The Republican candidate in Georgia’s governor’s race, who also oversees the state’s elections, accused Democrats on Sunday of trying to hack voter registration systems, a move analysts said highlighted the inherent conflict between his twin roles.
The contest between Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is vying to become the United States’ first black female governor, had already become a flashpoint for allegations of voter suppression.
Kemp drew more national attention to the contest early on Sunday with a statement making the hacking allegation but offering no supporting evidence. State Democratic Party officials quickly denied the charge.
They called it an abuse of power two days before Tuesday’s elections when Americans will determine which party controls the U.S. Congress as well as pick governors in 36 states including Georgia.
“It looks pretty suspicious, and I would say that regardless of which party it was,” said Alan Abramowitz, a professor of political science at Emory University in Atlanta. “It’s just one more example of the kinds of problems that can occur when the person who is in charge of running the elections in the state is not only a partisan elected official but is a party’s candidate for the highest office in the state.”
Voter suppression allegations became an issue in the campaign partly because of a state law requiring an exact match of voters’ names on ID cards and rolls, down to hyphens. Two federal courts on Friday issued rulings rejecting some of Kemp’s election enforcement moves.
Kemp’s charge on Sunday appeared to result from a report made to his office and the FBI on Saturday by a Georgia businessman with an expertise in software, according to David Cross, a lawyer representing several Georgia voters who have sued the state over its decision not to use paper ballots.
“We expected the secretary of state would take that seriously and would take whatever remedial actions needed to be taken, and we were surprised to see that the response was to accuse the Democrats of hacking,” Cross told reporters on Sunday.
Cross said the businessman, Richard Wright, had approached him with the information, which Cross turned over to Kemp’s office on Saturday morning. He also said Wright had passed the details to the state Democratic Party. Wright could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
Kemp’s office did not respond to questions on Sunday about Cross’ statements.
NOT KEMP’S FIRST HACKING CHARGE
Kemp’s office said in a statement on Sunday it launched the investigation late on Saturday and that it had notified the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI.
“We opened an investigation into the Democratic Party of Georgia after receiving information from our legal team about failed efforts to breach the online voter registration system and My Voter Page,” Kemp’s office said. “We are working with our private sector vendors and investigators to review data logs.”
It was not the first time that Kemp alleged that Georgia’s voting systems had been hacked.
In 2016, he said a DHS computer made an unsuccessful attempt to breach the firewall guarding Georgia’s voter data. He complained on Facebook at the time that the agency had “been less than forthcoming” in responding to his allegation.
The DHS inspector general in June 2017 said Kemp’s complaint was without merit.
A DHS official said in an email that the department was aware of the latest allegation. The official declined to say if the agency was investigating.
The FBI declined to comment.
Democrats rejected Kemp’s charge. They contend he has been lax on securing voter data and that his office previously improperly disclosed private information on 6 million Georgians.
“This is yet another example of abuse of power by an unethical Secretary of State,” Rebecca DeHart, executive director of the Georgia Democratic Party, said on Sunday.
Kemp’s latest allegations were met with skepticism from cyber security experts, who noted that identifying who is behind a particular hack was time-consuming and extremely difficult.
“Does the Georgia Secretary of State have the forensics capability and expertise necessary to investigate their own potential breach?” Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former security chief, asked on Twitter.
Stamos said he believed FBI and Justice Department specialists would be better positioned to investigate any hack.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, urged Kemp last month to step down from his election oversight role, saying keeping it while campaigning “runs counter to the most fundamental principle of democratic elections.”
Kemp has refused to step down and has said he is fairly applying Georgia’s laws.
Reporting by Joseph Ax and Jim Finkle in New York; Additional reporting by Christopher Bing in Washington; Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney
Foreign diplomats preparing for the worst — another Trump win in 2020: ‘People don’t want to be stupid twice’
According to a report from Politico, foreign diplomats are not so sure Donald Trump will be beaten in the 2020 election and are making contingency plans for how they will deal with him should he be re-elected.
The report notes that the win by the New York businessman in 2016 caught foreign governments by surprise with former French ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud admitting, "In 2016, nobody believed he was going to be elected. People don’t want to be stupid twice.”
According to Politico, "There’s no known scientific survey on the topic — few foreign officials would participate in one given diplomatic norms that preclude them from commenting on another country's internal politics. But none who talked to POLITICO were willing to say that Trump will lose. Instead, they pointed to three key advantages for Trump: He’s the incumbent, the U.S. economy is strong and the Democrats have no definitive front-runner to challenge him."
Trump Twitter-rages at ‘evil propaganda machine’ New York Times
President Donald Trump kicked off his Sunday morning by going on a multi-tweet rant about the New York Times where he blamed them for his poor poll numbers and called them "an evil propaganda machine.'
Trump began with, "The Failing New York Times, in one of the most devastating portrayals of bad journalism in history, got caught by a leaker that they are shifting from their Phony Russian Collusion Narrative (the Mueller Report & his testimony were a total disaster), to a Racism Witch Hunt....., " before adding, "'Journalism' has reached a new low in the history of our Country. It is nothing more than an evil propaganda machine for the Democrat Party. The reporting is so false, biased and evil that it has now become a very sick joke...But the public is aware! #CROOKEDJOURNALISM."
Trump suggests hitting France with 100 percent tariff on wine over dispute with Macron
According to a report from Bloomberg, President Donald Trump publicly suggested that he would consider a 100 percent tariff on wines coming from France.
The report states that the president recently made the suggestion as part of his trade war that has crippled American manufacturers and farmers while at the same time hitting American consumers' wallets.
Trump's comments came during a recent Long Island fundraiser and were tied to his unhappiness with President Emmanuel Macron and his tax on multinational technology companies.