FBI conducts searches in Garfield, Mesa counties as part of investigation of Mesa County Clerk’s Office
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — An FBI-led law enforcement task force searched four western Colorado locations, including the home of an elections clerk, amid an investigation into allegations that the 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.
Tina Peters, the elections clerk for Mesa County, which includes the city of Grand Junction, said her home was searched, the 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.”
Late Wednesday, Rubinstein and Attorney General Phil Weiser issued a statement confirming that Peters’ home was searched and disputing claims by a legal defense fund for Peters that authorities used excessive force during the operation.
“At no time was force used on Ms. Peters or her home. Ms. Peters was allowed to move around her home and fix herself breakfast while agents gathered items before departing,” Rubinstein and Weiser said.
Peters, a Republican, is being investigated by the FBI and by Colorado state officials in an alleged breach of elections equipment in Mesa County in May. 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 midterm 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.
Colorado Politics reported that Peters first 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 added that authorities “used a battering ram,” destroying the front door of one of her friends’ homes.
Rubinstein didn’t disclose the other locations that were searched, telling The Associated Press in an email that “all documents related to these operations are sealed” by court order. The searches involved ”potential criminal activity by employees of the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder’s Office and others associated with those employees,” Rubinstein’s office said in a statement.
The FBI office in Denver didn’t immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
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 Colorado in 2020, and Democrats control the governor’s office, the state Legislature and all statewide offices.
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.
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