Trump lawyers implicated in “coordinated plot” to copy voting system data in multiple states

The data can be used to "undermine, disrupt, or tamper with elections in a number of ways," experts warn

By Areeba Shah

Staff Writer

Published December 14, 2022 12:30PM (EST)

Sidney Powell (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Sidney Powell (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Election security advocates sent a letter to federal investigators Monday urging them to probe a  "coordinated plot" by former President Donald Trump's supporters to copy election software in Georgia, Michigan and Nevada after the 2020 election, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The letter, which was addressed to special counsel Jack Smith, the FBI and the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, asked Smith, who is investigating Trump's attempts to stay in power after losing the election, to also pursue the multistate data-copying effort as part of his probe. 

"Specifically, we are writing regarding the multi-state plan, directed and funded by attorneys for Donald Trump—including Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, and Jesse Binnall—to access voting systems and obtain and distribute copies of voting system software unlawfully, which could potentially constitute federal crimes and be relevant to investigations into efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election," said the letter by the national election advocacy organization Free Speech for People, along with several former election officials and computer scientists.

Plaintiffs in a long-running federal lawsuit over the security of Georgia's voting systems found documents and video proving that outsiders gained access to Coffee County election systems. 

Computer analysts working for Powell copied a trove of election software and data in Coffee County, Georgia on Jan. 7, 2021, according to court documents and surveillance video. 

Interior security camera video from the Coffee County elections office captured Cathy Latham, then-county Republican Party chair, walking the computer forensics team into the office. Latham introduced the team to local election officials and instructed them to copy "virtually every component of the voting system," according to a filing, PBS reported

The computer-forensics experts were then paid by a nonprofit that Powell ran. The software was then uploaded to a website, which allowed election deniers across the country to access and download it. 

By copying voting software and distributing it widely, people and organizations can "use the software to undermine, disrupt, or tamper with elections in a number of ways," the letter included. 

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Election security experts have also raised flags saying that having such easy access to data increases the risk of hacks in future elections.

The OSET Institute released a statement earlier this year about the threats to election security posed by the unauthorized distribution of voting system software.

The disclosure "could trigger a tsunami of new attack methods, means, and mechanisms. In fact, these disclosures (and worse, publication) provide massive updates to materials already 'in the wild' and represent a clear and present danger to election infrastructure protection and security," the statement said. 

Records revealed that some of the people who were involved in copying software in Georgia were also involved in copying and circulating voting software in Michigan and Colorado.

The letter argued that while prosecutors in impacted states are pursuing individual criminal investigations, "the coordinated, multi-state plan" by Powell also creates room for a "potential federal criminal liability that compels intervention by the Department of Justice".

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they are conducting a criminal investigation into the computer trespass in Coffee County.

Georgia election officials have said that election equipment is secured by public testing, audits and paper ballots. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in September that his office replaced election equipment in Coffee County following the unauthorized access to the equipment.

But no evidence has revealed that hacks or malware have ever played a role in manipulating election results in any Georgia election, Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. 

Many of the people involved in coordinating election data copying in Coffee County also tried to organize efforts in other states, including Powell and Binnall, who coordinated election information copying in Nevada.

Atlanta tech company SullivanStrickler billed Powell for over $26,000 to copy election information in Coffee County. The firm also worked for Trump's attorneys in Antrim County, Michigan, and Clark County, Nevada.

Another January 2021 surveillance video later revealed that two other people also visited the Coffee County elections office, including Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, who led a controversial Republican ballot review in Maricopa County's 2020 election, and Jeff Lenberg, a computer security consultant who analyzed voting equipment in Michigan and New Mexico.

By Areeba Shah

Areeba Shah is a staff writer at Salon covering news and politics. Previously, she was a research associate at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a reporting fellow for the Pulitzer Center, where she covered how COVID-19 impacted migrant farmworkers in the Midwest.

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Aggregate Donald Trump Lin Wood Politics Sidney Powell