SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The cyber expert on the “red team” hired by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell now says the key data underpinning the theory that China hacked the 2020 election unveiled at the Cyber Symposium is illegitimate.
Mr. Lindell said he had 37 terabytes of “irrefutable” evidence that hackers, who he said were backed by China, broke into election systems and switched votes in favor of President Biden. The proof, he said, is visible in intercepted network data or “packet captures” that were collected by hackers and could be unencrypted to reveal that a cyberattack occurred and that votes were switched.
But cyber expert Josh Merritt, who is on the team hired by Mr. Lindell to interrogate the data for the symposium, told The Washington Times that packet captures are unrecoverable in the data and that the data, as provided, cannot prove a cyber incursion by China.
“So our team said, we’re not going to say that this is legitimate if we don’t have confidence in the information,” Mr. Merritt said on Wednesday, the second day of the symposium.
Mr. Merritt’s break from Mr. Lindell accelerated the unraveling of the MyPillow millionaire’s months of spinning of a conspiracy theory that he said would reverse the outcome of the 2020 election and restore former President Donald Trump to the White House.
Mr. Lindell delayed a scheduled unveiling of his evidence on Wednesday at the symposium.
He had offered $5 million to any in-person attendee who can disprove his claims. The offer is no longer on the table, Mr. Merritt said.
Leading up to the seminar, Mr. Lindell had displayed a video of scrolling, incomprehensible text, which he claimed were the packet captures he had received — proof, he claimed, of his China hacking theory. The video was featured in his documentary “Absolute 9-0” and was played on loop on screens throughout the convention center during the symposium.
Cybersecurity expert J. Kirk Wiebe, a former senior National Security Agency analyst and whistleblower, also said Mr. Lindell did not have the actual data sets.
He said the scrolling text was likely meant to resemble what the packet captures would look like in the data set but were not actual packet captures, which are vital to prove the claims.
Several cyber experts at the symposium became frustrated late into the first day with not being provided with packet captures.
Mr. Merritt and Mr. Wiebe said the missing packet captures could be a result of either the format the data was sent in or they were withheld by the source of the information, Dennis L. Montgomery.
Mr. Montgomery is a former government contractor who developed cyber tools named HAMMER and SCORECARD, which were allegedly used by the U.S. to influence foreign elections. Mr. Montgomery came forward with the data after he said the tools were being used to influence U.S. elections, according to Mr. Wiebe.
Mr. Merritt confirmed that Mr. Montgomery was the source of the data.
But the data Mr. Montgomery sent contains no packet captures and cannot be used to validate Mr. Lindell’s marquee theory, which he planned to unveil at the symposium, said the two experts.
Mr. Montgomery reportedly suffered a stroke on the eve of the symposium and has not been in contact with Mr. Lindell’s team or any cyber experts at the symposium.
He has been behind several other high-profile conspiracy theories, including allegations that U.S. security agencies wiretapped Trump Tower while Mr. Trump was running for president in 2016.
Mr. Montgomery said he presented the wiretap evidence to then-FBI Director James B. Comey, who dismissed the information. Mr. Montgomery later sued Mr. Comey, alleging a cover-up. The lawsuit was dropped.
Mr. Montgomery has also publicly claimed that the 2020 election was manipulated, which former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Christopher Krebs said was a “hoax.”
Still, Mr. Merritt said, the data did contain important “forensic” evidence of manipulated voters.
“We were handed a turd,” he said. “And I had to take that turd and turn it into a diamond. And that’s what I think we did.”
The symposium organizers unveiled data Wednesday in front of the audience, which they said showed tampering in the 2020 presidential election in Mesa County, Colorado. The presentation was ad hoc and separate from Mr. Lindell’s original claim of a nationwide hack.
Mesa County’s clerk and recorder, Tina Peters, headlined Day One of the gathering. Ms. Peters is under investigation for a potential election security breach from within her office.
Mr. Lindell’s team would not confirm the source of the data used for Wednesday’s presentation.
Phil Waldron who is the leader of the red team, said only a small slice of the data was provided to the red team, just days before the symposium.
Mr. Waldron said the remaining data, not interrogated during the symposium, could contain the packet captures and other data needed to prove China hacked the election. He also said that ample evidence was contained in the data that points to other significant election anomalies, that were just as significant and worth unpacking during the symposium.
Kurt Olsen, a lawyer on Mr. Lindell’s team said there were multiple sources of the data that Mr. Lindell claims to have, and did not confirm that Mr. Mongtomery was the source of the data. He also clarified that the $5 million challenge has not been canceled and that Mr. Merritt would not be privy to that information.
Clarification: The article previously described Mr. Merritt as Lindell’s lead cyber expert. Mr. Merritt is a cyber expert on the red team hired by Mr. Lindell to interrogate the data for the symposium, and does not work directly for Mr. Lindell.