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‘Someone’s going to get hurt’: Georgia elections official denounces threats, asks President Trump to condemn violent rhetoric

Gabriel Sterling, Voting Systems Manager for the Georgia Secretary of State's office.
Gabriel Sterling, Voting Systems Manager for the Georgia Secretary of State's office.Jessica McGowan/Getty

Georgia’s voting system manager angrily denounced threats of violence officials have received as the state’s second presidential recount continued Tuesday, and pleaded with President Trump to “stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence,” warning that “someone’s going to get killed.”

“It has to stop,” Gabriel Sterling said. “Mr. President, you have not condemned this language or these actions. We need you to step up, and if you’re going to take a position of leadership, show some.”

Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Sterling, a Republican, warned someone could get hurt over the rhetoric.

“Someone’s going to get hurt, someone’s going to get shot, someone’s going to get killed. And it’s not right. I’m doing my best to keep it together. All of this is wrong,” he said.

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Sterling appealed directly to Trump and senators to condemn violent language and actions after he said a “20-something tech” received death threats while he worked, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has had people come onto his property, and Raffensperger’s wife has been getting “sexualized threats through her cell phone.” Sterling added that he has had police protection outside of his house.

“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,” Sterling said. “Yes, fight for every legal 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. They’ve lost the moral high ground to claim that it is.”

Sterling said “the straw that broke the camel’s back” was when a 20-year-old contractor for a voting systems company in Gwinnett County received a message saying he should be hung for treason while he was transferring a report to a county computer so he could read it, Sterling said. The worker’s family has received death threats, Sterling said.

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“There’s a noose out there with his name on it,” Sterling said. “That’s just not right.”

Sterling’s comments came after Joe diGenova, an attorney for the Trump campaign and former federal prosecutor, on Monday called for violence against Chris Krebs, the nation’s top election security official who Trump fired after Krebs vouched for the integrity of the election.

“Anybody who thinks the election went well, like that idiot Krebs who used to be the head of cybersecurity,” diGenova said during an appearance on “The Howie Carr Show.” DiGenova went on to say Krebs should be shot.

DiGenova then tried to walk back his comments in a statement distributed Tuesday by the Trump campaign, according to CNN.

“For anyone listening to the Howie Carr Show, it was obvious that my remarks were sarcastic and made in jest. I, of course, wish Mr. Krebs no harm. This was hyperbole in a political discourse.”

Krebs, a Trump appointee who was the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, issued a number of statements in the wake of the election attesting to its proper conduct and refuting the falsehoods the president was spreading.

Trump has continued to make unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in Georgia, which was won by President-elect Joe Biden by more than 12,000 votes. The state on Tuesday continued its second presidential recount, which was requested by Trump. A hand recount was completed in November.

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Counties have until midnight Wednesday to complete the recount, and about 90 have finished, Sterling noted at Tuesday’s press conference, but the latest tally is not expected to change the outcome of the race.

Raffensperger, who is also a Republican, has dismissed allegations of widespread voter fraud.

“Mr. President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia,” Sterling said. “We’re investigating; there’s always a possibility. I get it, 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.”

Among the messages Sterling directed at Trump was one imploring the president to move on.

“If you want to run for reelection in four years, fine, do it,” Sterling said. “But everything we’re seeing right now, there’s not a path [to reelection in 2020]. Be the bigger man here and step in tell your supporters don’t be violent, don’t intimidate. All that’s wrong. It’s not American.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


Amanda Kaufman can be reached at amanda.kaufman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandakauf1.