Joe Oltmann, a Castle Rock businessman who co-hosts the Conservative Daily podcast and is co-founder of the nonprofit FEC United, added fuel to the fire by claiming that he'd listened to a phone call during which Coomer said he'd rigged the 2020 election in favor of Joseph Biden.
Numerous members of Donald Trump's campaign staff and supporters, including Eric Trump (see tweet below) repeated that since-disproven claim, propelling a narrative that Dominion machines, which are used in states across the U.S., flipped votes from Trump to Biden. Local figures, too — including Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters, who called Coomer out by name in a January 3 tweet — have perpetuated the rumors.
And the threats directed at Coomer keep on coming, despite the fact that he did not write the code for Dominion machines — ironically, a large portion of his work has centered on an effort to ensure that Dominion machines in Colorado can be audited by the state's risk-limiting audit process, widely praised for its effectiveness in ensuring fair elections. Coomer has also worked to improve access for third-party researchers to evaluate and analyze voting systems.
Dominion, whose systems were used again for the Georgia runoff vote on January 5, has been regularly updating its "Setting the Record Straight" page on its website, debunking rumors. And today, January 8, it filed a suit against former Trump attorney Sidney Powell, after asking for a retraction and warning that a lawsuit against Powell and possibly others was "imminent," according to company CEO John Poulos.
Coomer didn't wait on Dominion. On December 22, he filed a defamation lawsuit against a long list of defendants, including Oltmann, Powell, the Trump campaign and several right-wing media outlets. He did so from hiding, where we caught up with him to discuss what life has been like since November 3.
Eric Coomer: There’s not a single day that I don’t get some threat from somewhere. At the beginning, I was getting anywhere from 50 to 100 emails [every day]. Phone calls, these days, it’s somewhere between three and five a day. But if you look at Twitter traffic and comments sections on various right-wing conspiracy sites, it’s in the hundreds every day. Hundreds. It is several hours of people saying I should be hung, on a minute-by-minute basis. I’ve basically had to change absolutely everything about my day-to-day living...all of the shades are drawn 24/7. I am very cognizant of leaving where I’m staying. I don’t take unnecessary trips to the grocery store, and when I do travel anywhere, I make sure to vary my routes. I make sure that no strange cars are following me. I try to do things at off-hours.
I know that my life is going to continue to be impacted by this for the foreseeable future — and when I say that, it could be years.
Are you still with Dominion Voting Systems?
Currently, due to security concerns for both myself and colleagues, I am officially on leave from the company. What the future looks like, I really can’t tell you at this point. It’s an evolving issue.
Thinking back to when the first threats against you emerged after the election, what was your initial reaction?
My initial reaction was, "This can’t be happening." It was really out of left field, and quickly spiraled. I remember within the first few hours of the very first mentions online, I was really concerned. I knew that these claims were false. I’ve seen these kinds of viral defamation campaigns get out of control before. Even after, in Georgia alone, they had the count, they had the audit and then they had a full hand recount. It just doesn’t matter; we’re dealing in an environment that’s very immune to facts.
And after more than a month of continuous threats, has your reaction changed at all?
I don’t want to say I’m resigned to this, but I know that these threats are not going to stop any time soon.
In filing this lawsuit, what results are you hoping for — both in terms of effects on your own situation and any broader implications?
Ultimately, I filed this lawsuit because I think these defendants need to be held accountable. My family members have been contacted, their information is out there now, and this is all in service of baseless lies. I do think there’s a potential that once this lawsuit is successful, other personalities that are looking to increase their ad revenue and reach will think twice before making false allegations about private citizens. I will be abundantly clear: I have never "put my fingers on the scales of democracy." I do not have access to the code, and all of the code that is written undergoes independent code review. Not only are these accusations about me personally baseless, but the idea that there are secret algorithms flipping votes is 100 percent false.
I do have a broader hope. As we saw [January 6] at the Capitol, these allegations haven’t just affected me. They’re doing real damage on our democratic process. I hope that this lawsuit can bring more information to the public that may not understand how elections work and all of the safeguards that are involved. Even though it’s systems I’ve helped develop and design, at the end of the day, it is the day-to-day elections departments for counties throughout the U.S. that are charged with conducting free and fair elections, and they do an amazing job.
You mentioned the violent protest at the U.S. Capitol. Can you weigh in on those events, which protested an election that you and your colleagues have worked on and continue to stand by?
That was a direct result of baseless accusations that this past election was fraudulent. Those fires that were stoked that led to the U.S. Capitol being breached by insurrectionists was a direct result of people unwilling to accept a legitimate defeat in a free and fair election, stoking lies and conspiracies. Accepting the electoral college count was a huge step.
I am very worried about what will happen leading up and through Inauguration Day. Even once we get past this specific time period, there’s been real damage done to the U.S. citizens’ trust in the electoral process. Something that has been run fairly and accurately for decades and decades, in the span of this election cycle, has been damaged beyond belief, and it’s a really sad day.