Matthew DePerno and Katherine Friess are greeted by Antrim County Administrator Peter Garwood outside of the Antrim County Building in Bellaire on Dec. 6, 2020.

BELLAIRE — Political operatives working on behalf of a man who filed an election lawsuit against Antrim County, identified themselves to township officials as representing Rudy Giuliani’s legal team, and accessed official election data in at least one township, according to local officials.

Court filings in Michigan and Arizona state the operatives who identified themselves as a forensics team from Dallas-based Allied Security Operations Group, visited the Central Lake Township office on Nov. 27 at 10:30 a.m. and were shown “two separate paper totals tape” from a precinct tabulator, which they later analyzed and compared.

“They made calls to township people on Thanksgiving Day to set all this up, they were strong-arming local clerks to get in and see those machines,” said Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy, of the visitors.

“Some clerks said no or didn’t answer their phones,” Guy said. “And as soon as we could, we sent out an email telling the clerks not to let them in. Then we learn after the fact, they’d already been in three different locations.”

The group also visited offices in Star Township and the Village of Mancelona, officials confirmed.

Among those arriving Nov. 27 by chartered jet, was attorney Katherine Friess, a Washington, D.C. lobbyist with past ties to Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, who local officials said “bragged” about dining with President Donald Trump and Giuliani the evening prior to her arrival.

Guy, a Republican, said she thought Friess shared the information about having dinner with Trump and Giuliani, in an effort to try and impress local officials.

Friess is the CEO of the lobbying firm, Global Policy Partners, the website of which defers to another firm, 8150 Consulting, of Denver. She was previously the director of BKSH & Associates, created by a merger with another lobbying firm, BMSK, of Washington D.C., founded by Manafort and Stone, among others, filings with the U.S. Department of Justice show.

Manafort chaired Trump’s presidential campaign for several months in 2016, Stone worked on Trump’s campaign in 2015, both men were indicted on multiple charges arising from Special Council Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference, and later pardoned by Trump.

Giuliani is the former Mayor of New York City and an attorney who the former president put in charge of his post-election legal challenges.

Two visits, both connected to the lawsuit

The operatives who visited Antrim County on Nov. 27, included some of the same people who performed a court-sanctioned forensic exam of the county’s voting equipment on Dec. 6, as part of a lawsuit filed by Central Lake Township resident Bill Bailey against the county, citing its use of Dominion Voting Machines equipment.

Thirteenth Circuit Court Chief Judge Kevin Elsenheimer signed the order Dec. 3, court records show.

The Nov. 27 visit was not sanctioned by the court, but rather operated in what some officials called a “legal gray area.”

“Rudy’s name came up when they presented themselves,” said Star Township Clerk Phyllis Hoogerhyde. “They called ahead of time and said, ‘We’d like to examine your Dominion machines and take pictures.’ I couldn’t figure out what they thought they were going to get, since all our information was already at the county.”

Central Lake Township Clerk Judy Kosloski printed her own copy of the precinct tabulator tape, which is allowed by law, and that’s what she showed to the visiting team, Guy said.

Filings in the case accuse Dominion Voting Systems of purposefully creating systemic fraud in order to influence election results. Similar claims by Giuliani, attorney and conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, have resulted in $1.3 billion defamation lawsuits filed against them by Dominion.

“Hand counts and audits following the 2020 election have proven that Dominion voting machines were accurate in Michigan and other states,” said Dominion CEO John Poulos.

“Dominion and its legal team are filing lawsuits and sending dozens of letters to hold such individuals and media platforms accountable for their actions, and we will continue to take all steps available to protect the good name and reputation of the company,” Poulos said.

The Nov. 27 visits by the outside team weren’t illegal, but barring a court order, likely should have required a Freedom of Information Act request, said Saginaw-based attorney Greg Schmid, an expert in Michigan election law.

Guy confirmed no FOIA had been filed requesting access, which Schmid said he found troubling, adding that without such a request, the clerks were well within their rights to simply refuse entry.

“The township clerk had the voting record lawfully, and anybody can knock on the door and ask for anything, but the clerk also could have refused and without a FOIA, no one could have forced it,” Schmid said.

The visit came four days after Bailey filed his lawsuit in 13th Circuit Court, accusing Antrim County of voter fraud and of violating his constitutional rights.

ASOG, misinformation in other court filings

Bailey, who serves on Antrim County’s planning commission, is a licensed real estate broker and an author.

On Feb. 28 he released his first book, a 560-page science fiction novel where characters experience history in virtual reality, rather than reading about it.

Days after Bailey filed suit against the county, lawyers with the state’s Attorney General’s office, representing Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, successfully filed a motion to intervene.

In December, Benson was added to the lawsuit as a named defendant.

ASOG and its staff, including principal Russell Ramsland, were tasked by Bailey and his attorney, Matthew DePerno of Portage, with performing the Dec. 6 forensic examination of the county’s voting equipment.

Ramsland is no stranger to Michigan electoral politics and previously made inaccurate claims about Detroit election results and mistook voting jurisdictions in Minnesota for Michigan in court filings.

In the Michigan and Arizona court filings, where ASOG’s Nov. 27 visit to Antrim County is detailed, Ramsland mistakenly states Bailey’s lawsuit was filed by a different attorney, and at one point refers to Central Lake Township as Clear Lake Township.

A report by ASOG, purporting to analyze the results of their examination, went viral after it was shared during a state House Oversight Committee hearing in Lansing on Dec. 2.

Giuliani attended, along with a number of associated witnesses, who shared widely debunked allegations of election fraud.

State stands behind Antrim results

Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Waucedah Township), who chairs the state Senate Oversight Committee, said upon hearing of the operatives’ earlier visit, he had concerns unrelated to the legality of their access to voting tapes.

“I’m more disturbed by the fact that the group looked at the tapes and clearly ignored that the tapes were accurate,” McBroom said. “It then made its so-called forensic report, that claimed that the machine had been in error, which was clearly inaccurate. It was at the county clerk’s office where the mistake was made.”

Guy has repeatedly acknowledged human error caused early, unofficial results in Antrim County, which showed about 2,000 votes cast for then-President Trump, were falsely assigned to then-challenger Joe Biden.

The state’s Senate Oversight Committee confirmed Guy’s assertion of human error, McBroom said, the results were corrected and were accurate when certified.

Registered voters in Antrim County voted overwhelmingly for Trump, 9,748 votes to 5,960 votes for Biden.

The state’s Bureau of Elections conducted and livestreamed a hand recount of votes cast in the presidential election in Antrim County on Dec. 17. The count found 12 additional votes for the former president and one fewer for Biden, an error rate of .07 percent said Jonathan Brater, director of the state’s Bureau of Elections who attended the re-count in person.

ASOG’s analysis of the election results was roundly criticized by national and state election officials, as well as by Dominion, whose representatives pointed to repeated misstatements which they said showed report authors had a lack of understanding about how election equipment works.

“Disinformation persists, due in large part to the severely flawed and widely debunked ‘forensic audit report’ focused on Antrim County, and those who continue to push its baseless claims,” Poulos said.

The lawsuit against Antrim County is ongoing, with discovery expected to be completed in April. A motion to dismiss the case was filed Wednesday, after Bailey’s legal team missed a subpoena-filing deadline, court records show.

Elsenheimer’s signed order allowing Bailey’s attorney to depose officials with the Secretary of State and Antrim County, makes it unlikely the error will quash the case, officials said.

Guy said Antrim County yet this week will submit about 1,000 pages of interrogatories requested by DePerno — including election-related FOIA requests and media interviews.

Attorney Haider Kazim, who is representing the county in the lawsuit, did not return a call seeking comment.

Officials with the state AG’s office and the Secretary of State declined comment, citing ongoing litigation.

Officials in Central Lake Township and the Village of Mancelona did not return calls seeking comment.

A call to Global Policy Partners was not returned and and previous emails to ASOG received an auto-reply, expressing concerns about SPAM.

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