Trump allies explored using armed workers to seize vote data

Supporters on the fringes of former President Trump’s circle are exploring the search for broad post-election authority to hire armed private contractors to seize and inspect voting machines and election data with the assistance of U.S. Marshals, according to a draft letter published in which the President has been asked for permission .

The previously unreleased “authorization letter” and accompanying emails were sent on November 21, 2020 by an individual involved in efforts to find evidence of fraud in this year’s election. The documents reviewed by the Times are believed to be in possession of the Jan. 6 House Committee, which is scheduled to begin public hearings on Thursday.

The letter appears to be one of the earliest iterations of a draft executive order presented to the then-president in the Oval Office on December 18, 2020 by then-Trump attorney Sidney Powell, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Overstock. com Chief Executive Patrick Byrne in an effort to take control of voting machines.

The email and the attached draft letter were sent to Cyber ​​chief executive Doug Logan by Andrew Whitney, a British tech entrepreneur who found his way into Trump’s circle in 2020 after seeking the president’s endorsement of oleandrin, a toxic plant extract ​​Ninjas, and cybersecurity expert Jim Penrose Whitney claimed it was a miracle cure for COVID-19. Logan, who subsequently conducted a partisan “audit” of election results in Maricopa County, Arizona, and Penrose worked for weeks after the 2020 election with a group including Powell, Flynn and Byrne trying to gain access to voting machines and evidence of voter fraud Find.

Whitney and Penrose did not respond to requests for comment from The Times, and Logan declined an interview request.

The November 21, 2020 letter includes placeholder text at the top for an introduction conveying the document, which is from the President. The letter would have given three third-party companies the power to seize all voting machines and voting data at will, and gave the companies and their subcontractors powers to “research, obtain and store offsite any data and/or code relating to U.S. ballot fraud.” , vote rigging, voter fraud, vote interference, voting eligibility and voting systems wherever they are.”

The policy would also have allowed companies to inspect and analyze any records or devices related to the election, as well as details of who was in contact with them. In addition, the letter stated that the U.S. Marshals Service would support the effort and that private company personnel authorized to carry out the work would be “given authority to arm themselves in the conduct of these investigations, since most operations would be conducted under hostility.” Conditions.”

Two of the three cybersecurity companies named in the letter are run by men involved in the weeks-long effort to find evidence of voter fraud: Russell Ramsland of the Dallas-based Allied Security Operations Group, who would later lead an “audit” of Antrim County , Mich., Findings Trump Campaign Cited as Evidence of Fraud; and retired Army Colonel Phil Waldron of Rising Tide LLC, who worked with then-President Attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani to persuade state legislators and Republicans in Congress to review the election results.

Waldron and Ramsland did not respond to requests for comment.

The third company mentioned in the letter, Axon Global Services LLC, has no known connection to efforts to find evidence of fraud during the 2020 election.

When contacted by The Times, company owner Israel Martinez said he wasn’t sure why his name was in the letter.

“I was not privy to the document you mentioned, nor was my name or company name listed with my permission. Additionally, I would be upset at any suggestion that we would take a partisan stance on any engagement we are asked to do,” Martinez said in a statement. “We would never approach a potential cyber incident assessment with a biased view.”

Two hours after the email was sent to Logan and Penrose on November 21, 2020, a separate message was sent to pro-Trump attorney Lin Wood with the subject line “recommended language for ‘cover letter'”. The email to Wood, a Central figure in the Trump campaign’s efforts to spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 Georgia election, included a
attached letter in the same language, written as if it came from a lawyer rather than the President.

“I’m not denying that I received it, but I didn’t do anything with it,” Wood said in an interview with The Times. “I have never reviewed or revised a memo dealing with the confiscation of machinery or an executive order for Donald Trump. I’m sure.”

For the record:

11:56 am June 5, 2022An earlier version of this story mentioned that Patrick Byrne said Phil Waldron had repeatedly pushed for an idea to be put to the President to gain access to voting machine data. Byrne said that Waldron and Trump’s attorney, Sidney Powell, discussed the idea with the president’s attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani.

The idea of ​​gaining access to voting machine data to check for fraud — through an executive order or otherwise — was floated several times after the election, and Waldron has repeatedly pushed for taking the idea to the president, several at the effort said people involved to The Mal. In an interview with The Times, Byrne said Waldron and Powell spoke to Giuliani about it.

“They came back and said Rudy shot them right away,” Byrne said.

But the idea didn’t go away. It is unclear who wrote the final version of the proposed implementing regulation. But in February, Politico released emails dated December 16 and 17, 2020, that indicated Flynn and Waldron were preparing a draft executive order to confiscate voting machines and polling data.

The December 16 version of the order would have mandated the Pentagon to seize voting machines, not private companies. The draft, dated the following day, gave the Department of Homeland Security responsibility for taking possession of the machines and data.

Neither of these versions of the draft order would have given private companies the power to seize or inspect the machines, or allowed their workers to be armed during the process, although the drafts called for National Guard support. Both drafts aimed to give the go-ahead for “the appointment of a Special Counsel to oversee this operation and initiate all criminal and civil proceedings based on the evidence gathered and provide all resources necessary to carry out their duties consistent with federal law and the… to comply with the Constitution”.

Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, said the draft outlined in the Nov. 21, 2020 letter reviewed by The Times does not meet the basic standards of an executive order because it does not the case was relying on existing legal powers to justify the actions.

“You can’t say, ‘Because this is in an executive order, therefore I have authority in the executive order,'” she said. “This seems like some kind of fever dream from someone who is either not a lawyer or someone who didn’t do very well in law school.”

Christopher Krebs, former director of the US Agency for Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security, who was fired by Trump shortly after making comments reaffirming the security of voting machines, said the Nov. 21 draft appears to have been written by someone be unfamiliar with the implementing regulations and their powers and cannot grant.

The requirement for private contractors to be armed to help inspect machines is “appalling” and “implies that whoever designed this [letter] … regards this as some sort of warlike event,” Krebs said.

“You’re talking about effectively issuing letters of marque to a private sector organization to conduct some sort of activity on behalf of this executive office of the President,” Krebs said. “A private sector organization does not have the authority to confiscate state government equipment. The federal government does not even have that power, especially in relation to the conduct of elections. And we’re looking at a document that says that’s fine.” Trump allies explored using armed workers to seize vote data

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