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Trump backers: Keep names of Antrim County 'investigators' secret

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

A Michigan attorney is seeking to conceal the names of "forensic investigators" who helped create a report at the center of unproven election fraud claims pushed by supporters of President Donald Trump. 

On Dec. 14, attorney Matthew DePerno and his client, Antrim County resident William Bailey, successfully urged Judge Kevin Elsenheimer to allow the release of a 23-page analysis of voting machines in the county. Michigan officials called the report inaccurate and misleading, but Trump, who lost the state by 154,000 votes, said it showed "massive fraud."

Last week, as the legal fight over Antrim County's election continued, DePerno formally asked Elsenheimer to issue a protective order, barring the Secretary of State's Office and Attorney General's Office from disclosing the names of the "forensic team" involved in the analysis.

Surrounded by Army cadets, President Donald Trump watches the first half of the 121st Army-Navy Football Game in Michie Stadium at the United States Military Academy, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in West Point, N.Y.

The Attorney General's Office, which is representing Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson in the case, had sought correspondence and notes from the investigators and their resumes.

In his motion for a protective order, DePerno said the individuals "fear for their safety and the safety of their families in this hyper-political climate." Threats had already been made against DePerno, he wrote.

"Plaintiff and the forensic team have significant concerns that their personal and business information may be released to the general public in order to cause them and their families harm," DePerno added.

"It is imperative that such information is kept confidential," he continued.

However, Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, and her staff countered that the investigators in question had "knowingly accepted a role" in the case. There is "simply no such thing as an anonymous expert," they wrote in opposing the protective order request.

"Plaintiff now seeks to withhold from the public information that would be useful (if not essential) for them to evaluate the credibility and merits of that report," they wrote. "Plaintiff — having already eaten his cake — wants to have it, too.

"He wants the public to be able to read the report, but not to know who was responsible for creating it," they wrote of DePerno. "But the public should be allowed to know upon whose word plaintiff bases his claims and whom he asks the public to believe."

Benson is willing to agree to a protective order that keeps the investigators' home addresses, home phone numbers and email addresses confidential, but not their names, the state attorneys wrote.

A hearing on the protective order motion is set for Jan. 11, according to 13th Circuit Court records.

Antrim County, which is reliably Republican, has been in the spotlight because its initial results on election night showed President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, ahead of Trump by 3,200 votes. Election officials later determined there were problems in the tabulation of the results, and Trump ended up winning the county by more than 3,700 votes in the final tally, which was later confirmed by an audit.

Attorney Matthew DePerno seeks a protective order concealing the names of "forensic investigators" involved an analysis of voting machines in Antrim County.

But supporters of the president jumped on the initial error and have used it in their attempt to discredit the results in multiple battleground states that voted for Biden.

Bailey and DePerno have alleged fraud occurred and previously obtained a court order permitting them to have forensic investigators examine Antrim County's voting machines. On Dec. 14, Elsenheimer allowed them to release their preliminary analysis, which was drafted by an organization called Allied Security Operations Group.

The report, which referenced a "forensics team," made a variety of murky claims, including alleging that Dominion Voting Systems, the election technology used by Antrim County and in 28 states, "is intentionally and purposefully designed with inherent errors to create systemic fraud and influence election results." It's unclear how Allied Security Operations Group reached this conclusion, which is countered by the audit of the county's vote.

DePerno told Newsmax that he hoped the report would help Trump continue to contest election results, according to the conservative outlet's reporting.

But John Poulos, CEO of Dominion Voting Systems, told Michigan lawmakers on Dec. 15 that there were no "switched or deleted votes" involving his company's machines.

"A series of human errors" is why people are talking about Antrim County, Poulos told lawmakers. In October, county election officials had to add a contest to three of 18 tabulators, he told lawmakers. But officials failed to update all of the tabulator memory cards. Officials also forgot to conduct testing on their final system, he said. Then, a programmer took steps to ensure that the original ballots that were created before the contest was added could still be used in tabulators, Poulos said.

"If all of the tabulators had been updated as per procedure, there wouldn’t have been any error in the unofficial reporting," the Dominion CEO said. "If public logic and accuracy testing had taken place, the error would’ve been caught when it should have been caught, prior to the election.

"If steps weren’t specifically taken to salvage the already printed ballots, the system would not have allowed election officials to upload memory cards, and the reporting error never would have occurred."

Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy, a Republican, has said she was saddened by the efforts to discredit the voting equipment.

"I did read the report and find that there are many misleading statements that are simply not accurate," Guy said.

cmauger@detroitnews.com