Former Trump attorney worked with Atlanta tech firm to hack Coffee voting system

By: - August 17, 2022 1:00 am

Sidney Powell, who is a former member of President Donald Trump’s legal team, would embark on a public campaign of unleashing unfounded accusations that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

An attorney connected to former President Donald Trump coordinated with experts from an Atlanta-based computer firm to hack into Coffee County’s voting system in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, according to records obtained in a federal lawsuit challenging the security of Georgia’s voting system.

The subpoenaed documents indicate that former Trump attorney Sidney Powell and other Trump affiliated lawyers solicited the help of Atlanta-based forensic data firm SullivanStrickler to breach election systems in Georgia, Nevada, and Michigan, which are battleground states where Democrat Joe Biden defeated Trump in the November 2020 election.

Those three states became the targets of Trump and other election deniers who lodged unfounded conspiracy theories of a stolen election that included accusations of rigged electronic voting machines.

The Washington Post first reported the confirmed breaches on Monday based on newly filed emails and other court records subpoenaed from SullivanStrickler by election security advocates seeking to replace Georgia’s Dominion Voting Systems’ electronic ballot marking devices with paper ballots, which they argue are more secure.

In an April 2021 email, former NSA official, Jim Penrose, who was employed by Powell, requested that SullivanStrickler COO Paul Maggio mail forensic material taken from the Coffee County voting machines during a trip to the county’s election office.

An invoice connects SullivanStrickler experts to Powell, who led an unsuccessful effort to overturn the presidential election. Powell is battling a defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion and faces potential disbarment. 

Maggio’s court documents show a list of Coffee County hard drive contents, ranging from runoff ballot images to data from the election server to reports from the general election.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Georgia have said that the breach further illustrates serious vulnerabilities that have also been detailed in a report by an expert computer science witness. 

In June, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued an advisory stating there was no evidence that Dominion’s systems were exploited during elections, but recommended safeguards to better detect and prevent unauthorized access.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating the Coffee County case. Other court documents implicate a former county Republican party chair, an election board member and a former election director in helping to assist the breach.

Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has pointed out that Georgia’s election results stood up to multiple counts, including a hand count, and multiple investigations at the state and federal level that turned up no credible evidence of widespread fraud.

The Secretary of State’s office and State Election Board reached out to law enforcement agencies to assist in the alleged unlawful access in Coffee, spokesman Mike Hassinger said.

“Rogue election officials are not, and will not be, tolerated in Georgia,” he said. “Conspiracy theorists looking for a predetermined outcome shouldn’t be given unfettered access to any voting machines.” 

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“The person who allegedly gave the access has been removed and the potentially accessed election management server was replaced in June of 2021,” Hassinger added. “Georgia’s procedural and operational integrity measures are in place to ensure the accuracy of Georgia’s elections.”

The state election officials removed the county’s election server after a newly hired Coffee County election director notified the state that the password no longer worked and that he found the business cards of the founder of Cyber Ninjas, the firm behind the shoddy audit of Arizona’s Maricopa County in its administration of the 2020 presidential election.

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.

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