Trump-backed GOP candidate for Michigan AG under criminal investigation for possibly tampering with voting machines, docs say
Michigan’s Democratic attorney general is calling for a special prosecutor to investigate her Donald Trump-backed challenger after finding evidence linking him to a potentially criminal plot to seize and tamper with voting machines used in the 2020 election, according to a letter obtained by CNN and documents released Monday by the attorney general’s office.
For months, the Michigan State Police and the attorney general’s office have been investigating a series of voting machine breaches that took place in several counties around the state last year. According to the documents released Monday, that probe has led investigators to Kalamazoo-based lawyer Matthew DePerno, a Republican candidate running against incumbent Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.
Trump has thrown his support behind DePerno, and he picked up an endorsement earlier this year from Michigan Republican Party activists, paving the way for him to officially become the GOP nominee for attorney general at the party convention later this month. He is one of several Trump-backed election deniers who are currently running to become the top law enforcement officer or the top election official in their states.
Nessel is now asking for a special prosecutor to be appointed to avoid a potential conflict of interest. The investigation into voting machine breaches has unearthed facts that indicate DePerno and two other associates may have broken the law when they “orchestrated a coordinated plan to gain access to voting tabulators,” according to Nessel’s office.
“When this investigation began there was not a conflict of interest. However, during the course of the investigation, facts were developed that DePerno was one of the prime instigators of the conspiracy,” Nessel’s office wrote in an August 5 petition for the Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Counsel to appoint a special prosecutor.
The DePerno campaign tweeted a statement late Sunday saying he has reviewed the petition for a special prosecutor and “denied the allegations presented.” The statement also says, “the claims presented by Nessel show a completely unwarranted and erroneous attack based on political prosecution.”
The request from Nessel’s office alleges that DePerno was present in a hotel room in early 2021 when a group of individuals performed unauthorized “tests” on voting tabulators they had seized from multiple Michigan counties — suggesting investigators have evidence that directly links him to the potentially illegal breaches.
“We have requested the appointment of a Special Prosecuting Attorney to review the case for the issuance of possible criminal charges against several of the individuals involved. We view the actions of these individuals to be very serious,” Nessel’s office wrote in a letter to Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a fellow Democrat, summarizing the investigation’s findings.
Reuters first reported DePerno’s alleged role in the voting machine breaches. The Detroit News first reported Nessel’s request for a special prosecutor.
In May, CNN reported that Michigan State Police had expanded its
investigation into whether third parties gained unauthorized access to voting machine data after the 2020 election, and that the probe was looking into potential breaches in multiple counties. The investigation began in February after Benson’s office uncovered a breach of vote tabulat
or components in Roscommon County, in rural northern Michigan.
The probe in Michigan reflects a growing number of incidents uncovered around the country where Trump supporters attempted to gain access to voting systems, as part of efforts to overturn or undermine the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
It also comes as several Trump-endorsed candidates have won the Republican nomination for roles that could position them to oversee future elections in key battleground states going forward.
They succeeded in at least one instance in late November 2020, when a team of pro-Trump operatives traveled to Antrim County, Michigan, and conducted an audit of voting systems there, according to court documents released as part of a failed lawsuit filed by attorneys working on behalf of the former President at the time.
The lawsuit was led by DePerno and led to a since-debunked report issued by a team of analysts from a Texas-based company, Allied Security Operations Group, alleging irregularities in Dominion Voting Systems that was consistently cited as evidence in multiple failed legal challenges in Michigan and other swing states. (There is no evidence to support GOP claims of wrongdoing by Dominion.)
Among the evidence investigators in Michigan say they have uncovered as part of their probe into voting machine breaches are digital IDs that DePerno had used as evidence in the failed suit.
“There must be consequences for those who broke the law to undermine our elections in order to advance their own political agendas,” Benson told CNN in a statement.
She added, “The Republican, Democratic and nonpartisan election clerks of this state do their jobs with professionalism and integrity, and we will continue to ensure they are equipped with a full understanding of the legal protections in place to block bad actors from pressuring them to gain access to secure election systems.”