House committee probing Jan. 6 riot interviews Georgia’s top elections official

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger testified for more than four hours Tuesday before a U.S. House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

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Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger testified for more than four hours Tuesday before a U.S. House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Georgia’s top elections official was interviewed for more than four hours Tuesday by a panel of U.S. House lawmakers investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Donald Trump mob as it widens a probe into the causes of the insurrection.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger revealed few details of the inquiry in an interview. But he said he spoke at length with members of the House select committee about a notorious January phone call with Trump in which Raffensperger refused the then-president’s demands to “find” enough votes in Georgia to overcome his deficit.

“We talked about that and everything else leading into the election. That was their focus, because that was where the greatest disinformation was foisted upon our nation,” said Raffensperger, who added that the committee had copies of his recently published book on hand to reference.

Raffensperger said that members of the committee, controlled by House Democrats, “might not like everything I had to say.” He said he referred to a “history of stolen election claims” that included Stacey Abrams’ refusal to concede defeat in the 2018 governor’s race to Republican Brian Kemp and discredited conspiracy theories in the 2016 election.

Unlike Trump, Abrams never tried to reverse her election defeat and instead filed litigation seeking to expand access to the ballot. The Democrat also acknowledged that Kemp had won the election and that she was not the governor.

“We want to make sure people have confidence in the election systems. If you lose, lose with dignity,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s important that people hear that.”

The committee has issued more than 40 subpoenas to a range of Trump’s allies, including former aides and conservative media figures, as it probes the orchestrated efforts to promote false claims of voter fraud and overturn the 2020 election.

But lawmakers are also seeking information from those, such as Raffensperger, who fought attempts to reverse the outcome. Raffensperger was an outspoken critic of Trump’s efforts to undermine confidence in the election system long before the January phone call was made public.

Trump’s phone call is now being reviewed by a Fulton County grand jury to consider whether to bring charges against him that could include criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, intentional interference with performance of election duties, conspiracy and racketeering.

With its subpoenas and interviews, the panel is focusing its probe on whether Trump’s key allies were coordinating an attempt to overturn the election that involved spurring the rioters who stormed the Capitol and disrupted the congressional tally of the Electoral College votes that formalized Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.

On Tuesday, committee officials said thatformer Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows is cooperating with the panel’s investigation. Raffensperger didn’t say whether he was asked about Meadows, whose surprise December 2020 visit to observe a Georgia audit of signatures on absentee ballot envelopes sparked criticism.

Another Trump administration official, Jeffrey Clark, is set to be held in contempt by the committee for not complying with its subpoena.

Georgia’s ballots in the 2020 election had been counted three times by the time Trump called, twice by machine and once by hand. Dozens of investigations before and since have found no evidence of tampering to alter election results, and legal challenges filed by Trump allies have been dismissed.

Raffensperger said he hoped he left the committee’s members with a pointed message that “looking backward isn’t helpful.”

“What happened in January was terrible, but we need to be focused on the real issues Americans are facing now: inflation, rising costs, the border situation,” he said.

“So much of this is looking backward. If all Democrats can do is target Donald Trump and all Republicans can do is relitigate the 2020 election, both parties are in trouble,” he added. “The sooner the focus can shift to what voters care about the better.”

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