Georgia elections official: Trump should 'act more responsibly'

Georgia elections official: Trump should 'act more responsibly'
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Gabriel Sterling, a top election official in Georgia, on Tuesday criticized President TrumpDonald TrumpMyPillow CEO to pull ads from Fox News Haaland, Native American leaders press for Indigenous land protections Simone Biles, Vince Lombardi and the courage to walk away MORE for continuing to “feed the fire” of voter fraud disinformation and urged him to “act more responsibly.” 

In an interview with The Hill, Sterling, the Republican who made headlines last week for calling on Trump to condemn threats against election workers, predicted that Trump’s attacks on Georgia officials and the electoral process would hurt the Republican Party in the upcoming Senate runoffs. 

And he lamented the president’s call for Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsLoeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run Georgia agriculture commissioner launches Senate campaign against Warnock Poll shows tight GOP primary for Georgia governor MORE (R-Ga.) to mount a primary challenge against Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian KempBrian KempKemp says FDA needs to upgrade its authorization for vaccines The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators Savannah becomes first major city in Georgia to reinstate masks MORE, who has withstood a barrage of pressure from Trump to call a special legislative session to overturn the election results.

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“I think the governor would win any such primary at the end of the day, but the infighting is unnecessary,” Sterling said. 

“And the governor has done the vast majority of the stuff [Trump] has asked outside of outright overturning the will of the people,” Sterling continued. “There is just no legal path for that.” 

Sterling, until a week ago, was Georgia’s little-known voting system implementation manager. Then he made an emotional — and widely broadcast — appeal to Trump and other Republicans to condemn violent threats against election officials that have festered amid the president’s challenges to the election results. 

“Someone’s going to get hurt. Someone’s going to get shot,” he said during a press conference, looking shaken.

Sterling told The Hill he was motivated to issue his plea after he received a call about a young IT contractor for Dominion Voting Systems who had been targeted with a tweet that included a picture of a noose and accused the contractor of “treason.” Trump has amplified a false narrative about Dominion vote counting software deleting or switching Trump votes.

“At that point, I was up to my eyeballs in crazy and I was done,” Sterling said.

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In his remarks last week, Sterling also brought up a threat against Christopher Krebs, a top cybersecurity official fired by Trump over a statement affirming the security of the 2020 election. Joseph DiGenova, a lawyer associated with the Trump campaign, said on a Newsmax program last week that Krebs should be “taken out at dawn and shot.” Krebs sued the Trump campaign, DiGenova, and Newsmax for defamation Tuesday.

The White House has since condemned threats of violence, but Sterling said the message would be better coming from the president himself. 

“It shouldn’t be that hard for you as the president or senator to say, we oppose violence and intimidation. That should be a pretty low bar to meet,” he said. 

Sterling and his boss, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, also a Republican, have spent weeks defending the state’s voting process amid extreme pressure from Trump. Raffensperger and his wife have also faced threats over the scrutiny of the election process. 

Sterling, who along with other Republican officials in Georgia supported Trump’s reelection, said he doubted Republican efforts to combat Trump’s rhetoric would be successful unless Trump backed off his claims.

“The problem is he is the president. He is in a position of responsibility and authority and people trust and love him,” Sterling said. “As long as he is the one who continues to feed the fire of the disinformation, it makes it impossible.” 

“Our office is one office with a shovel versus an ocean,” he continued.

Trump’s legal team has suffered a number of defeats in swing states and failed to produce evidence in court to back up the president’s claims of widespread electoral fraud. Still, Trump and his campaign have insisted they will press forward.

“The President owes it to every American to ensure that every legal vote is counted and every illegal vote is not,” said Trump campaign spokeswoman Courtney Parella.

Meanwhile, Trump has recently lashed out at Kemp and Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan, also a Republican, after they rebuffed his entreaty to call a special legislative session to overturn the election results. 

“Georgia Lt. Governor @GeoffDuncanGA is a RINO Never Trumper who got himself elected as LG by falsely claiming to be ‘pro-Trump’. Too dumb or corrupt to recognize massive evidence of fraud in GA & should be replaced! We need every great Georgian to call him out! #SpecialSession!” Trump tweeted overnight Monday, a message that was labeled by Twitter as disputed.

Trump appeared in Georgia over the weekend to encourage supporters to vote for Sens. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerHarris's bad polls trigger Democratic worries Schumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up Trump says Herschel Walker will enter Georgia Senate race MORE and David PerdueDavid PerdueLoeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run Georgia agriculture commissioner launches Senate campaign against Warnock Georgia Republican secretary of state hits Loeffler as 'weak,' 'fake Trumper' MORE, while claiming the election was stolen from him and that Democrats were seeking to “rig” the Senate races.

Trump repeatedly and falsely insisted he won Georgia, which on Monday again certified its election results showing a Joe BidenJoe BidenFirst lady leaves Walter Reed after foot procedure Biden backs effort to include immigration in budget package MyPillow CEO to pull ads from Fox News MORE victory after three recounts.

“People in positions of responsibility need to act more responsibly,” Sterling said of Trump’s rhetoric.

Meanwhile, Republicans have worried that the president’s posture could both undermine confidence in the election process and divide Republicans at the wrong time in Georgia, where the two Senate runoff elections on Jan. 5 will decide the control of the Senate.

“How can it not?” Sterling said, noting that he recently argued with a friend on Facebook about whether her vote would count.

“The best argument I had for her was, if you think they are stealing — and I’m not saying they are, I am not doing that at all — but if you believe they are, you make it easier for them to steal it if you don’t vote,” he said.