One of Georgia’s top election officials has made an impassioned plea to Donald Trump to tone down his rhetoric disputing the election results, saying the president is “inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence”.
Gabriel Sterling, a Republican who oversaw the implementation of the state’s new voting system, also issued the stark warning that if Trump does not rein in his supporters then “someone is going to get hurt”.
“Mr President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia,” Sterling said at a press conference on Tuesday, during which he became visibly angry. “We’re investigating, there’s always a possibility, I get it. You have the rights to go to 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 is going to get hurt, someone is going to get shot, someone is going to get killed, and it’s not right. It’s not right.”
Sterling, the voting systems manager for the Georgia secretary of state’s office, said last week that he had police protection around his home because of threats he received after election results were announced. Trump lost Georgia to Biden by around 13,000 votes.
Sterling also said that the wife of Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, had received “sexualized threats”.
Raffensperger has been the target of constant attacks from the president over his defeat in Georgia, and he recently told the Guardian he had received death threats. Last week, Trump had called Raffensperger an “enemy of the people”, Sterling noted, adding: “That helped open the floodgates to this kind of crap.”
Sterling said his anger boiled over when he learned that a contractor helping with the state’s recount 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.
Sterling’s plea came as another top Georgia Republican, the state’s lieutenant governor, also spoke out against baseless claims of election fraud.
In an interview with CNN, Geoff Duncan called the amount of election misinformation “alarming”.
“It’s certainly disheartening to watch folks willing to kind of put their character and their morals out there just so they can spread a half truth or a lie in the efforts to maybe to flip an election,” he said. “That’s not what democracy is all about.
“Long term I think we hurt the brand of the Republican party, which is certainly bigger than one person,” he added.
Tensions are high in Georgia, where two runoff elections in January will determine the shape of the US Congress, either by cementing a Republican Senate in opposition to Joe Biden’s presidency or giving the Democratic party a hold on the White House, the House and the Senate.
To underline the importance of the battle, Trump, who has made hardly any public appearances since his 3 November election defeat, will be rallying in the state on Saturday.