Cops search 4 Colorado locations in election security probe

US Politics

FILE – In this June 30, 2020, file photo, Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters reads an update on the election in Grand Junction, Colo. A multiagency task force executed search warrants Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, at four locations in western Colorado amid an ongoing investigation into allegations that Peters was involved in a security breach of elections equipment earlier this year. (McKenzie Lange/The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel via AP, File)

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — A law enforcement task force searched four western Colorado locations amid an investigation into allegations that an elections clerk was involved in a security breach of elections equipment earlier this year, a district attorney said.

The FBI, the Colorado Attorney General’s office and local authorities conducted the searches, which were authorized by a federal court, on Tuesday in Mesa and neighboring Garfield counties, Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein told Colorado Politics.

Rubinstein didn’t disclose the locations that were searched, telling The Associated Press in an email that “all documents related to these operations are sealed” by court order.

But Tina Peters, the elections clerk for Mesa County, which includes the city of Grand Junction, said her home was searched, the Colorado Politics media outlet reported.

“The FBI raided my home at 6 a.m. this morning, accusing me of committing a crime,” Peters said. “And they raided the homes of my friends, mostly older women. I was terrified.”

The FBI office in Denver didn’t immediately respond to an email requesting comment. Lawrence Pacheco, spokesman for Attorney General Phil Weiser, said the state is working with Mesa County on an investigation into the alleged election system breach but could not comment further on the continuing probe.

The searches came amid an ongoing dispute between Peters, who presided over elections in conservative Mesa County in 2020, and Griswold, a Democrat and vocal presence nationally for ensuring election integrity.

Peters has become an advocate for those who believe, without evidence, that the 2020 election was fraudulent — although she has said elections in Mesa County, which voted overwhelmingly for Trump, were secure and accurate. In contrast, Democrat Joe Biden handily defeated Trump in 2020, and Democrats control the governor’s office, the state Legislature and all statewide offices.

Colorado Politics reported that Peters commented about the searches during an appearance on an online channel operated by Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO and a supporter of Peters and former President Donald Trump who has repeatedly made discredited claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.

Peters, a Republican, is being investigated by the FBI and by Colorado state officials state in an alleged breach of elections equipment in Mesa County in May. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, successfully sued to have Peters and a deputy, Belinda Knisley, prohibited by a judge from administering the November mid-term election. Peters has denied any wrongdoing.

Knisley was subsequently suspended and charged with felony second-degree burglary and a cybercrime misdemeanor count by Rubinstein’s office. Knisley also has denied wrongdoing.

The Grand Junction Sentinel reported that an arrest warrant affidavit alleges Knisley entered a “building or structure with intent to commit a crime against another person or property.”

Griswold sued to remove Peters as county clerk and recorder after Griswold said images of election equipment management software from Mesa County were obtained by elections conspiracy theorists and posted on far-right blogs.

Griswold’s office has said one of the images was taken May 23 from inside a secure room in Mesa County where the voting equipment was stored and had been accessed that day by Peters, who allowed a non-employee into the room.

After Griswold filed the lawsuit, Peters was absent from Colorado for several weeks, only appearing publicly in broadcasts hosted by Lindell. Peters claimed that Griswold’s investigation is an attempt to take over one of the few remaining conservative counties in Colorado.

Griswold’s office has identified the person it says was allowed into the secure room but has refused to say anything more about who he is or why he was there. The Associated Press isn’t naming him until more information becomes available. He has not been charged with a crime.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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