‘2000 Mules’ investigators released from jail after appeals court order

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht and board member Gregg Phillips were released from jail in Houston, Texas, on Monday after a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals overruled a federal judge’s order.

The two were jailed one week ago after U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt ruled them in contempt of court in a defamation case against them for refusing to release the name of a confidential source.

The order to release Engelbrecht and Phillips was issued Sunday by an appeals court panel consisting of George W. Bush appointee Catharina Haynes and two Trump appointees, Kurt Engelhardt, and Andrew Oldham.

“Those who thought that imprisoning Gregg and I would weaken our resolve have gravely miscalculated. It is stronger than ever,” said Engelbrecht in a statement.

The 5th Circuit’s order came in a civil lawsuit filed in September by Eugene Yu, the CEO of the Michigan-based, election software company Konnech. Yu charges 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. He contends True the Vote falsely claimed Konnech was storing U.S. election information on servers 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.

‘Just the tip of the iceberg’
In her statement Monday, Engelbrecht said “the right to free and fair elections without interference is more important than our own discomforts and even this detention, now reversed by a higher court.”

“We are profoundly grateful for that,” she said. “We will continue to protect and defend those who do the vital work of election integrity, and we will make sure that their findings become a matter of public record.”

In a message on Truth Social upon their release, Engelbrecht said that she and Phillips are “incredibly grateful for everyone’s prayers and support.”

“I’ll say this, what is publicly known is just the tip of the iceberg. Please stay connected. We’re all in this together,” she said. “Hold the line. Keep the faith. God is good.”

Engelbrecht said she and Phillips are doing a short podcast Monday night at 7 p.m. Eastern time on the social media platform Locals, at truethevote.locals.com

Protecting a confidential source
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.

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 ‘super administration’ 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.”

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, and the bureau’s Washington bureau took over the probe. 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, on 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.”

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