Prosecutors involved in the Georgia investigation into former President Trump’s attempts to stay in power in 2020 have obtained evidence showing a 2021 voting machine breach was part of a “top-down push” by Trump’s legal team to access sensitive voting software, according to a new report by CNN.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis reportedly will use this evidence when she presents her case before a grand jury next week, CNN reported Sunday.
Willis has led an investigation into efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn 2020 election results in Georgia and is expected to announce charges against Trump and more than a dozen others. This would be Trump’s fourth indictment announced in less than 5 months.
The connection between Trump’s attorneys and the voting machine breach in Trump-friendly Coffee County in Georgia has been previously reported. In September 2022, video footage was released that showed a forensics team hired by Trump’s attorney, Sidney Powell, spent hours handling voting equipment on Jan. 7, 2021. The footage showed the team copying data from the voting machines and handling poll pads containing sensitive voter data.
The incident also compelled Georgia Secretary of State to replace voting machines in the county ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, saying at the time, “To allay the fears being stoked by perennial election deniers and conspiracy theorists, we’re replacing Coffee County’s election machines.”
The new reporting from CNN, however, reveals conversations among key Trump allies ahead of the voter machine breach.
According to the text messages, CNN reported, a local elections official who helped facilitate the voting machine breach sent a “written invitation” to Trump’s attorneys six days ahead of the breach. Former Coffee County elections official Misty Hampton reportedly authored the letter. She, along with Rudy Giuliani and Powell, according to CNN, have been questioned on the issue.
The letter giving “written invitation” to access voting machines was shared widely with a group of Trump allies, CNN reported, including with members of the firm Powell hired to help with the operation, Sullivan Strickler.
Giuliani’s attorney, Robert Costello, reportedly told CNN that Giuliani “had nothing to do with this,” and “You can’t attach Rudy Giuliani to Sidney Powell’s crackpot idea.”
Text messages obtained by CNN, however, seem to reference Giuliani multiple times, referring to him as “the Mayor,” in connection with the “written invitation” and with plans for the breach. Giuliani has been informed he was a target of the investigation in Fulton County.
A text message from a Sullivan Strickler employee to a group chat read on Jan. 1, 2021, “Just landed back in DC with the Mayor huge things starting to come together!” and “Most immediately, we were just granted access – by written invitation! – to Coffee County’s systems. Yay!”
CNN also obtained text messages that showed efforts to gain access to the Coffee County’s voting system started in mid-December.
Hampton, while serving as the top election official in the county, was spreading theories about Dominion voting machines, which caught the attention of Trump officials, who reached out to her to “obtain as much information as possible.”
In early December, Hampton refused to validate the recount results in Georgia by the deadline, delaying certification of Biden’s victory. She represented the only county in Georgia that failed to certify the results of the election, CNN reported.
Republican presidential candidate Will Hurd responded on Sunday to the CNN report by describing it as a prime example of why the issue in question, he said, is not a matter of First Amendment rights.
“This is about a president trying to overturn an election and creating a conspiracy. This kind of infrastructure is considered critical infrastructure, and it’s supposed to be defended. The Trump team tried to get access in other places. And they went through the legal process, and the courts gave access to some of the information,” Hurd said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“In this case, they weren’t getting it, so they tried to take it themselves. And, to me, it’s an indication of how fragile our election system is and how Donald Trump’s efforts were making us increase our lack of trust in our systems, and one more example of why Donald Trump is running for president, is because he’s trying to stay out of jail, because, as more of this information comes out and as the American people recognizes the extent of his baggage, they’re getting sick and tired of it,” he continued.
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