Trump-inspired death threats are terrorizing election workers
AUDIO FROM PHONE CALL: “If you have a hand in this, you deserve to go to prison. You actually deserve to hang by your goddam, soy boy, skinny-ass neck.” In the days and months following the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Fulton County elections director Richard Barron received hundreds of harassing messages. AUDIO PHONE CALL: “You are a fraud. You should just go to China, cause that’s where you belong, in communist China because you’re a crook.” His staff in Atlanta, Georgia – made up almost entirely of Black election workers – was targeted too. RICHARD BARRON, FULTON COUNTY ELECTION DIRECTOR: “The slurs were disturbing, sickening” … “The staff started getting all sorts of calls, threatening that people were going to come and kill everyone in their offices or in their chairs.” For senior election administrators to local volunteers, Trump’s baseless voter fraud claims have had far-reaching consequences in contested states from Georgia to Arizona to Michigan. Public servants and others who ran elections or refuted voter-fraud falsehoods continue to be targeted. Some have faced protests at their homes. Many have received death threats. In Georgia – where Trump faces a criminal investigation into alleged election interference – the fallout has been especially severe. GABRIEL STERLING, GEORGIA ELECTION OFFICIAL: “I’m concerned about future elections.” Gabriel Sterling, a senior election official in Georgia, who drew national attention in December when he denounced Trump’s fraud claims as dangerous, says he’s still being harassed and threatened. GABRIEL STERLING, GEORGIA ELECTION OFFICIAL: “Beginning of May, I still got a phone call at 2:36 in the morning telling me I was going to prison. So this stuff has continued and it’s continued for all of us.” Sterling’s boss, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his family have also been targeted. In April, Raffensperger’s wife, Tricia received a chilling text message that read, “You and your family will be killed very slowly.”A week earlier, another anonymous text said, “we plan for the death of you and your family every day.” In an exclusive interview with Reuters, Tricia Raffensperger detailed the threats to her family since the election. In one previously unreported incident, people who identified themselves to police as Oath Keepers – a far-right militia group involved in the deadly U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6 – were found outside Raffensperger’s home, forcing him and his entire family into hiding. Trump’s loss to Democrat Joe Biden in Georgia in last year’s presidential election marked a dramatic political shift in the historically Republican state. His defeat left many in the party in disbelief and Trump lashed out at election officials claiming they rigged the results. No significant fraud was found in Georgia or elsewhere in the U.S.FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: “There’s no way we lost Georgia, there’s no way. That was a rigged election.” His false claims unleashed a torrent of hate and harassment against election workers. FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: “You watch what’s going to come out. Watch what’s going to be revealed.” Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is now investigating the former president for potential interference and said in a February letter that her office would probe “any involvement in violence or threats.” A spokesman for Trump did not respond to requests for comment, but has previously characterized the probe as a “witch hunt.” Criminal law specialists say the threats to election officials could increase the legal jeopardy for Trump. Georgia State University law professor Clark Cunningham. CLARK CUNNINGHAM, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY LAW PROFESSOR: “The statement in her letter suggests one of the things she may be looking at is whether Mr. Trump or others acting together with him were actually encouraging or soliciting the making of death threats against Georgia election officials.” In April, two investigators from Willis’ office met with Fulton County’s elections director Richard Barron. During the hour-long meeting, which has not been previously reported, investigators sought information on threats against Barron and his staff. Willis’ office did not respond to a request for comment. Elections officials fear the fallout from Trump’s false and incendiary rhetoric could reverberate into future elections by making it harder to hire or retain people in public-service jobs that make them targets for violence. RICHARD BARRON, FULTON COUNTY ELECTION DIRECTOR: “You have a lot of good public servants just leaving… never seen an exodus like this before.”
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