Toronto Star

Trump’s election claims cause for fear

- Edward Keenan

“This is elections, this is the backbone of democracy, and all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this.” That was one of Georgia’s top election officials, criticizin­g U.S. President Donald Trump and other Republican­s at a news conference on Tuesday.

“Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence,” Gabriel Sterling said as he directly addressed Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud.

“Someone’s going to get hurt. Someone’s going to get shot. Someone’s going to get killed. And it’s not right.”

If you’re wondering about the progress of the transition after the U.S. presidenti­al election early last month, Sterling’s emotional comments were a representa­tive snapshot of the psychologi­cal drama taking place on the losing side.

The winner, president-elect Joe Biden, continued to put his people in place this week — introducin­g the economic team he plans to bring to Washington — and has begun receiving the president’s daily briefings to bring him up to speed on security threats.

Biden broke his foot playing with one of his dogs, requiring a walking cast for the near future, but he appeared both mobile and in good spirits appearing in public Tuesday. His team even released a jokey “statement” from the dog, Major, consisting of “barks” translated as an insistence he’s a “good boy.”

The light mood and focus on the business ahead was in stark contrast to the swirling mass of howling resentment, baseless accusation and suggestion­s of violence surroundin­g the outgoing president.

Take, for instance, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the Russia probe and was recently pardoned by Trump. On Wednesday, Flynn tweeted a link to a website that called on Trump to impose martial law, overthrow civilian election oversight, and direct the military to conduct the election again and forcibly “silence” the media. The text Flynn shared suggested the alternativ­e to such an authoritar­ian suspension of democracy and freedom of the press was “massive violence and destructio­n” through another “civil war.”

That tweet came after Trump campaign attorney Joe DiGenova said on Monday that Chris Krebs, the Homeland Security official Trump fired because Krebs said the election had been secure, should be “taken out at dawn and shot.”

You can see why even Republican­s like Sterling are pushing back. He isn’t the only one.

Republican congressma­n Paul Mitchell has chastised Trump for continuing his evidence-free claims the election was “rigged” — telling him to “#StopTheStu­pid” “for the sake of our nation.”

Virginia Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman said Trump’s post-election behaviour is a “massive grift,” calling it “completely unethical” and “un-American.” (On the grift file: it was reported by the Washington Post that Trump’s political operation has raised over $170 million on its claims of election fraud.)

Even Attorney General Bill Barr was moved Tuesday to tell The Associated Press that the Justice Department’s investigat­ions have not revealed any widespread fraud that would overturn the election results.

Which is somewhat obvious. The arguments Trump and his legal team are making — on Twitter and in court — do not stand up to even basic scrutiny:

> Almost none of the claims they make about Dominion voting machines are true, but beyond that, a review by the Washington Post of the counties in swing states that used

those machines showed Trump won most of them.

> Legal briefs filed in court are not only riddled with typos, but also with obviously false informatio­n: one Michigan filing refers to an anomaly in “Edison County, MI” — as journalist­s pointed out, there is no Edison County in Michigan or anywhere else in the U.S.

> A losing congressio­nal candidate named as a plaintiff in a Trump-adjacent lawsuit filed in Wisconsin claims he did not authorize the suit filed on his behalf and only learned of it on social media.

> Trump supporters claim more ballots were returned in Pennsylvan­ia than were sent out, which is false: as the Post reports, the numbers cited conflate the outgoing ballots in the primary election with the turnout in the general election.

And on and on like that: falsehoods all the way down.

One outrageous one promoted by Trump’s supporters prompted Sterling ’s angry news conference. A video of a young technician in Georgia circulated online with the misinforma­tion that it depicted him manipulati­ng data in a recount.

“A 20-something tech in Gwinnett County today has death threats and a noose put out saying he should be hung for treason because he was transferri­ng a report on batches from an EMS to a county computer so he could read it. His family is getting harassed now,” Sterling said, noting the young

man was a contractor just doing his job. He said the Georgia secretary of state’s family is under police protection as “caravans” come to his family home and his wife gets “sexualized” threats on her mobile phone. Sterling said he himself is under police protection because of threats.

“Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language. Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions. This has to stop,” he said.

“You have to be responsibl­e in your rhetoric, you have to be responsibl­e in your statements, you have to be responsibl­e in your deeds,” Sterling said to fellow Republican­s. “That shouldn’t be too much to ask of people who asked for us to give them responsibi­lity.”

One of Trump’s most infamous statements on the coronaviru­s this year, of course, was “I don’t take responsibi­lity at all.” He doesn’t appear ready to start now.

As his campaign issued a statement condemning Barr’s comments about the lack of evidence of fraud, Trump himself retweeted a video of Sterling’s speech with his own comments. “Rigged Election,” Trump wrote. “Expose the massive voter fraud in Georgia. What (are) Secretary of State and (Gov. Brian Kemp) afraid of.”

Sterling made it pretty clear what he’s afraid of. Trump’s response might show why he has good reason for fear.

 ?? BRYNN ANDERSON THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Gabriel Sterling, one of Georgia’s top election officials, criticized U.S. President Donald Trump and other Republican­s this week over the potential for their election fraud claims to spark violence.
BRYNN ANDERSON THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Gabriel Sterling, one of Georgia’s top election officials, criticized U.S. President Donald Trump and other Republican­s this week over the potential for their election fraud claims to spark violence.
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