On Jan. 7, 2021, a group of forensics experts working for lawyers allied with President Donald Trump spent eight hours at a county elections office in southern Georgia, copying sensitive software and data from its voting machines.
Under questioning last month for a civil lawsuit, a former Georgia Republican Party official named Cathy Latham said in sworn testimony that she briefly stopped by the office in Coffee County that afternoon. She said she stayed in the foyer and spoke with a junior official about an unrelated matter at the front desk.
“I didn’t go into the office,” Latham said, according to a transcript of her deposition filed in court. She said she had seen in passing a pro-Trump businessman who was working with the experts. She said they chatted for “five minutes at most” — she could not remember the topic — and she left soon after for an early dinner with her husband.
Surveillance video footage reviewed by The Washington Post shows that Latham visited the elections office twice that day, staying for more than four hours in total. She greeted the businessman, Scott Hall, when he arrived and led him into a back area to meet the experts and local officials, the video shows. Over the course of the day, it shows, she moved in and out of an area where the experts from the data forensics firm, SullivanStrickler, were working, a part of that building that was not visible to the surveillance camera.
She took a selfie with one of the forensics experts before heading out at 6:19 p.m.
A Post examination found that elements of the account Latham gave in her deposition on the events of Jan. 6 and 7, 2021, appear to diverge from the footage and other evidence, including depositions and text messages. Many of those records, including Latham’s Aug. 8 deposition, were filed in a long-running federal civil court case involving election security in Georgia.
During the 2020 election and its aftermath, Latham was a member of the Georgia Republican Party’s executive committee and sat on its election confidence task force. She was also chairwoman of the Coffee County Republican Party. She was one of the “fake electors” who signed unauthorized certificates in a bid to keep Trump in power after his 2020 election defeat.
In response to questions from The Post, Latham’s lawyers said, “Failing to accurately remember the details of events from almost two years ago is not lying.” They have said she did not take part in the copying or in anything improper or illegal.
Her attorneys Robert D. Cheeley and Holly A. Pierson wrote in a court filing last week that the alleged security breach was “actually less of a breach or criminal undertaking and more of a permissible exercise of the County Elections Board’s authority.”
They wrote that “the parties involved plainly believed that they had the authority to authorize it and the authority to do it, and that belief seems to be at least reasonable and likely accurate, which negates any possible criminal intent.”
The surveillance footage shows that Latham appeared to introduce the SullivanStrickler team to local officials when they arrived that day. She then watched as they began looking at county voting equipment, it shows.
Coffee County, Ga. GOP Chairwoman Cathy Latham and digital forensics experts hired by lawyers allied with former president Trump on Jan. 7, 2021. (Video: Obtained by The Washington Post)
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and a grand jury in Atlanta are probing the incident in Coffee County, a Republican stronghold about 200 miles south of Atlanta. Federal and state prosecutors are also investigating the “fake elector” scheme, in which Latham and dozens of other Republicans in battleground states signed certificates proclaiming Trump the rightful winner.
The Coffee County episode is one of several alleged breaches of voting equipment since the 2020 election. In each instance, Trump supporters — often with the help of like-minded local officials — sought access to voting equipment to hunt for evidence that the election was rigged.
Access to voting machines is typically tightly restricted, and some security analysts fear that such breaches — including the copying of voting software that is also used elsewhere — risk exposing the systems to hackers.
Details about what happened in Coffee County, including the surveillance video reviewed by The Post, have surfaced largely because of a lawsuit brought against Georgia by several voters and the nonprofit Coalition for Good Governance. The plaintiffs say the state’s voting system is unconstitutionally insecure, which state officials deny. The plaintiffs have subpoenaed documents and testimony from a number of individuals, including Latham.
Sidney Powell, the Trump-allied attorney who was billed for the work, has not directly responded to questions from The Post about Coffee County. “Prior reports of my involvement were seriously misrepresented,” she said in an email.
Records obtained by the plaintiffs show that Powell signed contracts for the forensics experts’ elections work. The SullivanStrickler team updated her by email on the work in Coffee County and billed her more than $26,000, according to the records.
Coffee County was among a handful of locations across the nation where Trump and his advisers pounced on minor errors or rumors of voting-machine irregularities in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election.
After Coffee County elections supervisor Misty Hampton discussed concerns about Dominion Voting Systems machines at a Nov. 10 elections board meeting, a Trump campaign staffer emailed her seeking information available under public records law. The county refused to certify its results after a statewide recount on Nov. 30, claiming that the machines showed inconsistent results. State investigators later concluded that the discrepancies had been caused by human error.
A local news outlet published a video that featured Hampton purporting to show how she could “flip” votes from one candidate to another. It went viral. Trump’s team later cited Coffee County in its campaign to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory.
In her deposition, Latham said that some time between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Jan. 6, after she had worked a full day as a high school teacher — and as Trump supporters were attacking the U.S. Capitol — she received a call from Hall, the businessman.
Hall had been “looking into the election on behalf of the President,” Georgia GOP chairman David Shafer told Trump campaign officials on Nov. 20, 2020, in an email obtained by The Post. The email centered on problems with absentee ballots and did not mention Coffee County or voting machines.
In her deposition, Latham said Hall asked her to connect him to Hampton. She did not know why and did not ask, she said.
“Because that had been a hectic day. I hadn’t had any sleep, all the stuff had been happening, I had been getting phone calls left and right I was answering. I was tired, I wanted to go home,” Latham said. She said she then briefly telephoned Hampton to put her in touch with Hall.
“I would have called Misty and I said, ‘Well, let me give you his email,’” Latham said, adding: “I sent her the email. That’s all I remember doing.”
The new surveillance footage shows that Latham and Hampton were together inside the office during this time. Latham arrived at the office at 3:58 p.m. and had at least three phone calls between 4 p.m. and 4:40 p.m.
At 4:26 p.m., Hampton texted Eric Chaney, a member of the county elections board that employed her, records show. “Scott Hall is on the phone with Cathy about wanting to come scan our ballots from the general election like we talked about the other day,” she wrote.
Latham’s husband joined them at the office at 5 p.m., the footage shows, and later brought in takeout food. The Lathams and Hampton all left the office shortly before 7:40 p.m.
The following morning, Latham exchanged text messages with SullivanStrickler’s chief operations officer, Paul Maggio, as the team drove to Coffee County, records show, coordinating who would fetch Hall from the airport.
Latham also updated Hampton on the visitors’ movements.
“Team left Atlanta at 8. 5 members led by Paul Maggio. Scott is flying in,” Latham wrote Hampton in a text message at 9:26 a.m.
“Yay!!!!” Hampton replied.
In her deposition, Latham said she was just passing on information that Hall asked her to share with Hampton. She said she didn’t know why Maggio and Hall were coming to Coffee County.
Latham said she also worked a full day at Coffee High School on that day, Jan. 7, before briefly visiting the elections-office foyer after about 4 p.m., for reasons unrelated to SullivanStrickler’s work there.
Latham said she could see people behind the front desk but that she wasn’t paying attention to who they were and she remained on the other side of the partition. “There were people in there, and I get uncomfortable when there’s others,” she said.
External surveillance footage made public earlier this month showed that Latham arrived at the office at 11:37 a.m. that day. Three SullivanStrickler employees arrived at the elections office soon after. They were later joined by a fourth colleague. They intended to collect whatever data possible from the county’s voting machines, emails and billing records show.
Cheeley, Latham’s attorney, previously told The Post that Latham did not remember all the details of that day but testified truthfully. He said she did recall visiting the office after school “to check in on some voter review panels from the runoff election” that had been held for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats earlier that week.
Latham described herself to SullivanStrickler as an elections official, an executive from the company said during a deposition on behalf of the firm this month. A lawyer for Latham said something must have been taken out of context or misunderstood because Latham has never been a Coffee County election official and did not hold herself out as one.
Digital forensics experts hired by lawyers allied with former president Trump examined voting equipment on Jan. 7, 2021 at the Coffee County elections office. (Video: Obtained by The Washington Post)
Asked during her deposition whether the team met Chaney, the board member, Latham replied: “I have no idea.”
The new video shows that, after greeting SullivanStrickler’s team, Latham led them into a central area behind the public counter and appeared to introduce them to Chaney and Hampton.
Hampton, Chaney and Hall did not respond to messages seeking comment.
At about 12:30 p.m., Latham joined Maggio, Hall and Hampton as they appeared to examine a large piece of equipment in the central area. At one point, she bent down and touched it. Then, as Maggio began examining electronic “poll pads,” which are used to check in voters at polling locations, Latham took a seat directly across from him and watched, the video shows.
In her deposition, Latham said she left the office before Hall and did not see him depart. The video shows that Hall shook Latham’s hand on his way out shortly before 5 p.m., and that Latham stayed more than an hour longer.
In an email filed to court last month, SullivanStrickler’s lawyers said Latham was “a primary point of contact in coordinating and facilitating” the firm’s work in Coffee County, adding: “Ms. Latham was on-site in the Coffee County elections office that day while the work was performed.”
In the deposition on behalf of the firm, the company executive said Hampton, the elections supervisor, had directed the majority of the team’s work. But “Cathy Latham also provided direction on what was required for collection,” he said, according to a transcript the plaintiffs provided to The Post.
Coffee County GOP Chair Cathy Latham returned to the county election office on the afternoon of Jan. 7, 2021, and spoke with businessman Scott Hall. (Video: Obtained by The Washington Post)
SullivanStrickler believed it had been given proper authorization to make “forensic images,” or exact copies, of the election equipment in Coffee County, the company executive said in his deposition. In a statement to The Post, a lawyer for SullivanStrickler said the firm and its employees were witnesses in the grand jury investigation. “We will continue to fully cooperate with law enforcement,” the lawyer wrote.
In May, when The Post first reported on claims that outsiders copied Coffee County’s central elections server and other election equipment, Chaney said he did not know Hall and was not aware of or present at the office “when anyone illegally accessed the server or the room in which it had contained.” He said he recalled “going by the office” and finding “people present unknown to me” who he believed to be associated with the secretary of state’s office.
The interior surveillance video shows Chaney was there throughout much of the day, talking with Hall and SullivanStrickler employees. Chaney was also there as Maggio used a cord to connect poll pads into his laptop, the video shows.
Questioned under oath in the election-security lawsuit, Chaney acknowledged that he went to the elections office on Jan. 7 that day. He repeatedly cited his Fifth Amendment right in response to questions about the effort to copy voting data.
Peter Stevenson, Amy Gardner and Tom Hamburger contributed to this report.