Republican efforts questioning the outcome of the 2020 presidential race have led to voting system breaches that election security experts say pose a heightened risk to future elections.
Copies of the Dominion Voting Systems software used to manage elections — from designing ballots to configuring voting machines and tallying results — were distributed at an event this month in South Dakota organized by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, an ally of former President Donald Trump who has made unsubstantiated claims about last year’s election.
“It’s a game-changer in that the environment we have talked about existing now is a reality,” said Matt Masterson, a former top election security official in the Trump administration. “We told election officials, essentially, that you should assume this information is already out there. Now we know it is, and we don’t know what they are going to do with it.”
The software copies came from voting equipment in Mesa County, Colorado, and Antrim County, Michigan, where Trump allies had sue unsuccessfully challenging the results from last fall.
The Dominion software is used in some 30 states, including counties in California, Georgia and Michigan.
Election security pioneer Harri Hursti was at the South Dakota event and said he and other researchers in attendance were provided three separate copies of election management systems that run on the Dominion software. The data indicated they were from Antrim and Mesa counties. While it’s not clear how the copies came to be released at the event, they were posted online and made available for public download.
The release gives hackers a “practice environment” to probe for vulnerabilities they could exploit and a road map to avoid defenses, Hursti said. All the hackers would need is physical access to the systems because they are not supposed to be connected to the internet.
“The door is now wide open,” Hursti said. “The only question is, how do you sneak in the door?”
A Dominion representative declined comment, citing an investigation.
U.S. election technology is dominated by just three vendors comprising 90% of the market, meaning election officials cannot easily swap out their existing technology. Release of the software copies essentially provides a blueprint for those trying to interfere with how elections are run. They could sabotage the system, alter the ballot design or even try to change results, said election technology expert Kevin Skoglund.
“This disclosure increases both the likelihood that something happens and the impact of what would happen if it does,” he said.
The effort by Republicans to examine voting equipment began soon after the November presidential election as Trump challenged the results and blamed his loss on widespread fraud, even though there has been no evidence of it.
Judges appointed by both Democrats and Republicans, election officials of both parties and Trump’s own attorney general have dismissed the claims. A coalition of federal and state election officials called the 2020 election the “most secure” in U.S. history, and post-election audits across the country found no significant anomalies.
In Antrim County, a judge had allowed a forensic exam of voting equipment after a brief mix-up of election results led to a suit alleging fraud. It was dismissed in May. Hursti said the date on the software release matches the date of the forensic exam.
Calls seeking information from Antrim County’s clerk and the local prosecutor’s office were not immediately returned; a call to the judge’s office was referred to the county clerk. The Michigan secretary of state’s office declined comment.
In Colorado, federal, state and local authorities are investigating whether Mesa County elections staff might have provided unauthorized individuals access to their systems. The county elections clerk, Tina Peters, appeared onstage with Lindell in South Dakota and told the crowd her office was being targeted by Democrats in the state.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said she alerted federal election security officials of the breach and was told it was not viewed as a “significant heightening of the election risk landscape at this point.” This past week, Mesa County commissioners voted to replace voting equipment that Griswold had ordered could no longer be used.
Geoff Hale, who leads the election security effort at the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said his agency has always operated on the assumption that system vulnerabilities are known by malicious actors. Election officials are focused instead on ways they can reduce risk, such as using ballots with a paper record that can be verified by the voter and rigorous post-election audits, Hale said.
He said having Dominion’s software exposed publicly doesn’t change the agency’s guidance.
Security researcher Jack Cable said he assumes U.S. adversaries already had access to the software. He said he is more concerned the release would fan distrust among the growing number of people not inclined to believe in the security of U.S elections.
“It is a concern that people, in the pursuit of trying to show the system is insecure, are actually making it more insecure,” said Cable, who recently joined a cybersecurity firm run by former CISA Director Christopher Krebs and former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos.
Concerns over access to voting machines and software first surfaced this year in Arizona, where the Republican-controlled state Senate hired Cyber Ninjas, a firm with no previous election experience, to audit the Maricopa County election. The firm’s chief executive also had tweeted support of conspiracy theories surrounding last year’s election.
After the county’s Dominion voting systems were turned over to the firm, Arizona’s top election official determined they could never be used again and ordered the county to buy new ones.
Dominion has filed suits contesting various unfounded claims about its systems. In May, it called giving Cyber Ninjas access to its code “reckless,” given the firm’s bias, and said it would cause “irreparable damage” to election security.
Election technology and security expert Ryan Macias, in Arizona earlier this year to observe that review, was alarmed by a lack of cybersecurity protocols. There was no information about who was given access, whether those people had passed background checks or were asked to sign nondisclosure agreements.
Cyber Ninjas did not respond to an email with questions about the review and their security protocols.
Macias was not surprised to hear that copies of Antrim County’s election management system had surfaced online given the questionable motives of the various groups conducting the reviews and the central role that voting systems have played in conspiracy theories.
“This is what I anticipated would happen, and I anticipate it will happen yet again coming out of Arizona,” Macias said. “These actors have no liability and no rules of engagement.”
Dems Fear Biden’s Domestic Agenda Could Implode
Internal Democratic discord has wounded President Joe Biden’s massive social spending plan, raising the prospect that the package could stall out, shrink dramatically — or even fail altogether.
Myriad problems have arisen. Moderate Senate Democrats Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) continue to be a major headache for party leadership’s $3.5 trillion target. The Senate parliamentarian just nixed the party’s yearslong push to enact broad immigration reform. House members may tank the prescription drugs overhaul the party has run on for years. And a fight continues to brew over Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) push to expand Medicare.
“If any member of Congress is not concerned that this could fall apart, they need treatment,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who warned his party “will pay for it at the polls” if it fails in enacting Biden’s agenda. “Our caucus has the feeling of freedom to support or oppose leadership.”
Those headwinds threaten to sap the momentum from this summer, when Biden clinched a bipartisan infrastructure deal in the Senate and found support from all corners of his party for a budget setting up his sweeping spending bill. Now, Manchin is calling for a pause, moderates are resisting key components of the legislation and a new fiscal fight over the debt limit is heating up.
Those dynamics have Democrats essentially looking for an internal reset from a monthslong debate over Biden’s agenda that keeps publicly playing out through leaks, lines in the sand and fights over the topline number.
“I wish that we could all be more on the same page, in terms of timing, of the need to push the [American Families Plan],” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). “I’m hopeful we are going to have a meeting of the minds and not wait until next year … we better have a Plan B.”
The multi-problem pileup comes at a critical moment for the party and for Biden, who needs a legislative win amid slumping approval ratings. But though polls show much of his social spending bill is popular outside Congress, winning approval among Democrats’ slim majorities has been harder.
With a three-vote margin in the House and a 50-50 split in the Senate, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can’t afford to alienate either wing of their fractious party or else the chances for either of Biden’s signature domestic victories could evaporate all together.
“None of us know where this is gonna go,” said Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.). “This is where leadership is made or broken, plain and simple. And that’s true of the president, that’s true of speakers, that’s true of majority leaders.”
Manchin has been the most outspoken Democrat, publicly asking for a pause on the big spending bill with inflation rising, but the West Virginian declined to lay out his thinking Monday night when asked just how long he wants his party to put the brakes on: “Let’s see if you understand English: not a word.”
It’s unclear exactly how many Democrats are siding with prominent House and Senate moderates. One centrist Democrat up for reelection next year, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), declined to say whether she’s comfortable with the $3.5 trillion spending number on Monday, or whether she agrees with pausing the legislation.
“We are at a critical moment,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin. “The total amount to be spent has to be negotiated with those who are questioning the $3.5 trillion. So, this is the key week.”
Democrats are broadly rejecting Manchin’s overtures to stall the social spending plan, arguing doing so is akin to killing the bill. If Democrats don’t keep positive momentum behind their effort to fight climate change, improve child care and raise taxes on the wealthy, they worry that the whole thing could fall apart.
“You can’t stop this process. If you stop it it won’t get started again,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “You’ve really got to keep it moving, there’s no magic date, but as you get closer and closer to other deadlines, this one gets more difficult.”
For progressives, the dissension over a bill they see as vital for delivering on their party’s priorities is enough for some to weigh tanking the bipartisan infrastructure bill negotiated by centrist Democratic senators. Many on the left say they’ve already compromised by agreeing to a $3.5 trillion spending bill rather than $6 trillion or more proposed by progressive leaders like Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).
What’s more, the party’s long-running goal of enacting immigration reform is now in major doubt, as there may be no path to including legal status in the reconciliation bill and bipartisan talks have repeatedly stalled out. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) acknowledged “the immigration stuff is a setback, but certainly not a death knell.”
And progressives have grown increasingly annoyed by what they see as grandstanding by Manchin and Sinema. Just as behind-the-scenes negotiations on the social bill get underway, one of the two prominent moderates keep blasting out statements that jolt the talks and stall what progress has been made, they say.
“I am very tired of it,” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.). “I don’t think they are making their decisions based on the needs of the American or even the people in their own state.” He added that they seem more motivated by “corporate interest.”
But Democrats close to the centrists say progressives are vastly overplaying their hand. A group of five to 10 House moderates have signaled to leadership that they would be willing to let the infrastructure bill fail rather than be held hostage by liberals over the broader spending bill. It’s a more attractive alternative to them than having to vote for painful tax increases to pay for an unrestrained social safety net expansion, according to a person familiar with the discussions.
“I think it would be counterproductive to reconciliation,” said centrist Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii), speaking about progressive threats to tank the bipartisan bill without the broader spending plan.
“This fiction that linking the two bills will somehow enact leverage on the reconciliation side — I think it’s just that, a fiction.”
Despite the Democratic handwringing, a spokesperson for Biden said the administration is lobbying an array of members and “good progress is being made.
”The administration is “articulating the need to invest in families over big corporations at this crucial inflection point and ensure our economy delivers for the middle class,” said Andrew Bates, a White House spokesperson.
Meanwhile, progressives are not as united as the smaller, tight-knit band of House and Senate moderates that forced votes on the $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill in the Senate this summer and a commitment for one in the House next week. The Progressive Caucus has a sprawling membership that is unlikely to vote in lockstep — and may not have the oomph to tank the bill if House Republicans help pass the bipartisan legislation.
“There is absolutely a level where it’s not just something is not better than nothing, but something can actually do more harm,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) of the infrastructure bill. “That’s why we are holding firm on our line. …This isn’t just a flight of fancy.”
Trump Ripped Into President Joe Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal
Former President Donald Trump ripped into President Joe Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal saying the actions were “indefensible.”
His comments came during an interview on Glenn Beck’s radio show on Tuesday.
Asked if the current administration was following his withdrawal plans, Trump said, “No. Not even a little bit — and we had a great plan. It was based on many conditions. For instance, you can’t kill American soldiers.”
He said he warned the Taliban that “if you kill any Americans or any American soldiers, we’re going to hit you harder than any country has ever been hit before.”
“For approximately 18 months, not one American soldier was killed,” he said. “You have to understand I did want to get out with dignity and I wanted to take our equipment out and I didn’t want to get soldiers killed.”
He said he has spoken to “numerous” parents of those American soldiers who died in a bomb blast at the Kabul airport during the withdrawal.
“They will only speak to me,” Trump said. “They won’t speak to Biden because they view what he did as having killed their child. What he did was just indefensible. He took the military out first and he left all these people. And we became beggars to get the people out.”
Trump noted Apache helicopters were also left behind.
“These are really expensive weapons,” he said. “They (the Taliban) have 28 of them. And they’re brand new. They’re the latest model. Why wouldn’t (the Biden administration) bring pilots in to fly out the planes or helicopters. It would have taken them an hour.”
Trump noted European nations respected the U.S. greatly during his administration.
“Now, they don’t,” he said. “They’re laughing at us like we’re fools. And the way (Biden) got out of Afghanistan was, in my opinion, I think it was the most embarrassing event in the history of our country.
“If you get out of Afghanistan, you leave with great dignity. You leave with your weapons. We could have had our soldiers saved, our people out, everything beautiful …”
Trump also blasted Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Peril,” a new book by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, claims Milley had sought to assure China’s Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army in calls that the United States was stable and not going to attack during the final months of the Trump administration. And, if there were to be an attack, he would alert his counterpart ahead of time.
“I learned early on (Milley) was a dope,” Trump said.
Ted Cruz Slams The Democrats In Latest Interview
Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas recently slammed the Democrats for bowing down to their radical left-wing comrades in office as they prepare to pass a massive $3.5 trillion budget that will bring our nation economic difficulties in the years to come.
“Bernie Sanders is a wide-eyed and admitted socialist. He says this is the most transformational bill in a generation. He means that it; it is trillions in spending. It is trillions in new taxes. It is the Green New Deal, it is — everyone who pays taxes in America will see their taxes go up under this massive proposal. Individual taxes are going up, corporate taxes are going up, small business taxes are going up, capital gains taxes are going up, the death tax is going up, seniors are getting hammered, farmers, ranchers, small businesses; it is disastrous,” Cruz stated in his scathing interview.
The plan of the Biden administration to impose severe tax hikes will indeed hurt not only the corporations but small businesses and even retail investors. The pandemic has put a heavy strain on the financial well-being of the average American and this taxation plan can destroy their goal to preserve the value of their hard-earned money. Inflation is a beast that will hurt us all and increased taxes will further complicate matters for our troubled economy.
“Whether it passes or not will depend on 50 Democrats in the Senate. Do they get Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to go along? I can tell you Chuck Schumer is putting a world of hurt and pressure on the two of them. I hope they stand their ground, that they have demonstrated some real courage so far, standing up to the crazies in their party,” Cruz said, praising a couple of Democrats for bravely going against the grain.
The former Texas Solicitor General also hit president Biden for trying to divert attention from his epic Afghanistan blunder, by imposing more strict vaccine mandates.
“They want to change the topic from Afghanistan. It’s why Biden issued this completely illegal and unconstitutional vaccine mandate, because he wanted to change the topic from the disaster in Afghanistan,” Cruz said.
“The vaccine mandate is going to be struck down in court. They know that, but the president is defying the law because he wanted the press to start defending him and stop talking about the disasters in Afghanistan. And he’s counting on a bunch of big businesses in particular, forcing their employees to comply before the matter is ever adjudicated. And before the order is struck down,” Cruz added.
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