The Jolt: Raffensperger family details recent violent threats

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The vile comments and death threats from pro-Trump conspiracy theorists were so bad in December that state elections guru Gabriel Sterling warned somebody was “going to get killed” if the invective didn’t stop before the election.

It turns out that the January runoffs weren’t the end of the threats aimed at Georgia elections officials. A lengthy Reuters report documents how Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Fulton County election chief Rick Barron and Fulton County registration director Ralph Jones have all been harassed.

Among the findings:

-Raffensperger’s wife Tricia received an anonymous text on April 24 saying: “You and your family will be killed very slowly.” She canceled regular weekly visits in her home with two of her grandchildren, and intruders broke into the home of her widowed daughter-in-law.

“Just kind of think about the emotional scars that would — could happen to them, but also what if they’re actually in physical danger?” Raffensperger told CNN. “So that’s why we took a several-month break of having the grandchildren over there until things started calming down a little bit.”

-During an hourlong meeting, investigators with the Fulton County district attorney’s office sought information on threats targeting Barron and his staff. He has saved every harassing message, and logged nearly 150 hateful calls between Christmas and early January.

-Among those targeted is Jones, a Black official who has received racist texts and death threats. He said strangers showed up at his house one night, identifying themselves as new neighbors even though no one had recently moved to the area.


A bill passed this year by the Georgia General Assembly paved the way for police to arrest one of the top organizers of Atlanta street racing.

Channel 2′s Mark Winne was on hand at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport last week when police arrested Adolfo Robledo, the leader of “ATLTuners,” an Instagram account that put out word out of the dangerous races in and around Atlanta and then built large crowds to watch them happen.

When Winne asked Robledo if he was behind ATLTuners, Robelo denied knowing anything about the scheme, before Winne pointed out Robledo’s face mask emblazoned with “ATLTuners.”

HB 534 passed in March and toughened penalties for organizing street races.

As Maya Prahbu reported at the time, the measure now allows authorities to suspend the licenses of some violators for up to a year and calls for penalties as high as $5,000. Repeat offenders could face additional prison time under the proposal. It creates crimes for promoting drag racing and reckless stunt driving.

The arrest was a joint effort by Atlanta police, Dekalb County police, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.


Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Friday that the U.S. Department of Justice will scrutinize new state election laws, such as the one passed earlier this year in Georgia. The AJC’s David Wickert also reported that the DOJ has also pledged to examine post-election audits and will investigate threats against state and local election workers. Both have been topics recently in Georgia, as well.

To follow through with the policy changes, Garland plans to double the size of the Justice Department’s voting rights enforcement staff in the next 30 days.

In response to the decision, Gov. Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr released a joint statement that pointedly mentioned Stacey Abrams multiple times:

“We welcome the Department of Justice taking an honest and fair look at our election law that ensures Georgia elections are secure and accessible. It is time for someone in the Biden Administration to actually read the law, instead of relying on Stacey Abrams’ talking points. Time and time again, this administration has parroted false, inflammatory rhetoric about the Election Integrity Act to line the pockets of left-wing interest groups and ram their unconstitutional elections power-grab through Congress.”

“We are confident an unbiased review by the Department of Justice will ultimately arrive at the truth: Georgia’s election bill makes it easy to vote and hard to cheat. The ‘Stacey Says’ standard is dead wrong and does not hold up in court.”

Abrams vocally spoke out against Senate Bill 202.


A conservative insurgent movement is aiming to steer the Southern Baptist church further toward the right. And many have rallied behind a Georgia preacher as the new leader.

The New York Times reports that the upstart movement is gaining steam ahead of this week’s gathering of more than 16,000 Baptist pastors and leaders in Nashville, the denomination’s first annual meeting since 2019.

And the outcome could further divide American evangelicals in the post-Trump era.

From the story:

The most high-profile vote at the meeting will be the election of a new president, a race whose leading candidates are Mike Stone, a Georgia pastor who is the favorite of many conservative; Ed Litton, an Alabama pastor who has largely avoided culture war battles and has the support of the denomination's first Black president; and Albert Mohler Jr., a lion of the denomination who helped usher in a conservative revolution decades ago and is now in the awkward position of being labeled a moderate “compromise candidate." Mr. Stone, a one-time underdog, is considered a serious contender.

Stone is a pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear with the backing of the Georgia chapter of Southern Baptists. He outlines his agenda in the Christian Index, warning drastic changes are needed to save a denomination in “precipitous decline."

- The New York Times


A federal judge in New York declined a request by conservative plaintiffs that Major League Baseball be forced to play the annual all-star game in Metro Atlanta.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni ruled that the conservative small-business advocacy group that filed the lawsuit “lacks standing” to seek an injunction and “has failed to demonstrate that it is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of an injunction.”

In her ruling, Caproni defended the baseball league’s right to move the game to Denver in protest of Georgia’s new election law.

“MLB voted with its feet when politicians in Georgia made a policy decision with which (MLB) strongly disagreed. For all this court knows, many of the small business owners in the Atlanta area agree with MLB that the policy decisions reflected in the new Georgia election law are poor policy choices. But whether small business owners as a group agree or disagree, are deeply divided or are agnostic on that issue, it is hard to see how MLB’s decision had an impact on the equal protection rights of small business owners as a group.”


U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde has a press conference this morning scheduled with U.S. Rep. Louis Gohmert of Texas.

Gohmert made headlines last week when he suggested in a subcommittee hearing that the U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management consider altering the moon’s orbit to address climate change. More seriously, the Texas congressman went to the House floor in May to downplay the seriousness of the attack on the Capitol.

“There’s no evidence that this was an armed insurrection,” he said, adding later, “There have been things worse than people without any firearms coming into a building.”

Gohmert made those remarks the same week that Clyde drew national headlines after saying some of the people in Capitol during the Jan. 6th riot were as peaceful as anyone on a “normal tourist visit.”

As our Washington Insider columnist Jamie Dupree notes, the topic of today’s press conference is “TBA.”


The New York Times profiles Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the newest director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Walensky came to the job from Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was chief of the Infectious Disease division.

But the Times writes that it’s the politics of the pandemic, not the science, that has dogged the Atlanta-based CDC, and most recently Walensky, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These days, she spends the week in Atlanta, waking up at 5:30 a.m. and working until 11 p.m. But she still eats dinners with her family on Zoom and travels to Massachusetts every weekend. “This is a working mom who's always been working her tail off," her husband said.

Dr. Walensky was not on the Biden's administration's initial list of candidates for C.D.C. director. It was Dr. Fauci, who had known and admired her work on H.I.V., who recommended her. Her leadership of the C.D.C. is demonstrably different from that of her predecessor, Dr. Robert R. Redfield. Under him, the agency quietly made changes to its guidance, sometimes dictated by the Trump administration, with no public announcement.

C.D.C. scientists are now routinely involved in conversations with the White House, where previously they were sidelined and silenced. And where Dr. Redfield was reticent, Dr. Walensky has often taken a surprisingly direct approach."

- The New York Times


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