GOP leaders claim irregularities but hold back on specifics

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel makes remarks Friday about alleged irregularities in Georgia voting during a GOP briefing at state Republican headquarters in Buckhead. (Alyssa Pointer /

Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel makes remarks Friday about alleged irregularities in Georgia voting during a GOP briefing at state Republican headquarters in Buckhead. (Alyssa Pointer /

Republican leadership and President Donald Trump’s campaign brought a high-powered group of speakers to a Buckhead news conference Friday to bolster his claims of election fraud by promising specific examples of abuse.

But following 30 minutes of criticizing election officials and the media, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel held back, recycling instead vague claims of irregularities and urging patience.

“We are not going to jump the gun. They are serious, and we want to take a look at them before we go out and push that," she said.

McDaniel said the party was looking into “six or seven” allegations of election irregularities in Georgia, but she gave no details.

In a separate news conference earlier Friday at the Georgia Capitol, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger defended the state’s handling of the election as he announced the presidential race was likely headed to a recount.

“The stakes are high and emotions are high on all sides. We will not let those debates distract us from our work. We will get it right, and we’ll defend the integrity of our elections," said Raffensperger, a Republican.

Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system manager, told reporters Friday, “We’re not seeing any widespread irregularities.”

McDaniel urged that ballot counting continue until “all legal votes” had been counted, a seeming break from the president who has characterized the continued counting of ballots as evidence of fraud.

In an unprecedented speech Thursday night from the White House, Trump claimed he had “won” Georgia on election night and accused Democrats here and across the nation of stealing his victory, while making a variety of broad and unsubstantiated claims.

McDaniel was joined at the event by former Gov. Sonny Perdue, now serving as Trump’s agriculture secretary; firebrand Democratic state Rep. Vernon Jones; and Atlanta defense attorney Lin Wood, who said he had been asked by the Trump campaign to help with the effort.

While Perdue urged the state to complete a true and accurate count of “the legal votes,” Jones and Wood spun darker tales, complete with criminal conspiracies and global agendas, to the delight of the 60 or so sign-waving supporters who gathered behind them.

Gov. Brian Kemp responded to Trump’s accusations of widespread fraud in the tightly contested states that were still counting presidential election ballots by saying Georgia’s totals would only include legal votes.

“Any allegations of intentional fraud or violations of election law must be taken seriously and investigated,” said a statement from Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.

“We trust that our Secretary of State will ensure that the law is followed as written and that Georgia’s election result includes all legally-cast ballots — and only legally-cast ballots," it stated. "We will continue to follow this situation to ensure a fair and transparent process.”

In an email sent Friday, Kemp assured supporters “the fight is far from over.” He said the state Republican Party was building a team of attorneys to send to Clarke, Clayton, Columbia, Dougherty, Fayette, Henry, Muscogee and Rockdale counties “to ensure that the process is fair and transparent.”

Notably, Kemp did not repeat the president’s claims that the state’s continued tabulation of ballots amounted to fraud or that the election was rigged to favor Biden.

Some Georgia GOP officials sided with Trump’s assessment.

“GA’s handling of this election is embarrassing,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Jody Hice of Monroe. “Two days are gone and we still don’t know the results .... are you kidding? Worse yet, partisan ballots keep appearing. A fair vote & Trump wins, end of story! Stop the fraud!”

Election officials across the country had warned that it could take several days to count the record turnout in the presidential election, particularly since far more people than usual voted with absentee ballots because many Americans wanted to avoid polling places due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was also widely predicted by Democrats and pundits that Trump would blame “widespread fraud” if he lost. In 2016, he lost the popular vote but made the unproven claim that millions of illegal votes were cast for his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“Any of the claims he has made publicly have been without foundation or facts,” Georgia Senate Democratic Leader Steve Henson said. “I find it very disturbing that he’s undermining the democratic process. And it’s very clear that he’s being unfair and untruthful.”