More than two weeks after the 2020 election, and a day after a statewide audit affirmed Joe Biden’s win in Georgia, a surprising figure stepped forward to scrutinize the results.
Scott G. Hall, a bail bondsman from the Augusta area, “has been looking into the election on behalf of the President,” Georgia’s Republican Party chairman told party officials in a Nov. 20 email reviewed by The Washington Post. Hall was doing so, added the state chairman, “at the request of David Bossie,” the Republican operative, onetime deputy Trump campaign manager and chairman of the conservative activist group Citizens United, - and a relative of Hall’s.
Six weeks later, Hall had the ear of Jeffrey Clark, a senior Justice Department official, according to Atlanta area prosecutors. Hall’s words, delivered in a 63-minute phone call on Jan. 2, carried weight. Clark would later cite the conversation as part of his push to use Justice Department authority to delegitimize the Georgia election, according to testimony and contemporaneous notes gathered by congressional investigators.
A few days later, Hall was part of a cadre of Trump loyalists who allegedly descended on Georgia’s Coffee County, population 43,000, to gain access to sensitive election data. He later boasted of his efforts, saying, “We scanned every freaking ballot.”
Hall’s alleged actions are detailed in the indictment brought last month by the Fulton County district attorney, Fani T. Willis, against Hall, Trump and 17 other defendants. The indictment portrays the bondsman, who makes his living by posting bail for defendants in exchange for a fee, as more central to Trump’s efforts to cling to power than previously known.
Hall, 59, emerges as key not only to the alleged breach of voting equipment in remote Coffee County, a secretive effort to turn up evidence of fraud, but also to the plot that played out in Washington to strong-arm states into disregarding the will of voters and thwarting Biden’s win.
The resulting picture makes clear how the wide-ranging campaign to subvert the 2020 election drew in a sprawling web of people with limited experience in election law who nonetheless styled themselves as specialists. Through some combination of faith in Trump’s most outlandish assertions and sheer force of will, these previously unknown players found an audience with some of the president’s most powerful allies and helped shape their scheme.
Hall is perhaps the most vivid example of the way in which the charges in Fulton County reach far beyond Trump lawyers and campaign officials, also sweeping up a pastor and a publicist, and a bail bondsman overcome by emotional loyalty to Trump. “I got up this morning and cried,” Hall told a Georgia Senate panel in December 2020, describing his grief over Trump’s loss. “I literally cried.”
Hall harnessed personal and political connections as the stepbrother of Bossie’s wife and the owner of one of Georgia’s biggest bail bonds businesses to establish himself as a link between little known activists and high-ranking officials in the federal government.
His role, only now coming into fuller view, shows that numerous exhaustive accounts of the events surrounding the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, including the investigation by the House select committee that yielded public hearings and a 800-page report, still have not revealed the full story of what happened in the weeks after the 2020 election. To some, that story remains baffling, nearly three years later.
“To this day I can’t figure out why a bail bondsman would be so deep into pushing election conspiracy theories,” said John Melvin, who was the assistant director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation at the time and met with Hall over Zoom in November 2020, in a meeting that also included the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. “What big stake does he have in the election? You’re a concerned citizen, sure, but at the end of the day, you’re a bail bondsman. I don’t understand it,” Melvin said.
Neither Hall nor his attorney responded to requests for comment. Bossie, who has not been charged in connection with the election, also did not respond to inquiries. In court last month, Hall pleaded not guilty to charges that included conspiracy to commit election fraud and conspiracy to defraud the state, as well as violation of an anti-racketeering act originally aimed at dismantling organized crime groups. He was released on a $10,000 bond.
A well-connected industry
Bail bonding is big business in Georgia. Those who cannot afford cash bail avoid jail by relying on a commercial bondsman, who charges a fee that compensates for the hazards of underwriting an accused criminal. Only if the accused fails to appear in court is the bondsman required to fork over payment to the government.
The business requires relationships with judges who set bail and sheriffs who decide what bonds to take, as well as with state lawmakers who regulate the industry. “It is a highly lucrative business,” said Terry Norris, executive director of the Georgia Sheriffs Association, who called Hall a friend and a “highly intelligent businessman.”
Hall is the chief executive of Anytime Bail Bonding, in operation since 1994, according to a filing in a recent lawsuit. Based in the suburb of Augusta, 150 miles east of Atlanta, it has 45 employees in 11 offices that serve 31 counties throughout the state, including populous Fulton County, which includes Atlanta. Since its founding, the filing states, the company has executed more than 200,000 bonds with a total liability of over $834 million.
Court documents filed this year as part of Hall’s divorce proceedings offer a measure of his success. The filings list assets that include four cars, including a 2021 BMW, and a bayside home in Tampa, a condo in Atlanta and a condo in Evans, a suburb of Augusta. His wife, who did not respond to requests for comment, manages communications and technology businesses, according to the court documents.
In 2012, Hall was elected president of the national industry group representing bail bondsmen, the Professional Bail Agents of the United States. He also served as vice president of the state industry lobbying group, the Georgia Association of Professional Bondsmen. Those roles offered him clout in Atlanta and connections to state power brokers. “Many members here probably know me,” Hall told the Republican-led Georgia Senate panel when he testified in December 2020.
Friends and business associates, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of ongoing criminal investigations, described Hall as an ardent Republican who became enthusiastic about Trump’s rise in 2016. He boasted of attending the Trump campaign’s VIP watch party on election night in New York in 2016, these people said.
Trump’s election that year delighted Hall but fueled a Democratic surge in the Atlanta suburbs, where the bail bondsman became embroiled in a hotly contested sheriff’s race. The race, in Gwinnett County, pitted Republican Lou Solis against Democrat Keybo Taylor, running to become the first Black sheriff there. In 2019, Taylor was caught on camera inside a subsidiary of Hall’s bonding company saying, “If folks don’t support me, I’m not going to let them bond here.”
Taylor would later argue the footage was selectively edited, a dirty trick undertaken to harm his candidacy. When Taylor took office in January 2021, he suspended the ability of Hall’s company to write bonds in the county, a move, he told The Post, prompted by what he felt was Hall’s dishonest conduct. That caused Hall to sue, alleging attempted extortion and calling Taylor’s explanations for his statements “lies.”
A settlement allowed the company to resume bonding in Gwinnett County under a different name and without Hall’s involvement. A business associate said the episode illustrated how Hall chafed against rising Democratic power in the state. “Scott was not equipped to deal with Democratic leaders,” the business associate said. “He didn’t have relationships. And his ideology was totally different.”
An audience with high-up people
Hall emerged with complaints about the 2020 election just over a week after the Nov. 3 vote, meeting with senior state and federal law enforcement officials to raise concerns about purported voter fraud in the presidential contest.
Melvin, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation assistant director, said he traveled from Atlanta to Augusta for the meeting at the request of his boss, Vic Reynolds, the agency director. Melvin joined Bobby Christine, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, in a conference room in the U.S. attorney’s office on the banks of the Savannah River, just across the border from South Carolina.
Hall joined on Zoom, Melvin recalled. “The essence of the allegations was that there were a bunch of voting dumps that took place that he said he could ‘prove statistically’ were illegitimate,” Melvin said, adding that anyone familiar with how elections are run would know the patterns that so disturbed Hall did not point to fraud.
“It suggested that ballots were being delivered and counted in batches, which is routine,” he said. An attorney for Christine, who was briefly named by Trump as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia after the abrupt resignation of Byung J. Pak in January 2021, declined to comment.
Reynolds, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation director, said Hall also contacted him directly to share his theories. “Scott is an articulate fellow,” Reynolds said. “He laid out what he was concerned with. We were doing our best to run down everything that came at us that we believed had any legs. Unequivocally nothing materialized.”
Reynolds said he did not find it unusual at the time that Hall engaged with him directly. He had spoken to him before about bail issues, and Reynolds said he was trying to be accessible to members of the public with concerns during the chaotic weeks after the election.
In retrospect, Reynolds said, he is scratching his head over the turmoil in the state. “I think the whole thing is bizarre,” he said. “To be there when all of this was happening, and see the accusations that were flying around, I don’t know what to tell you other than to say the whole situation was bizarre.”
On Nov. 11, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, said a hand audit would double-check the results of the 2020 election, which showed Biden leading by about 14,000 votes. Hall volunteered to serve as an audit monitor at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta on Nov. 14 and 15, he would say in a sworn affidavit submitted several days later as part of a lawsuit brought by the pro-Trump attorney L. Lin Wood Jr. against Raffensperger and others.
In the affidavit, Hall said he had “observed large quantities of ballots being cast for Joseph Biden on ballots that did not appear to have been mailed,” among other alleged irregularities. Wood said in an interview that he could not vouch for Hall’s affidavit or provide more details about his account because it was secured by an attorney assisting him at the time, whom he said he later fired.
On Nov. 19, the audit affirmed Biden’s win. The next day, the chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, David Shafer, emailed a Trump campaign aide and state and national party staffers to alert them to Hall’s role “looking into the election” and to ask for their cooperation. Hall, he wrote, “has requested a list of voters who have told us that they returned their absentee ballots but that those ballots do not show as having been accepted.” He added, “Please exchange contact information and help him as needed.”
Shafer, who served in the Georgia Senate from 2002 to 2019, knew Hall from his days in the legislature, according to someone familiar with their relationship. In 2018, Hall contributed $2,000 to Shafer’s unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor, state records show. The two men became reacquainted by Bossie in the weeks after the 2020 election, the person familiar with the situation said.
Bossie and Hall are family, celebrating a recent Thanksgiving together in Alabama, according to a photo on social media reviewed by The Post. But as Hall became adamant on accusations of fraud after the 2020 election and then started claiming he was being followed, Bossie called Shafer to ask whether Hall’s claims had any validity, the person familiar with the situation said. Shafer replied that he was unsure, the person said. A lawyer for Shafer, who was also charged in Fulton County, did not respond to a request for comment.
Early the following month, Hall was among a host of people who testified before a Georgia Senate hearing on the 2020 election, joining the likes of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani to raise alarm about purported fraud. His voice quivering at times, Hall described seeing improper handling of ballots, with a particular emphasis on a lunch area outside the reach of security cameras. “I’ve been knee-deep in this situation for the past three weeks,” he told the lawmakers.
A 63-minute phone call
Patrick Byrne, the former chief executive of the internet retailer Overstock.com, said he was at the Trump Hotel in Washington in late December 2020 when he received a call from Hall. “He told me that he was a bail bondsman in Georgia,” Byrne, who became a leading purveyor of Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud, said in an interview. Hall “had a large network of people such as a man in that position would have,” Byrne added, including private detectives, cyber experts and people Byrne referred to as “snitches.”
Byrne had attended a contentious Oval Office meeting on Dec. 18 in which foreign actors were blamed for swinging the election and Trump mulled over a plan to seize voting machines. Byrne came to refer to Hall as “our man in Georgia,” a label he uses for the bail bondsman in his self-published book about the election. In the book, Byrne wrote that Hall had a warehouse in Atlanta where votes were being counted “under observation.”
Days later, Hall placed another call, this time to Clark, who had been an environmental lawyer and a mid-level Justice Department official until he was named acting chief of the civil division in summer 2020. While other Justice Department leaders refused to pursue Trump’s fantastical claims of fraud, Clark sought to put the weight of federal law enforcement behind the president’s bid to stay in power, according to congressional investigators and the federal indictment of Trump secured by special counsel Jack Smith, which describes Clark as Co-Conspirator 4.
Hall’s input was critical to Clark’s plans. The indictment in Fulton County does not describe what the men discussed during the 63-minute phone call. But an interview conducted by the Senate Judiciary Committee with Richard Donoghue, the acting U.S. deputy attorney general, as well as handwritten notes taken by Donoghue, shed some light on the nature of the conversation.
On the same day of his call with Hall, Clark met with Donoghue and others and urged them to send a letter to officials in Georgia declaring that the Justice Department had reason to doubt the legitimacy of the 2020 election and encouraging them to send an alternate slate of electors supporting Trump to Congress. Donoghue testified that Clark cited his conversation with Hall to make his case. He summarized Clark’s pitch this way: “Based on a discussion with this individual in Georgia and the things that came up in the Georgia Senate hearing, that we should send the letter.”
In his notes, Donoghue recorded the individual in question as the “Largest bail bondsman in Georgia.” “So this is the individual to who Jeff Clark spoke,” Donoghue told Senate investigators. “And he’s saying that he, that individual, the bail bondsman, called the head of GBI, which is the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. They were not interested in his reporting. He, again, that individual, the bail bondsman, then called Bobby Christine. Nothing done.”
Donoghue, who resisted Clark’s proposal and later testified to Congress that he believed it would have sparked “a constitutional crisis,” did not respond to a request for comment. A Georgia-based lawyer for Clark, who was indicted alongside Hall in Fulton County, also did not respond to a request for comment.
A ‘breach of election equipment’
Hall urgently needed a plane. That was his fixation in early January 2021, according to people who spoke with him, and who only later learned that his intended destination was Georgia’s rural Coffee County.
Coffee County, 200 miles southeast of Atlanta, had come into focus after a local official involved in tabulating votes there told a county board that voting machines could “very easily” be manipulated to shift the count. The official promised she had tallied votes correctly in the county, where Trump won handily, but said she believed that not everyone operating the machines throughout the state was as upstanding.
Trump allies quickly came to believe that examining voting machines in Coffee County would let them prove the devices had vulnerabilities that could have been exploited in Biden’s favor across the country. The Fulton County indictment alleges that on Jan. 7, Hall flew to the Douglas Municipal Gene Chambers Airport in Coffee County “for the purpose of assisting with the unlawful breach of election equipment at the Coffee County Board of Elections Registration Office.”
The effort, also allegedly involving the county elections supervisor and county Republican Party chairwoman, was aimed at copying and distributing data from elections equipment. Hall and others were captured on a security camera inside the county election office. Two months later, Hall boasted of his efforts in a call with the executive director of a good-government group involved in a long-running lawsuit against the state alleging insecurities in its election system.
“I’m the guy that chartered the jet to go down to Coffee County to have them inspect all of those computers,” Hall told the director of the group, Marilyn Marks, according to a transcript of a portion of the call later attached to a public court filing.
Hall, meanwhile, remained convinced through the early months of 2022 in his belief that the election had been rigged. In a group text with other members of the Georgia Association of Professional Bondsmen, he shared news articles about purported ballot harvesting and TikTok videos with crude denunciations of Biden, screenshots reviewed by The Post show. He teased an upcoming documentary on election fraud, predicting, “It’s going to piss a lot of people off.”
But as investigations into post-election activities intensified in Fulton County and in Washington, the association moved to distance itself from Hall, said Ann Hood, the secretary of the association. He was removed as vice president in a vote in September 2022, during a lunch meeting to which he was invited but did not attend.
“We felt his presence on the board had become detrimental to our cause as a Georgia industry,” Hood said in an interview. “The things he was doing and saying were not going to be good for the upcoming legislative session.”
Hall did not take kindly to his ouster. He showed up uninvited to an association meeting shortly before Christmas at a luxury hotel in an Atlanta suburb and berated its members for removing him, according to Hood and two others who were there. He spoke of his investigative capabilities, these people said, and jabbed both middle fingers in the air.
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Kate Shellnutt in Augusta, Emma Brown and Alice Crites in Washington, and Jon Swaine in New York contributed to this report.