Trump Accused by GOP Official of Inspiring Threats of Violence
(Bloomberg) -- Georgia’s Republican voting system manager denounced President Donald Trump and the state’s two Republican U.S. senators for not condemning, and even encouraging through silence, the threats of violence being made against election workers and the state’s top elections official.
His voice shaking with anger, the normally even-keeled Gabriel Sterling said his boss, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, had received death threats, has had Trump supporters driving caravans around his house and entering his property, and that “his wife of 40 years” has been getting threats over her mobile phone.
“It has to stop,” he added.
Sterling said he decided to speak out after he learned about a series of threats against a 20-year-old contractor -- including photos of a noose with his name on it -- in response to a video of him working with a piece of election equipment. The video has been widely circulated this week by Trump backers as proof of fraud, which it’s not, Sterling said.
“This kid took a job. He just took a job,” Sterling said during a news conference on Tuesday in Atlanta to provide an update on the progress of a recount requested by Trump. “I can’t begin to explain the level of anger I have right now over this. And every American, every Georgian, Republican and Democrat alike, should have that same level of anger.”
Sterling directly addressed Trump, saying that while he had the right to fight for every legal vote, it was his responsibility to draw the line. The president continues to insist without evidence that the election was rigged -- despite even Attorney General William Barr saying the Justice Department hasn’t uncovered widespread fraud that would change the election outcome.
“Mr. President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia,” Sterling said. “Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone’s going to get hurt, someone’s going to get shot, someone’s going to get killed. And it’s not right.”
“Elections are the backbone of this democracy and all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this,” he said. “It’s too much.”
Trump responded on Twitter late Tuesday with a link to Sterling’s comments but didn’t address his concerns about not condemning threats of violence. Instead, the president repeated his baseless complaints about “massive voting fraud in Georgia.” He also again criticized Raffensperger and Republican Governor Brian Kemp, saying they were “afraid” to act despite a hand audit of ballots and now a machine recount confirming Biden’s victory in Georgia.
Raffensperger praised Sterling at a news conference on Wednesday and said “it’s about time more people are out there speaking with truth.”
“This is exactly the kind of language that is at the base of the growing threat environment for election workers who are simply doing their jobs,” Raffensperger said of Trump’s continued claims about voter fraud without evidence.
Sterling also criticized GOP Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who are both facing Jan. 5 runoff elections, for failing to condemn the threats. Calls by the senators for Raffensperger to resign and Trump calling him an enemy of the people “helped open the floodgates,” Sterling said.
“There are some nut-balls out there who are going to take this and say, ‘The president told me to do this,’” Sterling said. “You have to be responsible. You have to be responsible in your rhetoric, you have to be responsible in your statements, you have to be responsible in your deeds. That shouldn’t be too much to ask.”
Raffensperger said about 110 of the state’s 159 counties have finished the recount requested by Trump without significant changes and that he expects all counties to finish by tonight’s midnight deadline. The state certified Joe Biden as the winner on Nov. 20 after a hand audit of ballots.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.