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Tag: matthew deperno

Michigan GOP Attorney General Nominee Probed In Voting Machine Scheme

Michigan Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel announced in a press release on Aug. 8 that her department had petitioned the Michigan Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council, a state agency that provides legal research to the state's prosecuting attorneys and coordinates their activities, to assign a special prosecutor to an ongoing investigation into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Nessel's petition, based on evidence obtained during an investigation by the office of Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, says that the Michigan Department of Attorney General and the Michigan State Police are investigating "a conspiracy to unlawfully obtain access to voting machines used in the 2020 elections." Named in the petition are a Republican candidate for Michigan attorney general, Kalamazoo lawyer Matt DePerno, and eight other people.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Christina Grossi said in a letter to Benson dated Aug. 5:

Ultimately, our investigation uncovered that, after the 2020 election, a group of individuals gained unauthorized access and compromised tabulators from the following clerk’s offices: the Roscommon County Clerk, the Richfield Township Clerk, the Lake City Township Clerk, and the Irving Township Clerk. All unauthorized access occurred between the dates of March 11, 2021, and late June of 2021. All impacted tabulators have been seized as evidence as part of our investigation and decommissioned from use in any future elections.

Nessel's petition states, "The Michigan State Police and the special agents with the MDAG have completed a preliminary review and it is now time for a prosecutorial review for charges that include but are not limited to Conspiracy ...; Using a Computer System to Commit a Crime ...; Willfully Damaging a Voting Machine ...; Malicious Destruction of Property ...; Fraudulent Access to a Computer or Computer System ...; and False Pretenses."

Through analysis of images included in a lawsuit filed in 2021 by DePerno and attorney Stephanie Lambert aiming to overturn the results of the election in Antrim County, Reuters connected DePerno's group, the "Michigan Antrim County Election Lawsuit and Investigation Team," with unauthorized access to vote tabulation equipment in Richfield County..

The lawsuit was subsequently dismissed, and the state Senate Oversight Committee called it "frivolous."

Former President Donald Trump and his supporters continue to claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him, despite investigations in Michigan and across the country turning up no evidence of fraud.

Also named in Nessel's petition is Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf, who has a history of associating with extremist militias and belongs to the far-right Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, whose members falsely insist that county sheriffs have absolute law enforcement authority in their jurisdictions, even above state and federal authorities, including governors and the president of the United States. In a special report on Leaf published in July, Reuters noted that in May the association had encouraged its members to investigate so-called fraud in the 2020 election.

Leaf did open an investigation and tried unsuccessfully to seize voting machines in an effort guided by Lambert, who was a member of a team of Trump lawyers spearheaded by Sidney Powell that filed a lawsuit in federal court in Michigan in a failed attempt to overturn the state's election results. Reuters reported that its investigation shows "People spearheading Trump's rigged-election claims in Michigan were deeply involved with Sheriff Leaf early on, making Barry County a pillar of their efforts to overturn the presidential vote in a fiercely contested state that Biden won by 154,000 votes of 5.5 million cast."

DePerno, who has been endorsed in his run for attorney general by Trump, defended his actions during an appearance August 8 on the podcast "Michigan's Big Show," telling host Michael Patrick Shiels:

[Nessel's] allegations are total garbage. This is coming strategically. She's trying to damage me right now, clearly. We have county conventions coming up Thursday, we have the state convention at the end of August. She knows right now that she's losing. The most recent assessment shows DePerno with a +1 advantage in this race, so she comes out with this nonsense, claiming that somehow I did something illegal, and that she's going to conduct an investigation. And that's a terrible thing for a sitting attorney general to do against a political opponent. She's weaponizing her office again, just like she did in the Flint water case.

DePerno's troubles did not begin with his attempts to overturn a free and fair election, however. He has also been dogged by allegations of financial impropriety. He was fired by his former law firm on the basis of accusations of "fraud, deceit and dishonesty with regards to bogus billing, duplicate billing and write offs, in addition to other wrongful acts."

More recently, former Michigan House Speaker Tom Leonard, who is also running for the Republican nomination for attorney general, raised questions about $400,000 donated to an "Election Fraud Defense Fund" that DePerno managed, claiming that the money was donated directly to DePerno and hasn't been accounted for.

While DePerno is running for to be the top prosecutor in the state, he has no experience as a prosecutor.

DePerno's office did not return requests for comment for this article.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Exclusive: GOP Attorney General Nominee Implicated In Election Offense​​

By Nathan Layne

(Reuters) - The Republican nominee for Michigan attorney general led a team that gained unauthorized access to voting equipment while hunting for evidence to support former President Donald Trump’s false election-fraud claims, according to a Reuters analysis of court filings and public records.

The analysis shows that people working with Matthew DePerno - the Trump-endorsed nominee for the state’s top law-enforcement post - examined a vote tabulator from Richfield Township, a conservative stronghold of 3,600 people in northern Michigan’s Roscommon County.

The Richfield security breach is one of four similar incidents being investigated by Michigan's current attorney general, Democrat Dana Nessel. Under state law, it is a felony to seek or provide unauthorized access to voting equipment.

DePerno did not respond to a request for comment.

The involvement of a Republican attorney general nominee in a voting-system breach comes amid a national effort by backers of Trump’s fraud falsehoods to win state offices that could prove critical in deciding any future contested elections.

In Arizona last week, three Trump-backed candidates who claim the 2020 election was stolen won Republican primary elections for governor, attorney general and secretary of state, the top official overseeing elections. In Pennsylvania, Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano has vowed to decertify any election he considers fraudulent through his appointed secretary of state. Michigan, Arizona and Pennsylvania are all presidential election battlegrounds.

Trump lavished praise on DePerno before a large audience this weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas. “He’s going to make sure that you are going to have law and order and fair elections,” Trump said, pumping his fist as DePerno stood up in the audience and waved. “That’s an important race.”

Reuters established the connection between Michigan’s DePerno and the Richfield voting-system breach by matching the serial number of the township’s tabulator to a photograph in a publicly released report written by a member of DePerno’s team. The photograph showed a printed record of a vote-tabulator’s activity, which also included a string of ten digits. Reuters confirmed that those numbers matched the serial number of a Richfield vote tabulator through public records obtained from the township. State officials had previously identified Richfield as the site of a voting-equipment security breach.

DePerno had submitted the report as evidence in a failed lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results in a different Michigan county, Antrim. The report claimed that Dominion and ES&S election equipment was vulnerable to hacking and vote-rigging.

Reuters asked an election-security expert to review the materials. Kevin Skoglund, president and chief technologist for the nonpartisan Citizens for Better Elections, an election-security advocacy organization, said the matching numbers indicate that DePerno’s team had access to the Richfield Township tabulator or its data drives.

DePerno led the "Michigan Antrim County Election Lawsuit & Investigation Team,” which included himself, Detroit attorney Stefanie Lambert, private investigator Michael Lynch, and James Penrose, a former analyst for the National Security Agency, according to promotional material for a July 2021 fundraising event in California sponsored by a conservative group that advertised appearances by DePerno’s team members. Penrose, who had assisted other prominent Trump allies in their efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, authored the report that Reuters tied to a tabulator involved in the Richfield Township security breach.

Lambert, Lynch and Penrose did not respond to requests for comment.

The previously unreported link to GOP attorney general candidate DePerno and his associates comes as Democratic incumbent Nessel advances her probe, which she launched in February 2022. Nessel is seeking re-election, which would create a conflict of interest if her political opponent became a suspect in her office’s investigation. The attorney general’s office declined to comment on the specifics of its investigation but said Nessel would “take appropriate steps to remove herself and her department should a conflict arise.”

Nessel’s office started investigating the voting-system security breaches after a request from Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. In a February statement, Benson said that “at least one unnamed third party" had gained access to tabulation machines and data drives from Richfield Township and Roscommon County.

Jake Rollow, a spokesperson for the secretary of state, said the office does not believe DePerno’s team had legal approval to access ES&S voting equipment. Rollow declined to comment further on the attorney general’s investigation but emphasized its importance. “To ensure Michigan’s elections are secure in the future, there must be consequences now for the people who illegally accessed the state’s voting machines,” he said.

ES&S did not respond to requests for comment.

Seizing On A Glitch

Voting and vote-counting equipment is subject to strict chain-of-custody requirements to ensure accuracy and guard against fraud. Access to tabulators is tightly restricted, and any machine compromised by an unauthorized person is typically taken out of commission.

The four cases being investigated by Nessel are among at least 17 incidents identified by Reuters nationwide in which Trump supporters gained or attempted to gain unauthorized access to voting equipment. Michigan accounts for 11 of them, reflecting how conspiracy theorists sought to capitalize on an error in the initial reporting of 2020 results in Antrim County to allege widespread fraud in the state, without evidence.

A state review of the Antrim County incident found that a failure to properly update software caused a computer glitch that resulted in county officials initially reporting Joe Biden as the winner of the reliably Republican county. The officials quickly acknowledged and corrected the mistake, and Trump's victory was affirmed by a hand tally of every vote cast.

DePerno seized on the confusion, filing a lawsuit making the unfounded claim that tabulators made by Colorado-based Dominion Voting Systems had been rigged to flip votes from Trump to Biden in Antrim County.

“No evidence of machine fraud or manipulation in the 2020 election has ever been presented in Michigan or any other state, and courts in Michigan and elsewhere have dismissed such claims as baseless,” Dominion spokesman Tony Fratto said.

In early December 2020, 13th Circuit Court Judge Kevin Elsenheimer granted DePerno's legal team permission to take forensic images of Antrim County voting equipment to search for evidence of election fraud. The court order was limited to Antrim, where only Dominion equipment was used. The order did not extend to other jurisdictions or machines made by other voting-system providers.

Yet DePerno’s team submitted two reports in April 2021 to the court that revealed they had also examined equipment made by Election Systems & Software (ES&S).

The report written by Penrose, dated April 9, contained a photograph of a "summary tape" with information about a tabulator’s activity on election night, such as when results were submitted to the county. Among other things, the tape showed a sequence of figures: 0317350497.

That is the serial number for one of two ES&S DS200 tabulators Richfield Township used during the 2020 vote, according to copies of documents obtained by Reuters through a public-records request.

Skoglund, the election-security specialist consulted by Reuters, said the matching numbers indicate that the report’s author had access to either Richfield's tabulator or a data drive containing the results and other information on the machine.

"There’s no doubt in my mind that the Penrose photograph is output from that same DS200 -- that he had physical hands-on access," Skoglund told Reuters.

A second person familiar with the workings of ES&S voting equipment examined the records obtained by Reuters and concurred that the tabulator tape shown in the Penrose report matches the machine with the same serial number.

More Machines Seized

The Penrose report was part of a series of submissions from DePerno’s team that failed to convince Judge Elsenheimer. At an April 12, 2021 hearing, the judge shut down DePerno’s attempt to subpoena several Michigan counties for access to election data and equipment.

DePerno gave an interview later the same day to two right-wing websites, Gateway Pundit and 100 Percent Fed Up. DePerno said that Penrose had examined an ES&S machine. He added that the team had also looked at Dominion equipment "outside of Antrim County." The attorney said he didn't consider Elsenheimer’s ruling a dead-end.

"Maybe there will be some county somewhere that decides to come forward and cooperate. That would be nice," DePerno told the websites.

In reality, DePerno's associates had already taken possession of voting machines from local officials in Richfield Township in Roscommon County and Lake Township in Missaukee County, according to police records and text messages acquired through public records requests.

Lynch, the private investigator who worked with DePerno on his Antrim county case, exchanged texts with Lake Township clerk Korinda Winkelmann on March 20, 2021. Lynch asked for help accessing a Dominion device she had provided to him, according to the messages, obtained by Reuters through a public-records requests. Winkelman shared with Lynch an operational manual and a password for the device, while also speculating on how election systems might be rigged.

Lynch had no authorization to examine the machine, and the incident remains under state investigation. Winkelmann did not respond to requests for comment.

Elsenheimer dismissed the Antrim suit in May 2021, a decision that was affirmed this year by the Michigan Court of Appeals. DePerno's fraud claims have been widely debunked. A Republican-led Michigan Senate committee issued a scathing report in June 2021 that called DePerno's various allegations "demonstrably false."

In September 2021, Trump endorsed DePerno as the Republican nominee for Michigan attorney general, praising his pursuit of “fair and accurate elections” and his ongoing effort to “reveal the truth about the November 3 presidential election scam.”

(Reporting by Nathan Layne; additional reporting by Peter Eisler; editing by Brian Thevenot)

Michigan GOP Nominates ‘Big Lie’ Candidates To Oversee Elections

Two election conspiracy theorists in Michigan won Republican endorsements for critical state positions that would put them in charge of running elections and defending election law.

Matthew DePerno and Kristina Karamo won the GOP endorsement for attorney general and secretary of state, respectively, at a nominating convention on Saturday. Both Republicans will face off against Democratic incumbents in the swing state, which Biden won by a 3-point margin in 2020.

In Michigan, voters do not choose the nominees for attorney general or secretary of state. Rather, a group of party insiders hand-picks the nominees at a party convention. DePerno and Karamo won the endorsements after a vote of roughly 2,000 GOP delegates, which put them on a glide path to winning the nomination at a second nominating convention in August, according to local media outlets.

Both DePerno and Karamo were endorsed by former President Donald Trump, who has made his picks based on whether candidates support his lies that the 2020 presidential election was "stolen" from him.

DePerno — who would be the top law enforcement officer in the state — filed an unsuccessful lawsuit making the baseless claim that there was widespread voter fraud in Antrim County, Michigan, in 2020. That lawsuit helped fuel false conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems voting machines and furthered the lie that Trump was the true winner in the 2020 election.

DePerno's lawsuit was dismissed by a judge in 2021. Two days before winning the GOP endorsement, DePerno lost his appeal of the case. A state court ruled that DePerno's lawsuit "raised a series of questions about the election without making any specific factual allegations as required."

DePerno is challenging Democrat Dana Nessel in the race to be Michigan's top law enforcement official.

"Even I am at a loss for words at this ridiculous turn of events. Running the State of Michigan is a serious business and these are clear[l]y not serious or competent people," Nessel tweeted on Saturday. "God help us if this party takes over our executive offices."

Karamo, who earned the state GOP's endorsement to be Michigan's next secretary of state, is a QAnon conspiracy theorist and self-described "anti-vaxxer" who opposes schools teaching the theory of evolution. She has also made bigoted anti-LGBTQ remarks, isaying that both LGBTQ people as well as unmarried people who have sex "violate God's creative design" and are the product of a culture of "sexual brokenness."

Karamo rose to prominence in Republican circles because she claimed that she witnessed votes being switched from Trump to President Joe Biden during Michigan's ballot counting in the 2020 election — a lie that experts said was just Karamo not understanding how the election process works. With the state GOP's endorsement, Karamo will now face current Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson in the race to oversee Michigan's elections.

Benson tweeted on Monday that her race is now "ground zero in the battle over the future of our democracy."

Some Michigan Republicans have expressed fears that DePerno and Karamo's extreme views will make them unelectable in the fall.

"Every ad from April 24 through November is going to say 'QAnon Karamo is too crazy for us,'" Republican state Rep. Beau LaFave, who also ran for secretary of state, said at the convention on Saturday.

DePerno and Karamo are not the only election deniers running for attorney general and secretary of state positions across the country.

In Arizona, the leading candidate for the GOP nomination for secretary of state is Mark Finchem, who has pushed the lie that Trump won Arizona in the 2020 election. Finchem, who has claimed that the election was "rigged," was in attendance at the Jan. 6, 2021, "Stop the Steal" rally that preceded the U.S. Capitol insurrection. The congressional committee investigating the attack has subpoenaed Finchem for his involvement in the event.

And in Nevada, Republican election denier Jim Marchant is hoping to run the state's elections. He's been endorsed by major players in the failed effort to overturn Biden's 2020 victory. In January, Marchant told Steve Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist, that he is part of "a coalition of America First secretary of state candidates" that is working "behind the scenes to try to fix 2020 like President Trump said."

Printed with permission from American Independent.