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Littwin: Mesa County voting machine scandal seems right in line with the far more dangerous DOJ scandal

How did the passwords from Mesa County voting machines end up on a far-right-wing blog? And how does Clerk Tina Peters, a Trump truther, explain the leak? Just ask the MyPillow guy.

It should come to no one’s surprise that the big voting-machine scandal in Colorado comes from Mesa County, where Tina Peters, the county clerk, is a Trump truther who believes the 2020 election was rigged. 

The scandal is serious. Somehow passwords from Mesa County’s Dominion voting machines wound up on Gateway Pundit, a far-right-wing website. And even worse, Gateway apparently got the passwords from a certain Ron Watkins, who, according to a recent HBO documentary, may have been the original Q of the QAnon crazies. You know, the group that not only seriously dabbles in election-rigging misinformation but also in the notion that Democrats eat babies. One theory, you should know, is just as likely to be true as the other.

Watkins claimed the information came from a Dominion whistleblower. And that the leak of the passwords shows how easy it would be for election results to be tampered with by outside forces.

Mike Littwin

But it’s pretty clear, according to Secretary State Jena Griswold, that this looks like an inside job, and that someone from Peters’ office was the likely source of the leak. In any case, the passwords only work if you are directly accessing the machines. And the leak almost certainly came long after the 2020 election.

Peters presumably knows this. Whoever leaked the information presumably knows this. Ron Watkins, meanwhile, probably believes that Dominion voting machines also eat babies.

“This is a very serious breach in chain-of-custody and security protocols,” Griswold told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. “If the Mesa County clerk cannot show proof in the chain of custody … after inspection, if there is anything that comes to our attention, the voting equipment will be decertified.”

That would mean that all the equipment would have to be replaced. There’s also the suggestion that an investigation could lead to criminal charges. Meanwhile, Peters is being asked to turn over to investigators any related documents or correspondence.

How far off the deep end is Peters? Let’s just say that on Tuesday — h/t Kyle Clark, who tweeted this — Peters appeared with the MyPillow guy, Mike Lindell, at his Cyber Symposium, which is doing the hard work of trying to prove the unprovable, that Donald Trump should somehow still be president. In the meantime, though, he would be taking on Griswold for her, uh, assault on Peters, who claimed that she is being persecuted, of course, while also accusing state investigators of, yes, doing some kind of “little doo-doo with my machines.”

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“They came and raided her office on the way here,” Lindell said. “This is the hill we stand on.”

He was standing on that hill — or is it a very slippery slope? — with Peters, who was accompanied by Sherronna Bishop, who was Lauren Boebert’s former campaign manager. You can see where we’re going here. According to Kyle Clark’s account, Bishop accused Griswold of mishandling the leaked passwords, saying, too, “Under this communist regime, we are suffering.” 

The symposium was all in on communists, Lindell baselessly accusing the Chinese of accounting for 25,000 fraudulent votes in Colorado. “You can’t go back once communism is here,” he said. 

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To say the Chinese accusation is baseless isn’t strong enough. To say it’s completely without evidence isn’t strong enough. To say it’s completely and unabashedly nutso looney tunes is not strong enough either. But what else would you expect from Lindell, who has given us a whole new, very disturbing take on pillow talk? 

The thing is, as the MyPillow guy makes clear, this scandal in Mesa County is in line with the far greater scandal being uncovered in Washington of late, in whichTrump and an ally in the Justice Department tried desperately to overturn an election that was — by every account, including those from former AG Bill Barr and also those from every judge who had been presented with phony-baloney, non-evidence evidence — fair and just. 

In fact, two lawyers — Gary Fielder and Ernest Walker — involved in the series of phony vote-rigging lawsuits have been sanctioned in Colorado by Judge N. Reid Neureiter for what he called an assault on American democracy and the “stuff of which violent insurrections are made.”

Remember the insurrection? Remember how Trump stood by while the Capitol was being stormed? Remember the gallows and those chanting to hang Mike Pence? Remember the threats to Nancy Pelosi? Remember how the insurrectionists marched on Congress, at Trump’s urging,  to stop the official certification of the election? 

The question now is whether the deadly assault on Congress by Trump supporters was even the worst of it. That’s how serious these latest reports are, more serious even than Trump’s recorded arm twisting of Georgia voting officials.

The crazies keep insisting that the Chinese or Italian military satellites or baby-eating Democrats or rogue Republican officials or any of the other culprits you hear about in the Trumpist conspiracy world rigged the election. According to polls, nearly half of Republicans believe something like it, or at least they say they do. I remain skeptical that skepticism is actually that high, but, then, how else do you account for the crazy audit in Arizona?

The true riggers, we’ve learned, were in the White House and in the Justice Department. Over the weekend, former acting attorney general Jeff Rosen and former acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue testified for hours behind closed doors to congressional investigators about how Trump had worked with a member of the Justice Department in an effort to subvert the election.

Rosen told investigators that Trump had met repeatedly with Jeffrey Clark, the acting head of DOJ’s civil division (yes, they were all acting, not a confirmed official in the bunch), in an attempt to subvert the election. Clark had proposed a letter to the Georgia legislature saying that the Justice Department had evidence of corruption and that the legislators could meet, on their own accord, to select a new set of electors. 

Of course, there was no such evidence. Fortunately, Rosen and Donoghue dismissed the idea out of hand, but Trump, we learned, came very close to replacing Rosen with Clark. Rosen and Donoghue threatened to quit very publicly. Yes, it’s all Saturday Night Massacre stuff and, yes, an attempted  assault on American democracy, just one more from the Trump team that we know about.

We might know more if the craven Senate Republicans had done the right thing and approved a nonpartisan commission to investigate the issues of Jan. 6. The select House committee, which is the backup investigative tool, will still be able to uncover even more. 

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Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who sat in on the interviews, said he “was struck by how close the country came to total catastrophe.”

Meanwhile, it’s August, which, if you’ve been listening the pillow guy, is when Trump will miraculously be reinstated and all will be right with the world. Since that won’t happen, the Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning of possible violence coming from disappointed conspiracy consumers, those who one official told ABC News “are predisposed to engage in violence.”

There isn’t apparently any specific threat, but, as we know, there are a lot of crazies out there. You don’t need a password to find them.


Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.


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