'Someone's Going To Get Killed': Ga. Official Blasts GOP Silence On Election Threats
Updated at 10:55 p.m. ET
A top election official in Georgia had strong words for President Trump and other top Republican leaders who have attacked Georgia's election system in recent weeks after reports of harassment and death threats against officials overseeing the state's recount.
"Someone's going to get hurt, someone's going to get shot, someone's going to get killed," Gabriel Sterling, with the secretary of state's office, said Tuesday afternoon in an emotional and forceful news conference. "It's not right."
Among other things, a Twitter thread accusing a young technician working on the recount of altering votes led to his identity being released and calls for him to be "hung for treason."
Meanwhile, caravans of horn-honking Trump supporters constantly parade past Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's private residence, and his wife has reportedly received sexually explicit threats. The president himself, who has falsely suggested he won Georgia's 16 electoral votes, has called on Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to overturn the election.
In a tweet Tuesday evening responding to Sterling's news conference, Trump again falsely alleged massive voter fraud in Georgia.
Sterling, a fixture in recent weeks as a calm, even-tempered source of election information and factoids about the complicated counting processes, unloaded on Trump, both Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue and other GOP officials that have egged on the party's base to believe in widespread fraud.
"It has to stop," he said. "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 take a position of leadership, show some."
Sterling said the situation came to a head with a report that a Gwinnett County technician was outed and receiving death threats after a video circulated online purportedly showing him manipulating data as part of an official recount.
"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," Sterling said.
"His family is getting harassed now. There's a noose out there with his name on it. And it's not right," he said, adding: "I've got police protection outside my house. Fine. You know, I took a higher-profile job. I get it, the secretary ran for office; his wife knew that, too. This kid took a job. He just took a job, and it's just wrong."
Ron Watkins, the former administrator of extremist site 8kun that played host to posts from the QAnon conspiracy theory, was one of the main boosters of that video. Watkins has also encouraged followers to monitor and livestream several county elections warehouses in search of evidence of impropriety.
Tuesday afternoon, police were called to a Gwinnett County location where a man who was livestreaming video followed workers he believed were secretly transporting voting machines in violation of a court order. In the video, an officer explained that boxes were full of office phones and told the man he was trespassing.
Trump, both of Georgia's U.S. senators, many House members, several GOP state lawmakers and the chair of the Republican Party of Georgia have all cast doubt on the 2020 election process with little to no evidence of fraud or wrongdoing.
Sterling said those leaders, especially Perdue and Loeffler, need to "step up" and fight back against conspiracies.
"You have to be responsible in your rhetoric, you have to be responsible in your statements, you have to be responsible in your deeds," Sterling said. "That shouldn't be too much to ask for people who asked for us to give them responsibility.
In response, Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said: "The campaign is focused on ensuring 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."
Both Perdue and Loeffler said they condemn any sort of violence but won't apologize for their harsh questioning of Georgia's election administration.
Read Sterling's full remarks below:
"Good afternoon. My name is Gabriel Sterling and I'm the voting system implementation manager for State of Georgia. And just to give you a heads up, this is going to be sort of a two-part press conference today. At the beginning of this, I'm going to do my best to keep it together.
Because it has all gone too far. All of it.
Joe diGenova today asked for Chris Krebs, a patriot who ran CISA, to be shot. 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. 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 take a position of leadership, show some.
My boss, Secretary Raffensperger — 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 sexualized threats through her cellphone.
It has to stop.
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 single 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. We'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. In fact, I talked to Dominion today and they said he's one of the better ones they got. His family is getting harassed now. There's a noose out there with his name on it. And it's 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.
Mr. President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia. We're investigating. There's always a possibility, I get it, and you have the rights to go through the courts. 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. Someone's going to get hurt. Someone's going to get shot. Someone's going to get killed. And it's not right.
It's not right. And I don't have anything scripted — this is like I said, I will do my best to keep it together. All of this is wrong. DiGenova, who said for Chris Krebs to get shot, is a former U.S. attorney. He knows better. The people around the president know better.
Mr. President, as the secretary said yesterday, people aren't giving you the best advice on what's actually going on the ground. It's time to look forward if you want to run for reelection 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 that's wrong. It's unAmerican.
I don't know what else to say on that front. I mean, these are elections. One of our goals was to make elections boring again. Well, guess what? That didn't happen. This is all wrong. It's all too much, and that's I'll leave that for there."
Copyright 2021 Georgia Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Georgia Public Broadcasting.