Several members of former president Donald Trump‘s post-2020 election legal team, including attorney Sidney Powell, sought and gained access to sensitive election data in Georgia, according to multiple reports. Those efforts may have been criminal.
In an email to Law&Crime, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation confirmed they are “assisting the Secretary of State’s Office with a computer trespass investigation of a Coffee County elections server.”
The locus of the state’s criminal investigation is a separate, much older civil lawsuit that was filed by election integrity advocates and Georgia voters over the Peach State’s elections system.
Separate stories in The Washington Post and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, published on Monday and Tuesday of this week, respectively, note that documents subpoenaed by the plaintiffs in that civil case, and provided by Atlanta-based technology company SullivanStrickler, “confirm” that copies of some of Georgia’s election data were made at Powell’s behest and then supplied to Trump’s team.
The incident is alleged to have occurred on Jan, 7, 2021.
“Sidney, everything went smoothly yesterday with the Coffee County collection,” SullivanStrickler CEO Paul Maggio wrote on Jan. 8, 2021, according to one such document reviewed by the AJC. “Everyone involved was extremely helpful. We are consolidating all of the data collected and will be uploading it to our secure site for access by your team. Hopefully we can take care of payment today.”
For their services copying the data, the computer experts reportedly billed upfront, in one case charging $26,000.
The Atlanta-based newspaper reports that the sensitive information “included data from an election server, voter check-in computers and ballot memory cards.”
According to the Post, additional elections data was obtained from counties in the states of Michigan and Nevada – and later shared with various Trump acolytes in failed efforts to support the false narrative of widespread electoral fraud. While Powell is alleged to have spearheaded the Georgia and Michigan data access efforts, outside counsel Jesse Binnall allegedly led similar efforts in Nevada.
According to attorney David D. Cross, who represents the plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit, the Georgia Secretary of State’s office has known about the alleged breach since May of last year. Their concomitant investigation, however, apparently has not made much progress since they were apprised of the issues.
The plaintiffs’ attorney said it was “difficult” to understand how state officials hadn’t been able to uncover in “many months” what his team found as the result of their subpoenas “in the span of a few weeks.”
“Those who are responsible for the breach should be held accountable to the full extent of the law,” Cross told Law&Crime in an email. “And at the very least, Sidney Powell and Jesse Binnall need to be answering some hard questions under oath.”
Atlanta-based attorney Page Pate, who is not involved in the case, offered a bird’s-eye view of the legal situation in comments provided to Law&Crime.
“The potential problem here is [Trump’s] lawyers apparently directed a computer forensics firm to go access sensitive voting information from the machines before that information was turned over to the secretary of state,” Pate said. “That is a potential violation of Georgia law. So, once this information came to light the Georgia Bureau of Investigation opened a criminal investigation into this conduct to see if any laws were violated.”
Pate said there are several different avenues of potential legal liability for Trump’s team – dismissing the likelihood of computer trespass charges being filed due to GOP county officials providing the access needed to copy the files in the first place.
“I think the most relevant potential crime would be removal of election information without proper authority during the course of the election process,” Pate said. “There are several crimes in Georgia that deal with getting into the guts of these electronic voting machines and removing them or copying them or altering them in any way.”
Such violations can vary from misdemeanor to felony offenses.
“It’s not just the lawyers who are involved,” Pate added, “It’s the computer forensics team, and even, potentially, the county Republican officials who let this activity take place.”
State officials in Georgia have signaled that the reach of the investigation is likely to extend beyond Trump’s erstwhile attorneys.
“Rogue election officials will not be tolerated in Georgia,” Mike Hassinger, a spokesperson for the Georgia Secretary of State’s office said in comments to the AJC. “Prior to this latest disclosure, the Georgia secretary of state’s office and the State Election Board had already looped in appropriate authorities, including criminal law enforcement agencies, to assist in the investigation into the alleged unlawful access in Coffee County. That investigation continues, and any wrongdoers should be prosecuted.”
[image via screengrab/Australian Broadcasting Corporation/YouTube]
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