A top Georgia elections official on Tuesday lashed out angrily at the rhetoric surrounding the U.S. election and the threats of violence that have resulted, specifically calling on President Donald Trump to rein in his supporters.
During a routine news conference at the State Capitol in Atlanta to provide an update on the recount of the presidential race requested by Trump, Gabriel Sterling admonished the president and Georgia’s two U.S. senators — who are both locked in tight runoff races against Democrats and have called on Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to resign over claims that he mishandled the election.
“Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language. Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions,” Sterling said, visibly angry. “This has to stop. We need you to step up, and if you’re going to take a position of leadership, show some.”
People have been driving in caravans past Raffensperger’s home, have come onto his property and have sent sexualized threats to his wife’s cellphone, said Sterling, a Republican who oversaw the implementation of the state’s new voting system.
Both Raffensperger and Sterling have police stationed outside their homes, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said it’s investigating possible threats against officials to determine their credibility.
Sterling said his anger boiled over when he learned that a contractor with Dominion Voting Systems helping with the recount effort in suburban Gwinnett County received death threats after someone shot video of him transferring a report to a county computer and falsely said the young man was manipulating election data.
“There’s a noose out there with his name on it. That’s not right,” Sterling said, adding that the contractor didn’t seek the spotlight by taking a high-profile position like Sterling or run for office like Raffensperger. “This kid took a job. He just took a job.”
Trump last week called Raffensperger an “enemy of the people,” Sterling said. “That helped open the floodgates to this kind of crap.”
Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh said the campaign is trying to make sure “that all legal votes are counted and all illegal votes are not. No one should engage in threats or violence, and if that has happened, we condemn that fully.”
Courts and election officials have not seen evidence to substantiate Trump’s claims — nor has the U.S. Department of Justice, according to Attorney General William Barr, a Trump appointee widely seen as loyal to him.
Sterling urged the president to step up and tell his supporters not to commit acts of violence. “Someone’s going to get hurt. Someone’s going to get shot. Someone’s going to get killed,” he said.