A memorandum from the Georgia Attorney General’s office confirmed this week what many suspected all along.
AG officials said in the memo that they were recommending closing the investigation into sensational 2018 claims by then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp that Democrats had tried to hack Georgia’s election system.
The memo said that the investigation had failed to reveal “any evidence” supporting a prosecution against the person who appeared to be the target of Kemp’s claim.
Kemp made the allegations just days before his gubernatorial election, where he was facing a competitive race against Stacey Abrams, and while his office was facing scrutiny for election policies that were disproportionately burdensome for minority voters.
After posting a press release to the secretary of state’s website the Sunday before the 2018 election announcing that “the Democratic Party of Georgia is under investigation for possible cyber crimes,” Kemp aides rebuffed many questions about the allegations. They referred reporters to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which also at the time declined to get into specifics.
But reporting at the time revealed that Kemp’s claims appeared to refer to the efforts by a private citizen to flag vulnerabilities he believed he had identified in two of Georgia’s election webpages. The citizen, Richard Wright, notified both lawyers who had been involved in an election security lawsuit against Kemp and a Democratic Party volunteer about his concerns. Wright’s concerns traveled to Kemp’s office through both channels the day before Kemp posted the press release announcing the investigation.
In the new memo, which was reported Tuesday by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the investigators said that their probe had not uncovered “any evidence to support the criminal prosecution of Mr. Wright” for the specific crimes laid out by memo, which include computer theft, computer trespass, computer invasion of privacy and computer forgery.
The memo said that Wright’s claims about vulnerabilities in Georgia’s system turned out not to be “accurate” in “scope.” But the investigators confirmed that a vulnerability did exist on the election webpages about which Wright raised concerns and that they had been fixed by a third party vendor.
A separate third party vendor also had identified an “bad actor” intrusion, according to the memo, but it was later determined that the intrusions were part of tests ran by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“These intrusions were unrelated to the vulnerabilities identified by Mr. Wright,” the memo said.
Even in the face of the new memo, Kemp, who is now governor, doesn’t appear to be backing down from his claims.
“We appreciate the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Attorney General’s Office for investigating a failed cyber intrusion before the November 2018 election,” Kemp spokeswoman Candice Broce said in a statement. Kemp’s office did not clarify if it was referring to Wright or DHS when citing a “failed cyber intrusion.”
“More importantly, we are grateful that the systems put in place by Brian Kemp as Georgia’s Secretary of State kept voter data safe and secure,” Broce’s statement also said.
A spokesperson for Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr (R) did not respond to TPM’s specific questions about the investigation. TPM was unable to reach Wright or his attorney for comment.
Bruce Brown, one of the attorneys who passed along Wright’s claims to Kemp’s advisors, told TPM Wednesday that Kemp’s 2018 claims of a Democratic hack of the system were an “absurdity” and “completely illegitimate.”
“The thing that really stinks about the whole thing is that the secretary of state, on the eve of the election, posted the fabricated charge that they were launching an investigation into a Democratic hack,” Brown said.
Read the memo below: