“With built-in errors”: Trump team wanted to confiscate voting machines

The weeks following the US presidential election in November 2020 and the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021 could have been even more chaotic than they already were. This emerges from the draft of a government order from the camp of the defeated President Donald Trump that fell at this time. According to the paper, then-interim Secretary of Defense Christopher C. Miller should have confiscated all of the country’s voting machines and evaluated the data stored on them.

The US National Archives handed over the draft of the presidential decree, which the online magazine “Politico” published, along with around 750 other documents to the House of Representatives investigative committee on January 6 to investigate the incidents. The authors emphatically refer to reports of electoral fraud in the US states of Georgia and Michigan, which observers there have classified as conspiracy stories.

In addition, there are allegations of massive cybersecurity gaps, especially in voting machines from the manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems, as well as related “foreign influence”. The Canadian company has repeatedly denied such allegations.

The order, which was ultimately not signed by Trump and not officially issued, would have ordered the Secretary of Defense “immediately” to “seize, collect, store and analyze all relevant “machines, devices, electronically stored information and material records” on the basis of a US election law “. It is at the Pentagon chief’s discretion to “decide to ban national critical infrastructure that supports federal elections,” it said. “The facilities provided for this are specified in the operational instructions.”

Miller and his team then had 60 days, citing a national emergency, to evaluate the data and send a report to the US intelligence official. This could have given Trump an option to stay in power until at least mid-February 2021 and at least delay the inauguration of his successor, Joe Biden. Furthermore, a specially appointed public prosecutor should have filed charges if allegations of fraud had been substantiated.

The draft order, dated December 16, 2020, cites an investigative report into voting machines “in Antrim County, Michigan.” Dominion electoral systems are said to have been “deliberately and purposefully equipped with built-in errors” in order to “systematically generate fraud and influence the election results”. Voting errors and IT vulnerabilities “including access to the internet” led to “mass processing of ballot papers without oversight, without transparency and without an audit trail”.

There is also a reasonable suspicion that voting machines from Smartmatic, “Electronic Systems & Software” – probably meant Election Systems & Software -, Hart Inter Civic, Clarity Election Night Reporting, Edison Research, Sequoia, Scytl and similar systems used have the same vulnerabilities and were “exposed to foreign interference” in the elections.

According to the Washington Post, the author of the mentioned report confused constituencies in Minnesota and Michigan. The state government there has already issued its own analysis, according to which none of the “known anomalies” in the November 2020 Antrim County election were the result of a security breach.

The draft order is consistent with suggestions that Trump’s former attorneys, including Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, put to the then president. On December 18, 2020, Powell, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, lawyer Emily Newman and former boss Patrick Byrne met with Trump in the White House to discuss how to proceed.

Dominion subsequently sued Giuliani and Powell for a “viral disinformation campaign” and sought billions in damages for damage to their reputation. The manufacturer is now also taking legal action against Byrne. According to him, thousands of hand recounts and safety checks have proven “that the machines counted accurately”. In general, however, there are always doubts about the IT security of electronic voting systems.

The draft also mentions two documents that are classified as classified and refer to insider knowledge: These are statements by the President on national security numbered 13 and 21. The former is public knowledge and regulates the offensive cyber operational capabilities of the Pentagon . So far there have been no reports of the existence of the second paper.


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