Georgia prosecutors have reportedly obtained text messages linking a breach of voting machines to members of Donald Trump’s team as a grand jury prepares to hear evidence in a case surrounding the former president’s attempts to overturn 2020 election results in the state.
That state investigation – separate from a federal probe and indictment charging Mr Trump with three criminal conspiracies and obstruction in connection with 2020 election subversion – appears to connect Trump-linked attorneys and operatives to a breach of voting machines in Coffee County.
As Mr Trump and his allies hunted for evidence of fraud to undermine Joe Biden’s definitive victory, a local elections official allegedly sent a “written invitation” to attorneys working for then-President Trump, according to text messages reportedly obtained by CNN.
Last year, a former Trump official told the House select committee investigating January 6 and attempts to overturn election results said that White House officials had discussed plans to access voting machines in the state during an Oval Office meeting on 18 December 2020.
While much of the attention surrounding the Georgia case has involved Mr Trump’s call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” votes to ensure his victory, investigators have scrutinised the actions in Coffee County, and prosecutors appear prepared to argue that attempts to infiltrate sensitive voting machine software were a top-down effort from the former president.
Mr Trump won the rural county in a landslide with 70 per cent of the vote.
Katherine Friess, an attorney working with Trump-allied attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, among others, had shared the “invitation” to examine the county’s Dominion Voting Systems software on 1 January 2021, days before the breach, according to CNN.
One month earlier, Ms Powell – who amplified false claims and conspiracy theories about Dominion that were central to a landmark defamation settlement between the company and Fox News – had previously enlisted forensics company Sullivan Strickler for $26,000 to investigate Michigan machines.
Ms Friess also sent a “Letter of invitation to Coffee County, Georgia” to former New York City Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik, who was working with Mr Giuliani to bolster spurious claims of voter fraud, according to court documents in a civil case.
Her texts reportedly show that she told operatives who ultimately performed the breach that Mr Trump’s team had secured written permission, CNN reported.
“Just landed back in DC with the Mayor huge things starting to come together!” an employee with Sullivan Strickler reportedly wrote in a group chat on 1 January 2021.
“Most immediately, we were just granted access – by written invitation! – to Coffee County’s systems. Yay!” the text reads, according to CNN.
Data obtained from the Dominion Voting Systems software was uploaded to a password-protected website that could be accessed by election deniers across the country.
Robert Costello, Mr Giuliani’s attorney, said that the former New York City mayor “had nothing to do with this”.
“You can’t attach Rudy Giuliani to Sidney Powell’s crackpot idea,” he told CNN.
A case led by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is the culmination of a wide-ranging investigation over the last two years following the former president’s pressure campaign targeting state officials to reject the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state.
Her office has notified at least two witnesses to appear next week before a grand jury, the strongest indication yet that prosecutors are preparing to issue indictments in the coming days.
She has previously indicated that a grand jury would vote on indictments by the end of August.