Ahead of Trump’s potential indictment, Georgia’s election official is once again concerned about inflammatory rhetoric
Gabriel Sterling, a Republican and leading Georgia election official who has repeatedly criticized former President Donald Trump’s allegations of fraud after Trump lost the state to Joe Biden in 2020, said Sunday as a possible indictment against Trump in Georgia loomed “concern.” the biggest”. The potential risk of violence as a result of incendiary attacks on voting integrity remains.
Sterling’s appearance on “This Week” comes as this week Fulton County District Attorney Fanny Willis is expected to present a grand jury case after investigating efforts to overturn Trump’s loss in Georgia in the 2020 election.
Trump denies any wrongdoing.
Sterling was asked by “This Week” anchor Jonathan Karl if he was concerned that Trump’s rhetoric, including the recent ad campaign attacking Willis, could lead to violence “again.”
“You never know what’s going to happen. My biggest concern in years … is that someone is going to be motivated by some of these kinds of language at some point and do something stupid,” Sterling said.
“It wouldn’t be an organized thing,” he said. “It wouldn’t be a bunch of conspirators together.” “It is likely to be a mentally unstable individual who will be radicalized through this process.”
Sterling was echoing a warning he first made in December 2020, while serving as voting system enforcement director in the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
“Mr. President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia,” he told Trump then, during one of his many news conferences debunking false claims about the 2020 election. “You have the right to go to the courts. What you don’t have the power to do — and you need To step up and say this – is to stop inspiring people to potentially commit acts of violence. Someone is going to be harmed. Someone is going to be shot. Someone is going to be killed.”
Sterling, who is now chief operating officer in Raffensperger’s office, first came to prominence in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election as he and Raffensburger, also a Republican, hit back at false allegations of voter fraud in state 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” enough votes for him to win Georgia.
On “This Week,” Sterling asked Carl if he thought Trump knew he lost the election, as federal prosecutors have alleged in court. Trump insists he genuinely believes that.
Sterling noted that independent audits failed to detect fraud in Georgia, and cited statistics that underscored how Trump’s public disdain for mail-in voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to cost him crucial votes.
“We’ve been saying this over and over. We counted the ballots three times. He lost this case,” Sterling said. And he continued to say that he did not lose her. It just created so much stress and so much chaos. It is absolutely unnecessary. I mean, there are real issues in this country. “
In the short term, Sterling said Trump’s legal issues appear to have led to political gains for him as he seeks the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
“This has been giving oxygen to his campaign,” Sterling said. “This raised tons of money, and a lot of that money…is used to pay his lawyers and not an actual campaign[ing]. “
Sterling added, “He makes himself a martyr, and a lot of the American people are going after him because they feel some of these things are a little overblown.”
In the long run, 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. “Anyone talking about the 2020 election is going to lose the general election. You’re not winning any voters by doing that,” Sterling said.
Sterling, a former city council member who describes himself as a “political junkie,” told Carl he has been and will continue to pursue all three Trump indictments, with the possibility of a fourth looming in Fulton County. (Trump has pleaded not guilty to each of them, claiming persecution.)
But Sterling also said he and others were “exhausted by the whole thing”.
“It’s hard to believe we’ve gotten where we’ve come from…but, you know, the system has got to work its way through, one way or another,” he said.
He declined to say whether or not he had been called to testify before the grand jury that will hear the Fulton County District Attorney’s case, but did acknowledge that he had previously spoken with investigators. “If and when I am called,” he said, “I will go and do as I have done before. I will tell the truth, and answer truthfully.” “That’s all we can do in this situation.”
Karl pressed Sterling on why he believed many in the GOP base were espousing Trump’s false claims of voter fraud.
“It’s tribal. If my party believes this, then I believe it,” Sterling said. “And if you don’t believe it, you are committing apostasy and not following the rules.”
This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com