Democrats are racing to discredit Maricopa-style election audits

Joseph Marks  

Below: The Trump administration pondered hacking WikiLeaks and Germans voted under threat of a Russian cyberattack.

Democrats see a new opening to halt partisan election audits

© J. Scott Applewhite/AP House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Caroline Maloney (D-N.Y.) (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)Democrats are rushing to capitalize on the results of a partisan election audit in Maricopa County, Ariz., which found no evidence of fraud.

They hope to deal a fatal blow to similar GOP-led audits in battleground states and finally consign the 2020 election to the history books. 

To Democrats’ ire, Trump supporters in Arizona had claimed for months there was evidence of voting fraud in Arizona, a battleground state Biden narrowly won. Now, with the results in, they’re jumping to action. Within hours of the audit’s long-delayed release:

  • House Oversight Committee Democratic leaders announced an Oct. 7 hearing into the audit results. They asked Dean Logan, CEO of Cyber Ninjas, the firm that conducted the audit, to answer questions about “the extent to which your company’s actions have undermined the integrity of federal elections.”
  • Democratic election officials released a cavalcade of statements and tweets calling the review a “bad faith stunt,” a “waste of taxpayer dollars” and worse.
  • Election integrity groups tore into the audit for lacking any of the rigors of a standard professional election review.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson:

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon:

Irony alert

After months of claims the GOP-led audit would reveal votes stolen from Trump, the final tally actually found more votes for President Biden than the certified results.

That was a pretty empty victory for audit opponents. They’ve repeatedly warned the Cyber Ninjas review was so tainted by poor auditing and security procedures that its results couldn’t possibly be trusted.

And the claims about election fraud are far from over.

Even after releasing their findings, Cyber Ninjas officials continued to raise baseless claims about the election’s integrity in a presentation to the Arizona Senate.

The Maricopa County Board smacked down those claims in a lengthy series of near real-time Twitter fact checks. The board is majority Republican but has long opposed the audit.

The county board’s common theme: The audit was woefully incompetent, and Cyber Ninjas routinely mistook or deliberately misinterpreted common election procedures as nefarious.

  • Suspicious Internet connections that might indicate hacking? Cyber Ninjas was looking at other parts of the county network, not the election system, which is segregated from the Internet.
  • Election data that seems to have been deleted? It was archived. The Arizona Senate, which subpoenaed county records for the audit, never subpoenaed archives.
  • More ballots were returned than there were votes cast in Maricopa County? This is common because voters often submit mail ballots missing signatures and other data. Election officials work with them to submit replacement ballots that won’t be rejected.
  • People appear to have voted in multiple Arizona counties? Many people share common names and birth years. That doesn’t mean they’re the same person.

“I encourage lawmakers to stop listening to the fringes and gather real facts from election experts before making more careless allegations and proposing legislation based on poor science,” Maricopa County Chairman Jack Sellers (R) said.

© Jonathan J. Cooper/AP Maricopa County Chairman Jack Sellers. (Jonathan J. Cooper/AP)Yet, the momentum of partisan audits in other states will be difficult to stop.

Efforts at similar audits are underway in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Another kicked off last week in Texas after Trump goaded Gov. Greg Abbott (R), Amy Gardner reports.

Trump himself has led the charge for such audits and repeatedly embraced baseless conspiracy theories that the election was stolen.

He falsely claimed on Friday that the Maricopa County audit “conclusively shows there were enough fraudulent votes, mystery votes, and fake votes to change the outcome of the election 4 or 5 times over.”

For true believers in election conspiracy theories, there’s probably no amount of debunking that will change their minds.

Tina Peters, chief election official in Mesa County, Colo., is among the hardest-line such believers. She allegedly improperly copied hard drives of her county’s election systems and passed them to MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a purveyor of absurd and baseless election claims.

The move ramped up cybersecurity threats for voting machines in the county and elsewhere.

Now, she’s in an undisclosed location while Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D) tries to remove her from office. The threat of losing her post has done nothing to change Peters’s mind, Emma Brown reports.

Instead, she’s painted the effort to remove her as a conspiracy to quiet revelations about election fraud.

“They will stop at nothing to shut this up,” she said on a podcast aimed at Christian conservatives. “I’m willing to go as far as it takes to do what needs to happen. I mean, God’s called me, He’ll sustain me and He’s surrounding me with His people.”

Lindell has paid for Peters’s lodging, security and lawyers in recent weeks, he told Emma. Speaking during his online show, he urged other election officials to follow Peters’s example.

“We want to get more Tinas,” Lindell said. “We need more Tinas out there.”

The keys

The Trump administration considered a cyberattack against WikiLeaks after it published CIA hacking tools

© Matt Dunham/AP The talks came in the wake of WikiLeaks’s publication of a cache of CIA documents and hacking tools known as “Vault 7.” (Matt Dunham/AP)The planning focused on whether the CIA could hit WikiLeaks servers that housed as-yet unpublished agency documents if they showed up online — effectively erasing the documents from the Internet, Yahoo News’s Zach Dorfman, Sean D. Naylor and Michael Isikoff report. It never did find such documents.

The U.S. government also discussed potentially kidnapping or assassinating WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the wake of the website’s publication of a tranche of CIA hacking tools known as “Vault 7,” they report.

Assange, who was holed up within Ecuador’s London embassy, has battled potential extradition to the United States, where he faces 18 federal charges, including conspiring to crack a password.

Other revelations:

  • The CIA may have stolen and destroyed WikiLeaks associates’ hard drives.
  • U.S. intelligence agencies had access to video feeds of Assange within Ecuador’s London embassy, according to a former national security official.

The CIA declined to comment. Barry Pollack, Assange’s U.S. lawyer, said he found it “absolutely outrageous that our government would be contemplating kidnapping or assassinating somebody without any judicial process simply because he had published truthful information.”

German election concludes without major cyberattack despite warnings

© Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images German politicians are vying to be Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor. (Tobias Schwarz/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)Before polls opened, E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned Russia against conducting “malicious cyber activities.”

The warning came after German officials said hackers breached the country’s Federal Statistical Office, which oversees the election, Andrew Jeong reports. The country’s interior ministry said the attack appeared to impact a development server used for its national census, not the election.

“As far as we can tell at the moment, the internal election server wasn’t affected by this attack and as such there is no threat to the conduct of the federal election,” Interior Ministry spokesman Marek Wede told the Associated Press’s Lorne Cook.

A Huawei executive and two Canadians returned home after a high-stakes prisoner swap

© Jimmy Jeong/Bloomberg Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou returned to China after she reached an agreement with the Justice Department. (Jimmy Jeong/Bloomberg)Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou returned to China after reaching an agreement with the Justice Department to acknowledge some criminal wrongdoing in concealing the company’s ties to Iran, Amanda Coletta reports.

Shortly after Meng reached the agreement with the Justice Department, two Canadians jailed in China were released. They returned to Canada on Saturday.

Meng’s imprisonment was a major bone of contention between the U.S. government and Huawei, which are locked in a high-stakes battle over the security of next-generation telecommunications technology. The U.S. government says Huawei’s 5G telecommunications push is a national security threat, arguing that Chinese officials can tap into its technology. Huawei and China reject the accusations.

Cyber insecurity

Far-right trolls who trusted Epik to keep their identities secret face fallout after hack

In one example, Joshua Alayon, a real estate agent in Pompano Beach, Fla., was dropped by his realty firm after the hacked Epik records described him as the owner of several racist websites, Drew Harwell, Hannah Allam, Jeremy B. Merrill and Craig Timberg report. Alayon denied owning the sites and claimed the data was “easily falsifiable.”

The company known for hosting extremist content that’s banned by other web hosts told the office of Maine’s attorney general that 110,000 people were affected by Anonymous’s hack of its systems.

Researchers say it could take months to sift through a massive cache of internal records from Epik that were exposed in the breach.

“This is like the mother of all data lodes because Epik was at the center of so many of the extremist websites and organizations that people like me study. Epik was the place of last refuge for a lot of these sites,” said Heidi Beirich, the co-founder of the nonprofit Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. “And as the data is analyzed and looked at more deeply, we’re going to see this ecosystem in a way that was simply not possible before.”

National security watch


  • Cybersecurity officials speak at the four-day International Wireless Communications Expo, which begins today.
  • Verizon senior vice president and Chief Information Security Officer Nasrin Rezai and McKinsey & Company senior partner Steve Van Kuiken discuss cloud computing and cybersecurity at a Washington Post Live event today at 12:30 p.m.
  • The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee holds a hearing on replacing legacy government IT systems Tuesday at 2:30 p.m.
  • The Federal School Safety Clearinghouse holds a webinar on cybersecurity for K-12 schools on Tuesday at 3 p.m.
  • CISA Director Jen Easterly, FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Cyber Policy Mieke Eoyang, NSA Cybersecurity Director Rob Joyce and others speak at the Aspen Cyber Summit on Wednesday.
  • Customs and Border Protection and Department of Homeland Security officials discuss facial recognition technology at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event on Wednesday at 3 p.m.
  • Department of Homeland Security officials testify before the House Homeland Security Committee on Thursday at 2 p.m.

Secure log off

Don’t break my tart. Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.