In a heated Monday press conference, a beleaguered Gabe Sterling, Georgia’s election implementation manager, debunked the many conspiracy theories President Donald Trump raised during his bombshell Saturday phone call with Sterling’s boss, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
During the call, Trump tried to coerce Raffensperger to “find” about 12,000 votes for him in order to overturn the state’s presidential election result.
Throughout the press conference, Sterling returned repeatedly, if obliquely, to Trump’s followers and particularly to the ideas they’ve been fed by those in Trump’s orbit — like lawyer Lin Wood — that since the general election was rigged, the runoff will be too and there’s no use voting.
It’s a dynamic that Georgia Republicans have been worried about for weeks, though a combination of scant state polling, difficulty in capturing the intentions of Trump voters in what polling there is and the weirdness of runoffs in general have made it difficult to quantify.
“Do not self-suppress your own vote!” said Sterling, a Republican. “Do not make a self-fulfilling prophecy out of doing this. Don’t let anybody steal your vote that way.”
Trump will be the key messenger on that front during his Monday evening stop in Dalton, Georgia, the congressional district represented by QAnon-friendly Rep. Marjorie Greene (R) that has seen low turnout in recent days during early voting. Greene will reportedly accompany the President on his trip, as will Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
“Trump is radioactive, either way,” Jay Leve, CEO of polling firm SurveyUSA — one of the few firms to poll the runoff — told TPM of the Monday rally.
“He’s like plutonium,” Leve said. “Might come in and blow up Georgia (like a nuclear bomb); might come in and electrify Georgia (like a nuclear power plant).”
During his first appearance in Georgia during December, Trump managed to put aside his own grievances briefly, but long enough to push his supporters to still vote in the runoffs. It’s less than certain that he’ll hit the same notes again. In the weeks between the rallies, his seething anger over his election loss has occasionally tipped him into electoral nihilism, no matter the political importance of the two Senate races to his party.
“Additionally, the Georgia Consent Decree is Unconstitutional & the State 2020 Presidential Election is therefore both illegal and invalid, and that would include the two current Senatorial Elections,” he tweeted on Friday.
When he made that case to Raffensperger on the Saturday call, he plied him with conspiracy theories as he tried to strong-arm him into gifting him the state’s 16 electoral votes. On Sunday, a tape of the call was released by the Washington Post.
Armed with a chart labeled “claim vs. fact,” Sterling during his Monday press conference went down the list of conspiracy theories Trump had brought up on the call.
At various points, his anger bubbled over.
“The President’s legal team had the entire tape, they watched the entire tape, and then intentionally misled the state Senate, the voters and the people of the U.S about this,” he fumed about one episode involving a suitcase and ballots that has been blown into a criminal conspiracy by MAGA types.
Sterling added that Raffensperger decided to record the call “given the environment we’re in and political situation we’re in and history of knowing that the President sometimes doesn’t necessarily characterize things as they might have actually occurred.”