U.S. Marshals in Houston, Texas, on Monday arrested True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht and board member Gregg Phillips for contempt of court in a defamation case against them after they refused a federal judge’s order to release the name of a confidential source.
The civil lawsuit was filed in September by Eugene Yu, the CEO of the Michigan-based, election software company Konnech. Yu alleges True the Vote made baseless and racist accusations that forced him and his family to flee their home in fear for their lives and damaged his company’s business.
At the center of Yu’s complaint is True the Vote’s claim that Konnech was storing U.S. election information on serves in China through its software app PollChief, posing a national security risk. However, only weeks after the defamation suit was filed, Yu was arrested and charged by Los Angeles County prosecutors for allegedly storing election worker data on servers in China. The prosecutors called it “probably the largest data breach in United States history.”
The defamation suit has continued, nevertheless, and the jailing of Engelbrecht and Phillips came after a hearing Thursday in which federal Judge Kenneth Hoyt, a Ronald Reagan appointee, found them in contempt of court for refusing to hand over the name and contact information of a key source who was at a Dallas hotel meeting in January 2021. True the Vote says that at that meeting it received evidence Konnech was improperly storing the personal data of U.S. poll workers on servers in China.
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At an Oct. 6 hearing, True the Vote attorney Brock Akers told Judge Hoyt his clients “don’t want to release the name of this individual.” The attorney described the source as an “analyst” who was in “danger from forces of the Chinese Communist party.”
True the Vote – whose investigation of ballot trafficking was featured in the film “2000 Mules” – has characterized the lawsuit as an effort to try to silence the organization. Konnech obtained an ex-parte temporary restraining order in secret, True the Vote said, so the election integrity group would have no opportunity to contest it.
Phillips, in a message on Truth Social, said he and Engelbrecht “were held in contempt of court because we refused to burn a confidential informant or our researchers.”
“We will go to jail Monday unless we comply.”
In the criminal case against Yu by Los Angeles County prosecutors, the complaint cites as evidence a message from a Konnech project manager through a Chinese-owned messaging app that said “any employee for Chinese contractors working on PollChief software had ‘superadministration’ privileges for all PollChief clients.”
Sam Faddis, former CIA officer, put that statement in perspective in a Substack post: “An individual with super administration access to a system can do effectively anything inside that system. He or she can delete data, steal data, alter data, change programming, etc.”
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In August, True the Vote disclosed its Konnech investigation at an invitation-only event in the Phoenix area. Engelbrecht and Phillips said their team had notified the FBI, and the agents with whom they communicated were alarmed by the potential national security implications.
Later, however, after working together on a “counter-intelligence operation,” Engelbrecht and Phillips said the FBI turned against them. It was then that the True the Vote investigators decided to make their findings public and seek the help of independent researchers.
Yu’s arrest, Oct. 4, came one day after the New York Times published a story mocking True the Vote as “election deniers” for claiming Konnech was storing personal information about poll workers on servers in China, posing a serious security risk.
Alluding to the New York Times, among others, True the Vote said in a statement after Yu’s arrest that Konnech “was assisted by many reporters who unblinkingly accepted their now discredited claims as fact, and simply repeated them.”
“Election integrity should not be a partisan issue, nor should media try to suppress all conversation about it in a way that benefits one party,” said Engelbrecht.
“We will continue to report evidence of threats to our election process,” she continued, “and work with law enforcement to ensure our elections are a secure space for all American voters.”
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