Georgia elections official: Trump should ‘act more responsibly’

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Gabriel Sterling, Voting Systems Manager for the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, answers questions during a press conference on the status of ballot counting on November 6, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Gabriel Sterling, a top election official in Georgia, on Tuesday criticized President Trump 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 Collins (R-Ga.) to mount a primary challenge against Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who has withstood a barrage of pressure from Trump to call a special legislative session to overturn the election results.

“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.

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 Loeffler and David Perdue, 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 Biden 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.


Tags Brian Kemp David Perdue Donald Trump Doug Collins Gabriel Sterling Georgia Joe Biden Kelly Loeffler
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