(WASHINGTON) — Gabriel Sterling, a Republican and a top Georgia elections official who has repeatedly rebuked former President Donald Trump’s claims of fraud after Trump lost the state to Joe Biden in 2020, said Sunday as a potential indictment looms against Trump in Georgia that his “biggest concern” remains the potential risk of violence as a result of incendiary attacks on voting integrity.
Sterling’s appearance on “This Week” comes as Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is expected this week to present a case to a grand jury after investigating efforts to overturn Trump’s loss in Georgia in the 2020 election.
Trump denies all wrongdoing.
Sterling was asked by “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl if he worried Trump’s rhetoric, including a recent campaign ad attacking Willis, could lead to violence “once again.”
“You never know what’s going to happen. My biggest concern for years now … is somebody will be motivated by some of those kinds of language at some point and do something stupid,” Sterling said.
“It’s not going to be an organized thing. It’s not going to be a bunch of conspirators together,” he said. “It’s going to be one probably mentally unstable individual who’s going to be radicalized through this process.”
Sterling was echoing a warning he first made in December 2020, while serving as the voting system implementation manager in Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office.
“Mr. President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia,” he told Trump then, during one of many press conferences he held debunking false claims about the 2020 election. “You have the right 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.”
Sterling, now the chief operating officer in Raffensperger’s office, first came to prominence in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election as he and Raffensperger, also a Republican, pushed back on false claims of voter fraud in the state’s results pushed by Trump and his allies.
In January 2021, shortly before Trump’s defeat was certified by Congress, Trump urged Raffensperger in an infamous phone call to “find” just enough votes for him to win Georgia.
On “This Week,” Karl asked Sterling whether he thinks Trump knew he lost the election, as federal prosecutors have alleged in court. Trump insists he sincerely believes that.
Sterling pointed out that independent audits failed to find fraud in Georgia, and he cited statistics that underscored how Trump’s public disdain for mail voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to have cost him crucial votes.
“We’ve been saying this over and over again. We counted the ballots three times. He lost this state,” Sterling said. “And he continued to say he didn’t lose it. And it’s just creating a lot of tension and a lot of chaos. It’s completely unnecessary. I mean, there’s real issues in this country.”
In the short term, Sterling said Trump’s legal issues seem to have resulted in political gain for him as he seeks the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
“This has been giving oxygen to his campaign,” Sterling said. “This is raising tons of money, and a lot of that money … is being used to pay for his lawyers and not for actual campaign[ing].”
“He’s making himself a martyr, and a lot of the American people are going behind him because they feel like some of these things are a little bit of a stretch,” Sterling added.
Longer term, however, Sterling predicted that Trump’s focus on his false claims about the last election won’t help him win over the voters he needs next year. “Anybody talking about 2020 election is going to lose the general election. You’re not gaining any voters by doing that,” Sterling said.
A former city councilman and a self-described “political junkie,” Sterling told Karl that he has been and will continue to closely follow Trump’s three indictments, with a fourth potentially looming in Fulton County. (Trump has pleaded not guilty to each, claiming persecution.)
But Sterling also said he and others are getting “fatigued over the entire thing.”
“It’s hard to believe we’ve gotten where we’ve gotten. … But, you know, the system has to work its way through, one way or the other,” he said.
He declined to say whether or not he has been called to testify before the grand jury who will hear the Fulton County district attorney’s case but acknowledged previously speaking with investigators. “If I am called, when I am called, I will go and do what I did before. I will tell the truth, answer honestly,” he said. “That’s all we can do in this situation.”
Karl pressed Sterling about why he thinks many in the Republican Party’s base have embraced Trump’s false claims of voter fraud.
“It’s tribal. If my party believes this, then therefore, I will believe it,” Sterling said. “And if you don’t believe it, then you’re committing apostasy and you’re not following the rules.”
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