The US government’s chief information security officer (CISO) is taking time off from his official duties to help President Trump’s so-far-fruitless search for election fraud.
Camilo Sandoval worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign and has been the federal CISO, a position in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, since October of this year. But Sandoval is now spending his days working for the newly formed Voter Integrity Fund, which is reportedly “run by government employees and former Trump campaign staffers who are analyzing voter data in six key states.”
Ethics rules require federal employees to keep political activity and government work separate. Sandoval said he isn’t breaking any rules, The Washington Post reported yesterday:
In an interview on Friday, Sandoval defended his involvement in the endeavor as appropriate, saying he had taken vacation time from his government position, which he started last month. He said he was not using any government resources, such as his work computer or cellphone, while searching for fraud.
“I am doing this in my private capacity, just as many others have done in past elections,” he said. “I think it’s pretty clear that this is acceptable and normal.”
A spokeswoman for the White House Office of Management and Budget, where Sandoval works, said Friday that Sandoval was on leave, but she did not respond when asked whether he was continuing to receive his government salary.
The federal CISO position was created in 2016 by the Obama White House “to drive cybersecurity policy, planning, and implementation across the Federal Government.” Sandoval filled an opening created a few months ago when CISO Grant Schneider left the job after nearly three decades in the federal government.
US agency debunked election-fraud claims
Sandoval is not likely to find extensive evidence of voter fraud, let alone enough to change the results of the presidential election. Democrat Joe Biden is on track to beat Trump in the electoral college by a count of 306-232—the same margin that Trump called a “massive landslide” when he won election in 2016—and Biden has clear leads in states where Trump would need to change the results.
Trump today continued to push his baseless election-fraud conspiracy theory, tweeting that “Radical Left Democrats” are partnering with “the Fake News Media” to “STEAL this Election.” But the election on November 3 “was the most secure in American history,” according to a statement by two election-oversight committees published Thursday on the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) website. Ongoing recounts may turn up some mistakes, but “there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised,” the statement said.
The CISA also set up a “rumor control” page to debunk election misinformation despite pressure from White House officials.
Sandoval was director of data operations for Trump’s 2016 campaign and then worked in the Trump administration in the Treasury Department and Department of Veterans Affairs. Sandoval’s 2018 appointment to be chief information officer of Veterans Affairs was opposed by 11 Democratic members of Congress. “This appointment raises serious data security concerns stemming from Mr. Sandoval’s previous position as the Director of Data Operations in 2016 while the Trump campaign was contracting with Cambridge Analytica,” the congressional Democrats wrote. “Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of personal information from tens of millions of Americans, including veterans, was an incredible breach of trust.”
Sandoval was also facing a sexual-harassment lawsuit, which is still ongoing, and apparently had “a history of rampant interpersonal conflicts with co-workers,” the Democrats wrote at the time.
The Voter Integrity Fund that Sandoval now works for “is analyzing ballot data and cold-calling voters in an attempt to substantiate the president’s outlandish claims about illicit voting,” The Washington Post wrote. The group is led by Matthew Braynard, a data specialist on Trump’s 2016 campaign, who told the Post that several other government officials also took leave to work on the effort to find election fraud. One of them is Thomas Baptiste, an adviser in the Interior Department. The group has raised over $640,000 in donations.
“Braynard and Sandoval claim that they have found evidence of possible fraud, but they have yet to make any detailed findings public,” the Post wrote. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Braynard said the group was formed independently of the Trump campaign, but that it is in frequent communication with it. He said they have provided the campaign and its team of lawyers with information on voters for their legal battles.”
Sandoval did not go so far as to say that the election was stolen from Trump. But he told the Post, “we are going to be asking for weeks and months who really won, and was there fraud, and if I can use my skills to help bring transparency to that, then it is worthwhile.”
According to the Inquirer, the Voter Integrity Fund has been calling voters and asking, “Did a person with your name vote? Did you request a mail-in ballot? Did you return a mail-in ballot?” The group’s plan is to contact about 1.5 million people.
“I’m pretty upset that these agents of misinformation were able to get my phone number and basically bother me to help create their phony panic,” voter Marc Faletti of Philadelphia told the Inquirer.