When Georgia prosecutors this month charged former President Donald Trump and others in an alleged conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election, the indictment included a couple of names that were familiar to Coloradans.
But the massive crimes that are said to have occurred in Georgia have ties to Colorado that go beyond those notorious defendants. Several aspects of the indictment trace back to Colorado in ways that range from curious to crucial, and they deserve greater attention as the country heads into another presidential election in which MAGA activists are all but certain to pursue fresh attempts at election subversion.
A grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, indicted 19 people, including Trump, on 41 charges, the most notable involving racketeering and conspiracy counts. The indictment says that after Trump lost the 2020 election, the defendants “refused to accept that Trump lost, and they knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump.”
Part of that conspiracy played out in Georgia’s Coffee County, where the local elections supervisor, Misty Hampton, allegedly allowed co-conspirators in January 2021 to copy data from the county’s Dominion Voting Systems equipment.
Similar security breaches occurred in at least two other states. One was Michigan. The other was Colorado, where Tina Peters, a former Mesa County clerk, is facing felony charges. She’s accused of having a role in arranging a data-copying session with her own Dominion election equipment in May 2021.
The Mesa and Coffee county security breaches are remarkably similar, and some of the same figures turn up in both cases. A source familiar with the case in Mesa County, who requested anonymity to speak about sensitive matters, told Newsline this week that the resemblance appears to be no accident.
“The thinking is that Coffee County was the template for other states, for some of the supporters of the ex-president in other states to replicate,” the source said, adding that this dynamic had been suspected by Colorado investigators but was crystalized by the Georgia indictment. “The case in Coffee County in Georgia seemed to be a playbook that would be replicated in other states. And there’s a lot of similarities between Coffee County and what happened in Mesa County.”
The similarities go beyond Dominion machines.
The Georgia indictment refers to 30 unnamed, unindicted co-conspirators, whose identities to varying degrees can be inferred. Many observers have deduced that Patrick Byrne is one of the co-conspirators, though Byrne himself has denied this. He participated in a Dec. 18, 2020 White House meeting at which Trump and others conspired to reverse the results of the election, including by seizing Dominion equipment.
Last year Byrne posted a video of himself talking about the election security breach in Mesa County and claimed to have been in real-time communication with an unauthorized infiltrator as officials from Dominion and Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s office conducted a software update at the county’s elections office.
“He actually called me on Facetime and he sat there telling me, ‘I can’t believe what I’m seeing. I’m seeing these people commit a million felonies,’” Byrne said in the video.
The alleged infiltrator, according to documents in the Peters investigation, was ex-pro surfer-turned-MAGA operative Conan Hayes. Hayes was also directly involved in unauthorized extraction of election system data in Coffee County, as was revealed in documents that were produced as part of the election-reliability lawsuit Curling v. Raffensperger. Hayes is also widely understood to be one of the unindicted co-conspirators in the Fulton County indictment.
Among the accused election-subversion ringleaders in Georgia are Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell. This establishes another direct connection to Colorado. Genesis of the Mesa County breach can be traced to meetings between Peters and election conspiracist Douglas Frank, who told the New Yorker that Giuliani and Powell were among the Trump supporters he consulted as he put Peters “in contact with some people who could come in and do backups” on the Mesa County election system.
Here’s a minor but notable Colorado-Georgia tie: The Curling lawsuit was filed by Coalition for Good Governance, a nonprofit whose work has revealed much of what is known about election meddling in Coffee County. The organization is based in Boulder, and its executive director, Marilyn Marks, launched her career in election reform after she narrowly lost a bid to become mayor of Aspen.
The Georgia indictment compels us to see democracy-thwarting efforts in Colorado as part of a much larger Trump-spawned conspiracy that spans many states. If the contours of the criminal enterprise emerged sooner, the case against Peters, whom the Mesa County district attorney is prosecuting, might have expanded accordingly, as it did in the Fulton County case.
Alas, there could be more to come — multiple sources confirmed to Newsline this week that a federal investigation into the Mesa County election security breach remains active.
Colorado’s connection to the interstate conspiracy was most dramatically illuminated by two of the Fulton County defendants, Trump attorneys John Eastman and Jenna Ellis. Eastman at the time of the alleged criminal activity was a visiting scholar at the University of Colorado Boulder. He currently represents the Colorado Republican Party in a lawsuit against Griswold. Ellis until recently lived in Colorado and remains a fellow at the Centennial Institute in Lakewood.
Their roles in Trump’s unprecedented attack on constitutional order was already well sketched out. Eastman was the primary architect of a plan for then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject legitimate electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021, according to court documents. Ellis, according to court documents, was part of the “Elite Strike Force Team” of hapless lawyers, including Giuliani and Powell, that went around the country in late 2020 pushing stolen-election lies in meetings with state lawmakers.
It would be a mistake to treat the conspiracy as defeated. After Eastman surrendered at the Fulton County jail last week, he told a reporter that he “absolutely” still believes the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. “Big lie” conspirators failed in their 2020 coup attempt, but they successfully inflicted grievous injuries to democratic health. A recent AP poll showed that only 22% of Republicans have high confidence that the 2024 presidential election results can be trusted.
That’s why Griswold told Newsline this month that she is “absolutely concerned” about ongoing “insider threats” to democracy heading into next year’s races. She said, “I strongly believe Coloradans and Americans deserve and need to know ongoing attempts to steal elections.”
This article initially appeared in Colorado Newsline, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: [email protected]. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.