Trump Hopes To Use Outlandish Cyber Vote Switching Conspiracies As Part Of Defense

SALEM, NH - JANUARY 28: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the New Hampshire Republican State Committee's Annual Meeting on January 28, 2023 in Salem, New Hampshire. In his first campaign events since annou... SALEM, NH - JANUARY 28: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the New Hampshire Republican State Committee's Annual Meeting on January 28, 2023 in Salem, New Hampshire. In his first campaign events since announcing his plans to run for president for a third time, the former President will also be speaking today in South Carolina, both early-voting states. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images) MORE LESS
Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

It was Election Day 2012, and even before the polls closed, Donald Trump had something he wanted his followers to know about the outcome of the election: A conspiracy was afoot to rob Republicans of victory.

“More reports of voting machines switching Romney votes to Obama,” Trump wrote on what was then known as Twitter. “Pay close attention to the machines, don’t let your vote be stolen.”

Prosecutors with Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office referenced that tweet in a recent filing in the D.C. Jan. 6 case. They painted a sweeping picture of outrageous falsehoods to which Trump has returned over the years to degrade trust in elections.

Trump injected that same claim of foreign-backed cyber vote “switching” into his defense in the case, asking for a series of subpoenas to federal agencies. He hopes to prove, he said, that he had good reason to believe that vote-switching had taken place in 2020.

But that line of argument has also allowed the government to show the lengths to which it went to debunk the cyber interference mythmaking. In a filing over the weekend, the special counsel said that his team had asked more than a dozen former national security, intelligence, and law enforcement officials whether there was any evidence to support claims of foreign interference and vote switching in the 2020 election.

“The answer from every single official was no,” federal prosecutors wrote.

As outlandish as the claims of cyber intrusion may seem, Trump appears set to continue to press them as his case heads to trial. It’s as much a rhetorical defense as it is a courtroom strategy. For Trump, the claims help preserve the idea that he had reason to believe votes may have been switched, and therefore had some legitimate reason to believe he won.

There was never any real evidence to support Trump’s claims, and always a mountain of denials and debunkings to contradict them. But after the 2020 election, Trump’s allegations of foreign-backed cyber interference continued to bounce around the far right, spawning a comic book-like extended universe of spy stories about foreign interference. One featured a supposed shootout over voting hardware at a U.S. military installation in Germany; Sidney Powell raised that at an infamous press conference with Rudy Giuliani at the RNC’s headquarters.

Italygate, the theory which sees an Italian defense contractor use military satellites to zap votes away from Trump and to Biden, attracted the interest of Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), as they flailed for ways to explain away Trump’s defeat and keep investigations going that might cloud the legitimate result.

Trump’s attorneys have picked up the thread and brought it into federal court. In filings last month, they disclosed subpoenas to the Justice Department, Director of National Intelligence, and other agencies, saying that they needed information from the federal government to show breaches and interference in the 2020 vote.

In debunking the conspiracy theory, the special counsel’s team not only disclosed the interviews with more than a dozen national security and law enforcement officials, but also needled Trump for failing to distinguish between voting machines and voting registration websites, and for insinuating that other cybersecurity breaches which afflicted the federal government in 2020 could have affected the election.

“While no country or cyber actor changed a single vote in a machine, there were isolated cases of foreign countries stealing registration data to target voters with disinformation—actions that constituted foreign influence, not interference,” federal prosecutors wrote, calling Trump’s claims an attempt “to manufacture confusion.”

The special counsel added in the filing that Trump had “persistently spread lies” after the 2020 election that votes were switched from him to Biden. In spite of denials from virtually everyone in a position to know or verify the claims, Trump continued.

For Smith, it shows a recognition of the strategies to which Trump has returned over the years to avoid accountability. In this case, Smith described what Trump was doing as trying to becloud the court.

“The Court should not entertain the defendant’s attempts to inject confusion into the record when it does not exist,” prosecutors wrote.

Latest News
Comments
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: