‘I’m pissed’: Republican unloads on Trump

 

US President Donald Trump has defied an impassioned plea from Republican officials in Georgia to stop spreading misinformation about his election defeat.

Joe Biden won the state by about 12,500 votes. That outcome has been confirmed by a full recount and certified by Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican who has long been a supporter of the President.

Nevertheless, Mr Trump continues to insist Georgia was stolen from him through widespread voter fraud, despite the lack of any evidence supporting that claim.

In particular, the President has repeatedly presented as fact the debunked conspiracy theory that an electronic voting system, created by a company called Dominion, changed votes cast for him to support Mr Biden instead.

And he has slammed Mr Kemp, along with Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, for failing to back him up.

Yesterday one of Mr Raffensperger's subordinates, Gabriel Sterling, held a media conference imploring Mr Trump to stop.

Mr Sterling is Georgia's voting system implementation manager. You might recognise him as the guy who gave periodic updates during the vote count.

It was obvious from the moment he appeared in front of the cameras yesterday that Mr Sterling was, to use his own choice of word, "pissed".

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"I'm going to do my best to keep it together. Because it has all. Gone. Too. Far. All of it," he told reporters, pausing for emphasis after each word.

"Joe diGenova today asked for Chris Krebs, a patriot who ran CISA, to be shot."

Mr diGenova is a member of Mr Trump's legal team. Mr Krebs was head of the Trump administration's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency until the President fired him last month for contradicting his claims about voter fraud.

The remark in question came during Mr diGenova's recent interview on a podcast, The Howie Carr Show. He said Mr Krebs "should be drawn and quartered, taken out at dawn and shot".

After a public backlash, he later said the comment was "sarcastic and made in jest".

"A 20-something tech in Gwinnett County today has death threats and a noose put out saying he should be hung for treason, because he was transferring a report on batches from an EMS to a county computer so he could read it. It has to stop," Mr Sterling continued.

"Mr President, you have not condemned these actions or this language. Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions. This has to stop. We need you to step up, and if you're going to take a position of leadership, show some."

He specifically called out Georgia's two Republican senators.

"I'm talking about Senator David Perdue and Senator Kelly Loeffler, two people whom I still support in the election booth," said Mr Sterling.

"But they need to step up on this particular thing. And that's me speaking as a Republican, not in this office, because I've probably stepped out of line. But I'm kind of pissed."

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"My boss, Secretary Raffensberger, his address is out there. They have people doing caravans in front of their house. They've had people come onto their property. Tricia, his wife of 40 years, is getting sexualised threats through her cell phone. It has to stop," he said.

"This is elections. This is the backbone of democracy, and all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this. It's too much.

"Yes, fight for every legal vote. Go through your due process. We encourage you. Use your First Amendment. That's fine. Death threats, physical threats, intimidation - it's too much. It's not right. They've lost the moral high ground to claim that it is.

"I don't have all the best words to do this because I'm angry. And the straw that broke the camel's back today is, again, this 20-year-old contractor for a voting-system company, just trying to do his job.

"His family's getting harassed now. There's a noose out there with his name on it, and it's just not right.

"I've got police protection outside my house. Fine. You know, I took a higher profile job. I get it. Secretary ran for office, his wife knew that too. This kid took a job. He just took a job. And it's just wrong.

"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."

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Mr Sterling addressed Mr Trump directly, warning him someone might "get hurt" unless he tones down his rhetoric.

"Mr President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia. We're investigating, there's always a possibility, I get it, you have the right to go through the courts," he said.

"What you don't have the ability to do - and you need to step up and say this - is stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Somebody's going to get hurt, someone's going to get shot, someone's going to get killed.

"I don't have anything scripted. This is - like I said, I'm doing my best to keep it together. All of this is wrong."

He said the President's lawyers and White House staffers should "know better" than to reinforce their boss's more outlandish theories.

"People aren't giving you the best advice about what's going on, on the ground," Mr Sterling told Mr Trump.

"It's time to look forward. If you want to run for re-election in four years, fine, do it. But everything we're seeing right now - there's not a path. Be the bigger man here, and stop.

"Step in. Tell your supporters, 'Don't be violent, don't intimidate.' All of that is wrong, it's not American."

On Thanksgiving Day last week, Mr Trump labelled Mr Raffensperger an "enemy of the people", a term the President usually uses for reporters he doesn't like.

Mr Sterling was particularly incensed about that.

"When the President called Brad Raffensperger, who is a fine, upstanding, lifelong Republican, an 'enemy of the people', that helped open the floodgates to this kind of crap," he said.

"It takes people who are already spun up - and you know, there are people who can have some righteous indignation and be angry. But there's also people out there, at this point, in the social media world, there are some nutballs out there. Who are going to take this and say, 'The President told me to do this.'

"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, for people who ask us to give them responsibility."

The President clearly noticed Mr Sterling's statement, because he retweeted footage of it a few hours later.

There was no change in Mr Trump's rhetoric, however. He again claimed the election was "rigged", and called for "the massive voter fraud in Georgia" to be exposed.

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Mr Trump has repeatedly issued this demand that Georgia "show signatures and envelopes" from its mail-in ballots. That is not something election officials can do at this stage of the process. It is literally impossible.

Under Georgia's electoral laws, any voter who wants a mail-in ballot has to request one. Their signature is verified as part of that application.

When they return the ballot to be counted, they are required to sign the envelope in which it's enclosed. That signature is also verified.

Then, when it's time for the ballot to be counted, it is removed from the envelope, which is discarded to protect the voter's privacy. The two pieces of paper are separated, and it is not possible to reunite them.

This step is required under Georgia's state constitution, which says elections "shall be by secret ballot".

So, no mail-in ballot in Georgia is ever counted without the voter's signature being checked twice. But signature verification is not part of the recount process, and neither Mr Kemp nor Mr Raffensperger have the power to change that.

If the President had a problem with the rules, the time to raise objections through the courts was before the election. Instead he waited until it was clear he had lost to Mr Biden.

This problem has plagued several of the Trump campaign's lawsuits. Challenging the rules after people have voted, when such a challenge could have been launched well before the election, runs afoul of a well-established legal principle against "unreasonable delay".

Again, to be clear, even if the envelopes could be matched with their ballots again - which they can't - that act would violate Georgia's election laws.

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Mr Raffensperger held a media conference of his own today, during which he addressed both Mr Sterling's remarks and the President's reaction to them.

"Just to let you know, yes, I did know what Gabriel Sterling was going to say yesterday. That had our full support," he told reporters.

"He spoke it with passion and he spoke it with truth, and it's about time that more people were out there speaking with truth.

"It perhaps wasn't the exact wording that I would have used, but you caught the essence of it, and he has my full support.

"Even after this office's request that President Trump try to quell the violent rhetoric being borne out of his continuing claims of winning the states where he obviously lost, he tweeted out, 'Expose the massive voter fraud in Georgia.'

"This is exactly the kind of language that is at the base of a growing threat environment for election workers who are simply doing their jobs. We will continue to do our jobs, follow the law, and follow the process."

 

Originally published as 'I'm pissed': Republican unloads on Trump