In early 2021, as turmoil continued in the hotly contested presidential contest, several Michigan election clerks received strange phone calls.
The person on the other end was a representative of the state’s Republicans and told them that their electoral equipment was necessary for an investigation, according to documents from the Michigan Attorney General’s office.
They must. The machines were quickly picked up at hotels and Airbnb rentals in Oakland County, outside of Detroit, by conservative activists looking for what they believed to be evidence of fraud, the documents said. Weeks later, after returning equipment in deliveries in highway parking lots and malls, employees found it tampered with, and in some cases damaged.
Revelations of the possibility of meddling with voting machines set off a political tsunami in Michigan, one of the nation’s most battleground states.
The documents show deception by election officials and violations of voting equipment that stands out as unusual even among the volumes of public reporting of brazen attempts by supporters of former President Donald J. Trump to scrutinize and undermine the 2020 results.
But one of the more politically striking elements of the case is the identity of one of the people implicated in the scheme by the Attorney General’s Office: Matthew DiPerno, now the presumptive Republican nominee for that very position.
the master. DePerno, the attorney who emerged as a challenger to Antrim County’s 2020 results and was believed by Mr. Trump is vying to oust Dana Nessel, the Democrat and Michigan’s top law enforcement official who has battled attempts to undermine the state’s elections.
Now, evidence provided by her office puts Mr. DePerno in one of his voting equipment “tests” and notes that he was the main coordinator of a “plot” to improper access to machines in three counties, Roscommon and Missouki in northern Michigan and Barry, a rural area southeast of Grand Rapids. Tampering, resulting in material damage, but the prosecutor’s office noted that there was no evidence of “any software or firmware tampering” of the equipment.
Even before the new accusations, the potential race was between Ms. nessel and mr. DePerno has been one of the most closely watched competitions for the attorney general in the country.
During his campaign, A. DePerno continued to falsely claim that mail-in voting was riddled with fraud and that voting records were deleted or destroyed after the election, and vowed to “prosecute the people who spoiled the 2020 election.” He also said he would start inquiring about Ms. Nessl, governor. Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, all Democrats.
His candidacy has alarmed election experts, Democrats and even many Republicans, who fear he may use his powers to conduct investigations based on fraudulent allegations or engage in other forms of election interference.
However, because mr. DiPerno is the likely Republican nominee – he garnered state party endorsement this year and is expected to be formally nominated later this month – no investigation by Ms. Nissl is politically charged and risks conflicts of interest. With that in mind, her office on Friday requested the appointment of a special prosecutor to continue investigating and prosecuting potential criminal charges.
allegations against mr. DePerno and eight other people — including Daire Rendon, the Republican state representative, and Dar Leaf, Barry County Sheriff — were detailed in a letter sent Friday from the deputy attorney general to Ms. benson, in solicitation of mrs. Nessl Office of the Special Prosecutor’s Student. The Detroit News published the letter first, and Politico reported the petition first. Reuters first reported mr. DePerno’s alleged involvement.
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Tyson Shepherd, Campaign Manager for Mr. “Matt DiPerno categorically denies the allegations made” and that “the petition itself is an incoherent liberal fever dream of lies,” DiPerno said in a statement. He also said that the investigation was political, and that “if Dana Nessel decides to go ahead with these allegations, she will eventually find herself on the side of the defendant in a malicious prosecution.”
A spokeswoman for the attorney general said the timing was not affected by politics.
petition submitted by mrs. “When this investigation began, there was no conflict of interest,” Nessl’s office stated, adding, “However, during the investigation, the facts were developed that DePerno was one of the main instigators of the plot.”
He continues, “Diperno is now the presumptive Republican nominee for attorney general. The conflict arises when the prosecuting attorney has a personal (financial or emotional) interest in the litigation.”
The petition identifies several people, such as Jim Penrose, a former NSA official, who looked into Mr. Trump’s Loss in 2020 Over the past two years, much of it has focused on the use of digital voting machines, such as those made by Dominion Voting Systems. Others mentioned in the petition, such as Doug Logan, the former CEO of tech company Cyber Ninja, were involved in various efforts to distort election results, such as a partisan review of ballot papers in Arizona.
nor mr. Penrose nor mr. Logan answered calls on Monday seeking comment on Ms. Nessel petition.
Local election clerks have been targeted by election deniers in several places across the country. Some were pressured by mayors to participate in electoral investigations. The same county clerk, Tina Peters of Colorado, is facing criminal charges related to violating her election equipment, and local officials in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Georgia have been charged with helping unauthorized people find evidence of fraud in the 2020 election.
Election experts are concerned that local officials represent a potential weakness in the country’s voting infrastructure, and that “internal functions” may allow future contests to be tampered with or inadvertently disclose election infrastructure.
“It raises concerns,” said Harry Horsty, an election security expert who was in Georgia during the 2020 election. “Pollution is a real threat, and it doesn’t require a bad actor. He’s also just an unskilled actor.”
the master. DePerno was also an attorney for an earlier attempt, shortly after the 2020 election, to gain access to voting machines in County Antrim produced by Dominion Voting Systems.
The notion that Dominion machines are part of a vast conspiracy by Chinese software companies and other foreign parties to rig the vote count in 2020 has been central to some of the most bizarre electoral lawsuits brought by Mr. Trump is like lawyer Sidney Powell.
Another person identified by mrs. Nessl in the latest investigation, attorney Stephanie Lambert Guntella, assisted Ms. Powell with one of the Dominion lawsuits in Michigan and later helped fight an effort by a federal judge to punish Mrs. Powell and other attorneys for their “historic and profound misuse of the judicial process” in bringing the Dominion lawsuit.
the master. Trump was very convinced by a report by Mr. DePerno’s allies on the Dominion Machines in Antrim County said that in December 2020, he told his then attorney general, William P. Barr, that he would be key evidence in helping him stay in power, according to testimony heard by the House Committee to Investigate the Capitol riots.
In a videotaped testimony shown at one of the committee’s sessions, Mr. Barr called conspiracy theories about the machines “complete bullshit” and “crazy stuff,” adding at one point that Mr. Trump would have “disconnected from reality” if he believed them.
Ms. Nissl’s request for a special prosecutor followed a month-long investigation by her office into a referral sent from Ms. Benson, the Secretary of State, that unknown persons gained improper access to the scheduling machines and data drives used in the town of Richfield and Roscommon County.
Ms. Nissl’s office also contacted the Michigan Attorney’s Complaints Commission, which looks into allegations of legal misconduct in the state, asking it to open its own investigation “based on information disclosed during the scheduling investigation.” Such an investigation could affect mr. DiPerno’s standing as a Michigan attorney and potential ability to serve as a public prosecutor.
In a statement Sunday evening, Ms. Benson said she would work to inform and arm clerks of the rules regarding election equipment security in an effort to guard against future abuse.
“The Republican, Democratic, and nonpartisan election clerks in this state perform their jobs with professionalism and integrity,” Benson said. “And we will continue to ensure that we provide them with a full understanding of the legal protections in place to prevent bad actors from pressuring them to access safe election systems.”