Before we get to Gabriel Sterling, watch this. 2021 is three and a half days old yet this may be the saddest thing I see all year:
When asked by @GStephanopoulos if he would vote for Pres. Trump again knowing what he knows now, GA Sec. of State Raffensberger responds: "I support Republicans — I always have and I probably always will." https://t.co/tCqsnjNwKF pic.twitter.com/eSmiYBMnBS
— Good Morning America (@GMA) January 4, 2021
I can’t bring myself to rip on Raffensperger, who’s showed more backbone in standing up to Trump than any Republican elected official not named “Mitt Romney.” But to have the president lean on him on a phone call to “find” enough votes to flip his home state — and then not rule out voting for him again? C’mon.
I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes, Trump once said. What he should have said is that he could shake down a Republican election official and not lose his vote. That’s even more grimly impressive.
Although maybe Raffensperger’s just saying this for strategic reasons, to deny Trump an easy opportunity to say, “See, I told you he was biased against me. He won’t vote for me anymore just because my demagoguery led to his wife getting death threats.”
Anyway. Sterling is the Raffensperger deputy who called a press conference last month to angrily condemn the threats being aimed at people who worked on the election, most notably Dominion staffers. This has to stop, he demanded. It didn’t stop, which is why Dominion is now filing lawsuits and why Sterling felt compelled to call another press conference today. The president will be in Georgia in a few hours to hold a rally, ostensibly to turn out the vote for Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in tomorrow’s runoff election but really to spread conspiracy theories about Georgia’s election before an adoring crowd. Raffensperger’s office could either let him do that unchallenged or they could try to get the facts out.
They decided to go on offense.
The Fact Check board up next to the podium at this Georgia Secretary of State press conference. pic.twitter.com/gOTpWQlNpR
— Dianne Gallagher (@DianneG) January 4, 2021
Sterling walked out and delivered a half-hour point-by-point response to all of the major claims Trump is currently making. The full presser is at the end of this post but you can get the flavor from a few highlights. For example:
Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling:
"There is no shredding of ballots going on… No one is changing parts or pieces out of dominion voting machines… We have claim after claim after claim with zero proof." pic.twitter.com/Or67QICB32
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) January 4, 2021
And this, where Sterling debunks the famous surveillance tape of vote-counting at State Farm Arena and accuses Trump’s lawyers of deliberately distorting what happened:
Georgia's Voting System Implementation Manager Gabriel Sterling: "The president's legal team had the entire tape. They watched the entire tape and, from out point of view, intentionally misled the state senate, voters and the people of the United States about this." pic.twitter.com/M551SlTAB1
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 4, 2021
And this, which I think cuts to the heart of why he spoke up today. It’s not just that some of the claims of cheating are so dumb, it’s that he knows Trump is going to blame Raffensperger and Brian Kemp if Republican turnout tanks tomorrow. We’re not the ones telling you voting is pointless, Sterling is saying, the president is. If you decide to stay home because of that and Loeffler and Perdue lose, remember to apportion the blame accordingly.
Sterling closes by urging "If you're a Georgia voter, if you want your values reflected by your elected officials, I strongly beg and encourage you to go vote tomorrow. Do not let anybody discourage you. Don't self-suppress your vote. Don't let anybody steal your vote that way." pic.twitter.com/dG3qsrtm2c
— Vera Bergengruen (@VeraMBergen) January 4, 2021
Ultimately, he called this presser for the same reason that Raffensperger’s office released the audio of their phone call with Trump. They know the president’s going to lie and all they can do is counter with the truth and hope for the best. Sterling was asked specifically today about why the call was recorded, in fact, and replied, “Given the president’s history, knowing that he sometimes doesn’t necessarily characterize things as they might have actually occurred, it was out of an abundance of caution.”
I wonder how many extra death threats he’ll get for that tomorrow.
Sterling and Raffensperger may be highly “disloyal” Republicans but not all Georgia GOPers are. QAnon congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who flew down to Georgia with Trump on Air Force One this afternoon, told reporters that Raffensperger has failed the state and the results of the presidential election should be decertified. When asked if that meant her own House victory should be decertified as well, she said no. Which, as Chip Roy would tell you, is moronic. David Perdue actually one-upped Greene in abasing himself to show loyalty Trump, insisting that yesterday’s phone call between Raffensperger and the president was disgraceful — on Raffensperger’s part, not Trump’s.
“I guess I was raised differently,” Perdue, a Republican, said on Fox News. “To have a statewide elected official, regardless of party, tape without disclosing a conversation — private conversation — with the president of the United States, and then leaking it to the press is disgusting.”
It really was shameful of Raffensperger not to let Trump lie with impunity about what was said between them. At least Perdue can feel good about the fact that Raffensperger’s family is still under threat, something which the senator apparently has yet to denounce as “disgusting.”
"Purdue still owes my wife an apology for all the death threats she got after he asked for my resignation. I have not heard one peep from that man since. If he wants to call me, face to face, man to man, I'll talk to him, off the record. But he hasn't done that" — Raffensperger pic.twitter.com/lnCU0nKkZn
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 4, 2021
By the way, there’s a little legal-political intrigue brewing in Georgia tonight on the eve of the election. The U.S. Attorney for Atlanta abruptly resigned today due to “unforeseen circumstances” after previously suggesting he’d stay on until Inauguration Day. Are there any new crimes in Georgia that an ambitious young Republican prosecutor might prefer to avoid investigating that may have led him to parachute out a bit early?