The Trump Effort to Infiltrate Voting Systems Was Worse Than We Knew

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In an Atlanta courtroom in January, a judge heard testimony about a brazen plot by Trump supporters to unlawfully access and obtain copies of Georgia’s voting system software in Coffee County in support of Donald Trump’s effort to steal the 2020 presidential election. The evidence presented also revealed that there were efforts to gain access in at least three other Georgia counties, and that Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger did exactly nothing to investigate the Coffee software heist, or the other reported attempts, even though there was ample evidence that something improper had gone on.

This evidence was not presented in the course of the Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ now-imperiled RICO suit against Trump and his alleged co-conspirators, but in the long-standing civil litigation Curling v. Raffensperger. It was the plaintiffs in Curling who first uncovered the successful effort to take copies of Georgia’s statewide voting system software from the equipment in rural south Georgia. Plaintiffs also unearthed the evidence tying that campaign to Sidney Powell and the Trump campaign. In fact, Willis relied on documents and depositions obtained in Curling in her RICO indictment and winning Powell’s guilty plea.

While reporters were preoccupied with the spicier allegations threatening to derail the Fulton County DA’s case, the little-watched three-and-a-half-week trial revealed new information about the scope of the plot to take voting system software in Georgia by election deniers, and the jaw-dropping lack of action by Secretary of State Raffensperger to respond.

During the trial the plaintiffs presented substantial evidence showing that anyone paying attention would have noticed something was quite amiss in Coffee County, and that should have triggered an investigation by Raffensperger’s office, but didn’t. (Some of this evidence is outlined in an earlier Slate article.)

But the trial also revealed new information about attempts to gain access to Georgia’s voting machines in other counties. Plaintiffs revealed an email chain that showed that the election supervisor in Butts County had been contacted by Georgia’s (now) Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, requesting a forensic examination of the county’s voting software. (Willis’ criminal investigation of Jones was derailed when she was disqualified from the case by a conflict of interest.) Bartow County’s election supervisor testified that he’d been asked by his local GOP chair—and several unidentified attorneys—for access to copy his county’s election software. He replied with a hard no, and reported it to the secretary of state’s office.

Plaintiffs also presented a text message from a former member of the Coffee County Board of Elections to the attorney for neighboring Ware County, with a link to a story from the Gateway Pundit. The story claimed that the Trump team had obtained a voting machine from Ware, and the message said, “You have anyone to verify through?” The Ware county attorney responds, “I will verify,” and responds with a jpeg labeled “ware-county-confirmation,” but the actual image was never provided to the plaintiffs, and can’t be viewed.

And yet, even with multiple attempts to access voting systems, which the secretary was alerted to, witnesses from the secretary’s office testified that there was no investigation opened into any of these events.

The lack of any investigation by the secretary’s office looks even worse when juxtaposed with a video of Raffensperger’s top aide, Gabe Sterling, dismissively telling an audience at the Carter Center in April 2022 that the alleged voting system intrusions in Ware and Coffee counties conclusively did not happen. How could the secretary’s office determine that the breaches didn’t happen when it didn’t even look?

It gets worse. Back in early 2022, when plaintiffs first presented evidence that the breach in Coffee County had likely occurred, the secretary of state claimed to the public and the court that an investigation had been opened.

But during the trial, the secretary’s investigator assigned to the Coffee County breach allegations testified that he had been told to “hold off,” and that the secretary’s office never actually did any investigation of the Coffee County breach.

After months of holding off, the secretary’s investigators turned the matter over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations and the state attorney general. The GBI has since been excoriated for doing a “badly inadequate” job, and the Georgia attorney general has not charged anyone involved.

Which brings us back to the other trial in Fulton County. Currently, with the stunning lack of action from the state of Georgia, the Fulton County DA is the only law enforcement office that has sought to hold those directly involved in alleged voting system software breach accountable. (There are several others implicated who have not been charged.)

And even though these potential crimes were caught on video, and documents show that the plan involved efforts to breach voting systems in multiple states, and that it was allegedly directed and paid for by Powell for the Trump campaign, publicly available evidence indicates there is no federal investigation into this multistate plan.

What we know for sure is that allies of Donald Trump who sought to overturn the 2020 presidential election gained copies of the voting software used in Georgia and in other states. These events present serious threats to the 2024 election and future elections. Yet, as the Curling trial has established, they’ve been plainly ignored by the Georgia secretary of state and attorney general.

It’s well past time for the Department of Justice to step in and investigate. This matter is too serious for the federal government to continue to stand by and rely on local officials, who clearly couldn’t be bothered to act on their own.