Michigan AG is summoning a special prosecutor in a case now involving its Trump-backed opponent

The petition was formally submitted to the Michigan Prosecution Attorney’s Coordinating Council, an independent government body. In it, Nessel’s office reports that DiPerno—who was a pivotal figure promoting Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen—was present in a hotel room in Oakland County sometime in early 2021, where schedulers were tampered with. According to the people involved in the investigation, this is among multiple evidence linking DePerno to the breach of several voting machines.

When it became clear that DePerno was the subject of the investigation, Nessel’s office decided to request a special prosecutor to try to avoid the emergence of political motives, according to the request.

When this investigation began there was no conflict of interest. However, during the investigation, facts were developed that DiPerno was one of the main instigators of the conspiracy,” the petition states. “Conflict arises when the prosecuting attorney has a personal (financial or emotional) interest in the litigation,” she says.

Politico has reached out to DePerno for comment. Reuters identified the charges against DePerno earlier Sunday night.

DePerno is set to formally receive the Republican nomination for attorney general later this month after winning the endorsement of party delegates in April. According to the letter, Michigan law makes it a five-year felony for anyone to “obtain unwarranted possession of a voting machine used in an election.”

Nessl’s request for a special prosecutor is the latest chapter in a political and legal saga that has spawned numerous conspiracy theories, raised electoral doubts and could affect elections in major battlefield states in 2024.

DiPerno led a lawsuit in November 2020 against the state’s Antrim County over an election night scheduling error that was quickly fixed, but Trump and his allies impeached him for claiming that the entire presidential election was fraudulent. Among the evidence Nessl’s office said it disclosed was a digital identity match to the voting machines DePerno used as evidence in this ultimately successful lawsuit.

DiPerno raised hundreds of thousands of dollars as he pursued the lawsuit, and his bogus claims about Antrim ended up in a draft White House executive order for Trump directing the military to seize voting machines nationwide. The order was never issued but emerged as part of a US House of Representatives investigation into the Capitol riots.

The allegations about Antrim have also led to a now-disclosed report alleging irregularities in the voting machine. This report has been included as evidence in several failed lawsuits challenging elections in Michigan and other swing states. Hundreds of statewide reviews showed no evidence of “technical manipulation” of voting machines, DiPerno claimed.

DePerno also participated in the so-called 2020 presidential election review in Arizona that eventually confirmed President Joe Biden’s victory. during January. In the 6 Capitol riots, he met with one of Trump’s top officials at the State Department to discuss “how to steal the election.”

In return, Trump showered Diberno with his support. He endorsed his campaign for the attorney general for nearly a year. In March, he held a fundraiser for DePerno at his Mar-a-Lago residence and stopped in front of him in Michigan a month later.

“We need him,” Trump said in March, claiming a “cheat” in the Michigan election. “This is someone who can fix it. There are not many people around who can do that,” he said. “I spoke to him to do it.”

Threats from within

The new allegations against DePerno come as election security experts have raised questions about whether individuals involved in Trump’s election plots could pose “insider threats” or abuse their positions of power in upcoming elections. In addition to DePerno, several other Trump-backed candidates have won GOP primaries in major battlefield states such as Arizona and Nevada, potentially making them oversee election and related law enforcement activities.

So far, there have been at least eight known attempts to gain unauthorized access to voting systems in five states, according to a Reuters investigation. This includes Colorado, where Mesa County clerk Tina Peters is facing multiple criminal charges for her alleged role in allowing people to hack her county’s election system in search of evidence of conspiracy theories.

In addition to a special prosecutor’s request, Nissl also sent a summary of the preliminary findings to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

“We have requested the appointment of a Special Prosecutor (“SPA”) to review the case to issue possible criminal charges against several of the individuals involved. “We consider the actions of these individuals very serious,” Nessel wrote in the letter, also obtained by POLITICO.

As of last weekend, DePerno still had a link on his law firm’s website to an interview in May 2021 with the conservative One America News Network featuring a “systems vulnerability expert” using a tape-covered scheduler to show what sounds like flipped over. It was not clear from the video if it was one of the hacked devices. The Public Prosecutor’s Office declined to comment.

sequence of events

Nessel’s investigation began in February of this year after the secretary of state asked her office and the Michigan State Police to look into reports that schedulers and data hard drives had been illegally accessed by an unnamed third party in Roscommon County.

At the time, Trump supporters in the state were claiming that state-ordered pending voting system upgrades or maintenance of voting machines could erase potential evidence of alleged fraud in the 2020 election, and they argued that access to these machines could have helped them substantiate those allegations.

Over time, the attorney general’s investigation expanded, and law enforcement eventually determined that a group of individuals had already gained unauthorized access to the machines in several counties.

In the summary of findings, the attorney general repeatedly points to successful “person 1” initiatives of county employees to obtain voting scheduling, software, and USB drives, claiming they were necessary to conduct an investigation into “election fraud.” It is unclear from the summary who Person 1.

The summary reads: “At the time the scheduling was obtained, Person 1 assured each separate writer that it would be returned in only a few days.” He cites at least one, Roscommon County Clerk, Michelle Stephenson, who began to question the motives and authority of those who got the voting schedule weeks later and the equipment not returned.

Days after finally returning the two schedules to a Roscommon clerk in early April of 2021, DePerno issued a subpoena to Verizon to obtain more detailed information on the two schedules. The subpoena contained the modem ID numbers for the Richfield Township and Roscommon County tables.

A representative from the company that makes the machines, election systems, and software confirmed to the OTP that the only way these identification numbers could be obtained was to “open the security seals and physically remove the outer panels.” The message says.

ES&S also confirmed to the attorney general that no evidence was found in the resulting software or firmware tampering. All scheduling tools involved were shut down prior to August. 2 The primaries are held as evidence for a special prosecutor.

Alleged conspirators

DePerno wasn’t the only person included in Nessel’s summary of her office’s findings. It also referred Stephanie Lambert, who is registered as Diberno’s sole legal partner, to the special prosecutor.

Among others referred to the special prosecutor is a representative of the state of Michigan. Dyer Rendon, who was also involved in a plot to present a false slate of Republican presidential electors falsely claiming that Trump won Michigan. Nessel’s office claims that DePerno, Lambert, and Rendon “coordinated” efforts to obtain and access scheduling. Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf, who was pursuing his “private investigation of voter fraud” after reviewing documents from Michael Lindell, the Trump-aligned CEO of MyPillow, is also on the list referred to the special counsel.

Leaf attempted to recruit his fellow “Constitutional Mayors” to take over the Dominion voting machines. Lambert was part of a legal team bringing lawsuits dismissed from court to contest the 2020 election. A federal judge has also sanctioned Lambert and her advisers, including attorney Sidney Powell, for a failed legal attempt to overturn the Michigan election results. Trump sought to appoint Powell as a special counsel to investigate vote fraud and confiscation of voting machines.

Michigan has been the center of some of the bitterest battles over the testimony of the 2020 election, as Trump personally reached out to a Detroit board member, summoning members of the Michigan legislature into the Oval Office.

In her letter to Benson, Nessl urged more education for all state employees “to determine their legal obligation to protect election equipment,” including a request for identification from “any individual claiming to be law enforcement that seeks to inspect or confiscate election equipment.”

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