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Report: Trump allies sought election data in Antrim, Wayne counties

voting booth
New revelations about efforts to obtain election systems records in Antrim and Wayne counties come amid an investigation into Republican attorney general candidate Matthew DePerno and others’ handling of voting machines. (Votebeat photo by Sue Dorfman)
  • Michigan one of three states where Trump allies paid a firm to obtain election data, The Washington Post reports
  • The firm was reportedly retained to collect data in both Antrim and Wayne counties
  • Dana Nessel's office claims rival Matthew DePerno, others 'gained unauthorized access and compromised tabulators’

A forensic data firm retained by allies of former President Donald Trump was paid to obtain and provide data from county election systems in Michigan and other battleground states during an effort to overturn his 2020 election loss, according to a Monday report from The Washington Post

Records obtained by the Post through a subpoena issued to an Atlanta-based forensics firm in an ongoing federal lawsuit show the firm, SullivanStrickler, was retained to obtain election data in both Antrim and Wayne counties — two areas that spawned election conspiracy theories stemming from the November 2020 election — as well as in counties in Georgia and Nevada.

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The records reportedly show attorney Sidney Powell arranged initial payment for the firm to inspect Antrim County voting data after a local judge authorized plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by Republican attorney general hopeful Matthew DePerno to conduct a “forensic audit” of a county voting machine. 

SullivanStrickler investigators copied the hard drive of an elections server in Antrim County and reported back to Powell and other Trump allies that the data would be made available to download once payment was provided, despite a court order barring “use, distribution or manipulation” of information gleaned from the forensic investigation, the Post reported.

The lawsuit stemmed from an error that caused initial reports to incorrectly show Biden winning in the reliably Republican area. Experts later deemed the mistake a result of human error that was later corrected, and a hand recount confirmed the certified election results. The lawsuit requesting another independent audit of county election results was ultimately dismissed.

The Post also reports an invoice was emailed to Powell for similar work in Wayne County, with Powell responding that the amount would be paid with the understanding that she and other Trump allies would “receive a copy of all data immediately.”

The newspaper report comes nearly one year after a federal judge ruled that Powell’s attempts to overturn election results in Michigan were a  “historic and profound abuse of the judicial process” and recommended she be investigated for potential disbarment.

And the revelations come as Michigan’s attorney general’s office seeks a special prosecutor to review possible criminal charges in an election machine tampering case alleging DePerno and others “gained unauthorized access and compromised tabulators” in Roscommon County, Richfield Township, Lake Township and Irving Township between March and June of 2021. 

A petition requesting a special prosecutor claims DePerno, fellow attorney Stefanie Lambert Juntilla and state Rep. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, “orchestrated a coordinated plan to gain access”  to voting machines in multiple jurisdictions following the 2020 presidential election. 

The petition noted that Nessel has a conflict of interest in the case because DePerno is her likely opponent in November.

Other alleged conspirators include Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf, Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, Ben Cotton, Jeff Lenberg, Ann Howard and James Penrose, according to the petition for special prosecutor. 

DePerno, a Portage lawyer, became a national figure in the "stop the steal" movement and a favorite of Trump for his work challenging the election results in Antrim County and is now the presumptive Republican nominee for attorney general. 

His nomination won’t be official until it’s confirmed at the Michigan Republican Party convention on Aug. 27.

The vote machine probe from Nessel’s office began in February, before DePerno won the Michigan GOP's endorsement convention with backing from former Trump. 

DePerno has denied wrongdoing and has claimed the timing of the allegations was a political strategy to undermine his campaign against Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel, who is running for re-election this fall. 

There’s no set timeline for when the special prosecutor request would be fully reviewed, but it could take months, meaning the request could be in limbo until soon before the Nov. 8 election

According to the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, the process largely depends on the complexities of the case and available resources, noting complicated cases “have taken upwards of 60 to 90 days, or more.”

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