Saturday, January 16, 2021

Georgia Republicans Contort Themselves to Avoid Trump’s Fury

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“You’re here because we the people will not let them steal our vote!” Mr. Wood, a prominent right-wing Atlanta lawyer, told the cheering crowd. “We will not let them steal our freedom. Every lie will be revealed! And on January the 20th of 2021, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as president of the United States of America.”

Mr. Wood later addressed state officials while making the case that the Georgia process was too corrupt to participate in. “We’re not going to vote on your damned machines made in China,” he said. Ms. Powell, who has been disavowed by Mr. Trump’s legal team but continues to press legal challenges on the president’s behalf, echoed Mr. Wood’s warning, urging “all Georgians” not to vote “unless your vote is secure.”

But in other ways, the momentum seemed to turn against Mr. Trump this week. On Tuesday, a top state election official, Gabriel Sterling, laced into the president, pleading with him to scale back the conspiratorial rhetoric that Mr. Sterling said was inspiring people to make violent threats against election workers.

On Wednesday, Mr. Sterling’s boss, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — like Mr. Sterling, a Republican — seemed to close the door on the president’s long-shot hopes of subverting the vote of the people. Noting that the U.S. attorney general, William P. Barr, had just said that the Justice Department found no widespread fraud in the national race, Mr. Raffensperger said, “Our investigators have seen no widespread fraud either.”

He added that a second recount of Georgia ballots, set to be finished by midnight Wednesday, would show that Mr. Biden was indeed the winner. And the secretary of state notably referred to Mr. Biden as the president-elect.

At the same time, political expediency is a significant factor. Mr. Raffensperger, who is up for re-election in 2022, is one of a number of top Georgia Republicans who are bending their actions to two diverging imperatives: defending the integrity of their state’s election while trying to survive the bizarre and evolving political weather systems generated by the mercurial Mr. Trump.

The president may spout conspiracy theories and acrimony — he has publicly attacked Mr. Raffensperger and Mr. Kemp for not acceding to his wishes — but he is also the most popular figure in the Republican Party. Nationally, Mr. Trump’s sustained assault on voting integrity, while false, has persuaded many Republicans that there was something crooked about the election. And no one is sure whether, or for how long, he will continue to command the fealty of his party.

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Updated on January 16, 2021 5:22 am

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