“Is anyone investigating Trump allies’ multi-state effort to access election systems?”


As news trickled out that former President Trump’s supporters had organized to access federally protected election machines and copied sensitive information and software, election expert Susan Greenhalgh waited for FBI or Justice Department leaders to announce an investigation.

“It just seemed so stunning that we thought, well of course there’s going to be a big reaction and the government is going to investigate,” said Greenhalgh, senior advisor on election security for the nonprofit Free Speech For People.

When months passed with no such announcement, Greenhalgh and over a dozen other election experts wrote a 14-page letter to Justice Department leaders in December outlining what they called a “multi-state conspiracy to copy voting software” and asking the agency to open an investigation.

Greenhalgh was baffled when she received a terse, noncommittal response from the FBI a month later that seemed to indicate no action had been or would be taken at the federal level.

Now, just months before the 2024 presidential primaries, it remains unclear whether any federal agency has plans for a comprehensive investigation of the effort to gain access to election systems. Election and law enforcement experts are concerned that the stolen information might be used to interfere with future elections and that the FBI and Justice Department may be sending the wrong signal to those responsible if agencies don’t investigate.

Without a national investigation, “we’re never going to know what the overall plan here was,” Greenhalgh said.

“Don’t we need to know that?” she continued. “We don’t know what this was all about, and it’s dangerous to guess or assume that, ‘Oh well, because President Biden was inaugurated on [Jan. 20], this no longer poses a threat.’”

The bulk of what is known about the effort has come from investigative reporting, a handful of state inquiries and a years-long federal civil suit against Georgia authorities over the security of the state’s elections. Those sources found that an organized network of people scrambled to access county election systems in the weeks after the 2020 election and in at least the first six months of 2021.

In two instances, courts or state lawmakers granted access to the systems. In a handful of states, Trump supporters convinced election officials or law enforcement to give them access to election machines, including in Mesa County, Colo.; Coffee County, Ga.; Fulton County, Pa.; and several Michigan counties.

After obtaining access, third parties copied sensitive information, including software used in election equipment in a majority of U.S. counties, and shared the information with an unknown number of people. It is not clear that every county where election systems were accessed has been identified. Those involved have indicated in news reports that similar efforts to access election machines were made in several other states.

Despite evidence that the same people were involved in multiple states and that the effort was funded in part by prominent Trump supporters including his former lawyer Sidney Powell, there is little indication a federal inquiry is underway.

“Because there is a nationwide pattern here involving the same people, and because of the risk that those individuals will organize this yet again, I think it is … important that federal authorities look at the larger pattern,” said Norm Eisen, a longtime election lawyer who was involved in Trump’s first impeachment. “It needs to be analyzed as a recurring pattern so that that pattern does not continue to occur in the future.”

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