The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Georgia leaders rebuff Trump’s call for special session to overturn election results

Republican officials in Georgia raised safety concerns Dec. 6, the morning after President Trump attacked election integrity at a rally in the state. (Video: The Washington Post)

Top Georgia Republicans criticized President Trump on Sunday for spreading falsehoods and misinformation about the election, warning that his comments could make it harder for the GOP to win its upcoming Senate races and arguing that his continued attacks on the process put local officials in danger.

On Sunday night, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R) issued a joint statement in response to a call for a special session of the legislature to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state, saying that “doing this in order to select a separate slate of presidential electors is not an option that is allowed under state or federal law.”

The criticism comes a day after Trump headlined a two-hour rally in the state. The event was designed to whip up support for Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who are locked in tight Jan. 5 runoff races with their respective Democratic challengers. Instead, Trump railed against Kemp, the news media and Democrats, baselessly suggesting that the election was plagued with widespread fraud and falsely claiming that he had defeated Biden.

The Fix’s Amber Phillips analyzes how some of the rhetoric from Trump allies could depress Republican turnout ahead of the Georgia Senate runoff elections. (Video: The Washington Post)

During an interview earlier on Sunday on CNN, Duncan said Trump was fanning the flames of misinformation and called the president’s false claims “concerning.”

Duncan also criticized the president for suggesting the election had been “stolen” from him and warned that his statements could keep Republican voters from the polls in January.

“The mountains of misinformation are not helping the process; they’re only hurting it,” he said.

The lieutenant governor said he was encouraged by the parts of the speech in which the president urged his supporters to vote for Perdue and Loeffler.

Duncan said at the time that he did not believe Kemp would call a special session of the legislature to overturn Biden’s victory in the state, something Trump had pressured Kemp to do in a phone call on Saturday. Trump also asked the governor to order an audit of absentee-ballot signatures, according to reporting from The Washington Post.

In his interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Duncan said he “absolutely” thought that Kemp would not accede to Trump’s demand that he persuade the state legislature to appoint electors who would override the popular vote and nullify Biden’s victory in the state.

Despite Duncan’s statements, the president and his team continued their public pressure campaign. At his rally Saturday night in Valdosta, Ga., Trump briefly lashed out at Kemp for not embracing the allegations of fraud.

“Your governor could stop it very easily if he knew what the hell he was doing,” Trump said.

He added, “So far we haven’t been able to find the people in Georgia willing to do the right thing.”

On Sunday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, speaking as a Trump campaign adviser, said in a Fox News interview that “there is plenty” Kemp can do to aid Trump in overturning the results.

Other officials cautioned that Trump’s rhetoric was putting local officials in danger.

Last week, Gabriel Sterling, a top official in Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office, called on Trump to stop spreading false claims about fraud, saying in an impassioned speech that the rhetoric was leading to threats of violence against election workers.

On Sunday, Sterling said he decided to speak out after receiving a phone call from a project manager at Dominion Voting Systems, the company that has been at the center of the false fraud claims by Trump and his allies.

Sterling said the manager told him “in a very audibly shaken voice” that one of his contractors, “a young tech” in Georgia, had been receiving death threats.

“He took a job a few weeks ago. He’s one of their better ones,” Sterling said on NBC News’s “Meet the Press.” “I was going through the Twitter feed on it, and I saw it basically had the young man’s name — it was a very unique name, so they tracked down his family and started harassing them. And it said, ‘His name, you have committed treason. May God have mercy on your soul,’ with a slowly swinging noose. And at that point, I just said, ‘I’m done.’ ”

Duncan echoed that message Sunday, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper that he, too, has been targeted by threats and that he and other officials have received increased security. Duncan said he was disgusted by the threats.

Duncan also noted that he, Kemp and Raffensperger (R) all voted for and campaigned for the president. Trump did not win the state, Duncan said, adding, “That doesn’t change our job description.”

In an interview Sunday on ABC News’s “This Week,” Raffensperger said that he has received death threats and that his wife has received “sexualized texts and things like that.”

“And now they’ve actually gone after people, been following . . . young poll workers and election workers in Gwinnett County and also our folks at one of our offices,” Raffensperger said. “And so, you’re seeing just irrational, angry behavior. It’s unpatriotic. People shouldn’t be doing that.”

Like Duncan, Raffensperger said that as a conservative Republican, he was disappointed with the election results but that there is no evidence of any fraud that “would overturn the will of the people here in Georgia.”

Asked about the possibility of a special session, Raffensperger said that the decision is not his to make but that such a move appeared unlikely.

“I don’t believe that there’s the will in the General Assembly for a special session. . . . That’s with the governor and the General Assembly, and I’m sure they’ll have conversations,” he said. “But at the end of the day, what they’re really trying to say is, if they did that, they would be then nullifying the will of the people.”

Christopher Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the Department of Homeland Security, said Sunday on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” that Trump’s repeated, baseless claims of fraud are “corrosive to confidence in the election and democracy.”

“It is time for leaders in the national security community and in the Republican Party to stand up to accept the results and move forward,” said Krebs, who was fired by Trump last month after he disputed allegations that election systems had been manipulated. “We cannot allow this to continue, certainly not past January 20th, certainly not for the next four years. Any sort of ‘lost cause’ movement would be just horribly destructive to democracy.”

Amy Gardner and Jeanne Whalen contributed to this report.