After local elections official Tina Peters brought an outside individual into an elections office in Mesa County, Colorado, for the purpose of attempting to copy elections data, concerns about the breach circulated — and investigations of what happened began.
Now, a new lawsuit from Trump ally and public menace Mike Lindell seeking the return of his recently seized phone connects the phone seizure, which the FBI conducted at a fast food restaurant in Minnesota, to the situation in Mesa County. Lindell’s case includes a copy of the federal warrant used for the seizure, which identifies identity theft and conspiring to damage a protected computer among potential offenses driving the probe. Conspiracy to defraud the United States was also identified in the warrant materials as a potential offense possibly perpetrated by Lindell or his co-conspirators. According to the warrant, Peters and a top deputy are (alongside others) also subjects of the investigation, with the warrant specifying a search for “all records and information related to damage to any Dominion computerized voting system.”
Peters and the top deputy of hers were indicted on state criminal charges, and the individual whose entry to the elections office with a stolen contractor’s ID Peters facilitated — former surfer Conan James Hayes, as best can be told — was evidently connected to Lindell. Hayes stayed in the county during a May 2021 update to local Dominion equipment under hotel reservations set up by a former campaign manager for Lauren Boebert, and more bluntly tying him to the original incident, metadata shows copies of the elections data were created by a computer technologically identified by the initials “cjh,” The Washington Post reported. A lawyer for Ron Watkins, who is suspected of involvement in the spread of the central QAnon conspiracy theory, said Hayes provided Mesa County materials. After he left Mesa County, Hayes was even shipped a package — at the local government’s expense — from Peters and Knisley.
Lindell himself once identified Hayes as working for him, and among other examples of their connection, he was at a symposium spotlighting false election fraud claims that Lindell put together. Douglas Frank, who was in contact with Peters about election fraud allegations, about which he delivered a talk at a local hotel, and encouraged the local official towards copying data from the Dominion-brand equipment in use in the county, also said he was working for Lindell amid the wide-ranging attempts by Trump allies to undercut the election outcome around the country, although whether any formal arrangement existed isn’t immediately clear. Frank told Peters he would connect her with someone who could assist with preserving the data, which conspiracy theorists suspected — without real-world evidence — would be lost in updates to the equipment but that they wanted for helping prove non-existent fraud.
Lindell is also directly connected to Peters, for whom he has helped provide lodging, security, and legal representation. Her deputy, Belinda Knisley, pleaded guilty in the recently unveiled state criminal case and will testify against her. Peters also showed up at the symposium Lindell organized to promote false claims of systematic fraud in the 2020 presidential race. In connection to the breach, after which copies of local elections data circulated online, dozens of pieces of equipment used in the electoral process were decertified, meaning they were no longer available for use due to security concerns.