georgia voting machine lawsuit.
The Coffee County security footage was obtained through the lawsuit, which alleges Georgia’s touchscreen voting machines are vulnerable to attack and should be replaced with hand-marked paper ballots. The costume is much earlier and has no relation to false allegations widespread voter fraud pushed by Trump and his allies after the 2020 election.
The alleged violation of the Coffee County Elections Office also caught the attention of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is overseeing an investigation into whether Trump and his allies unlawfully attempted to influence the election results. of 2020 in Georgia.
Last month, Willis cited Coffee County activity, among others, when she sought to compel to testify of Sidney Powell, a lawyer who was deeply involved in Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results.
Emails and other documents show Powell and other lawyers linked to Trump helped organize a team from data solutions company SullivanStrickler to travel to Coffee County, which Trump won by nearly 40 percentage points.
The surveillance video, emails and other documents that shed light on what happened there in January 2021 were produced in response to subpoenas issued in connection with the machine trial. vote and were obtained by the Associated Press. Parts of the security video appear to contradict claims by some local officials:
– Footage captures Cathy Latham, then Coffee County Republican Party Chairwoman, arriving at the Elections Office shortly after 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 7, 2021, the day after the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol. Just weeks earlier, she was one of 16 Georgia Republicans to sign a certificate falsely declaring that Trump had won the state and declaring that they were the state’s ‘duly elected and qualified’ voters. .
Minutes after arriving, she is seen outside greeting Sullivan Strickler’s chief operating officer, Paul Maggio, and two other people. Less than 10 minutes later, she escorts two other men into the building.
The video shows her leaving the election office just before 1:30 p.m., about two hours after greeting SullivanStrickler’s team. She returns a little before 4 p.m. then leaves around 6:15 p.m.
Latham said under oath during a deposition in August that she stopped by the elections office that evening for “just a few minutes” and left before 5 p.m. suggested that her schedule as a teacher would not have allowed it.
A lawyer for SullivanStrickler said in an email attached to a court filing that Latham was a “primary point of contact” to coordinate the company’s work and “was on hand” while that work was being done.
Robert Cheeley, a lawyer for Latham, said in an emailed statement that his client could not remember all the details of that day. But he said she “would not and was not knowingly involved in any irregularity in an election” and “did not act inappropriately or unlawfully”.
– The video also shows Eric Chaney, a member of the Coffee County election committee, arriving shortly before 11 a.m. the same day and going in and out several times before leaving for the night around 7:40 p.m. Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the voting machine lawsuit. wrote in a court filing that a photo produced by Sullivan Strickler’s COO shows Chaney in the office while the copy is in progress.
During a deposition last month, Chaney declined to answer many questions about that day, citing the Fifth Amendment. But when an attorney representing the county contacted him in April regarding questions from the Washington Post, Chaney wrote, “I am unaware and was not present at the office of the Coffee County Board of Elections and Registration when someone has illegally accessed the server or the room in which it is contained. Chaney resigned from the board of elections last month, days before his deposition.
Attempts to reach Chaney by phone were unsuccessful, and his attorney did not respond to an email seeking comment.
– About two weeks after the initial breach, video shows Misty Hampton – then the county chief electoral officer – arriving at the elections office at 4:20 p.m. on Jan. 18, when it was closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. She unlocked the door and let in two men – Doug Logan and Jeff Lenberg, who were active in efforts to challenge the 2020 election results.
Logan’s Foundation Cyber Ninjaswho participated in a partisan campaign and ultimately discredited critic of the 2020 election in Maricopa County, Arizona. The two men stayed inside until shortly after 8 p.m., then spent more than nine hours there the next day. Lenberg returned for brief visits at least three more days later that month.
Hampton resigned as election supervisor in February 2021 after election board officials said she falsified her timesheets. Attempts by the AP to reach her were unsuccessful.
In a statement released by his attorney, SullivanStrickler said the company had been retained by attorneys to forensically copy voting machines used in the 2020 election and had no reason to believe it would ask its employees to do anything improper.
The Georgia secretary of state’s office said it launched an investigation in March and requested assistance from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation last month. State officials said the system remains secure due to the multiple protections in place.
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