Raffensperger: Trump ‘attacks people, makes stuff up’ to get what he wants

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Jan. 6 panel releases secretary of state’s testimony

For weeks after the 2020 election, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger endured withering insults and accusations from the man with the biggest bully pulpit in the world — then-President Donald Trump.

As he sought to overturn his loss in Georgia, Trump spread lies about election fraud long after the allegations had been investigated and found lacking. He branded Raffensperger an “enemy of the people.” And he ultimately asked the secretary to “find” the 11,780 votes he needed to win.

In hours of testimony unveiled Tuesday, Raffensperger told congressional investigators in detail how he tried to show Trump and others why the voting fraud allegations were wrong. And he offered his thoughts on why Trump refused to accept the truth.

“I think he, somewhere in life, has this learned behavior that if he attacks people, makes up stuff, and disparages them that he’ll get what he wants,” Raffensperger told investigators.

Raffensperger’s testimony is the latest to be released by the U.S. House committee investigating the events that led to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. The panel released its final report last week and continues to release transcripts of hundreds of interviews it conducted during its investigation.

Raffensperger spoke to the committee behind closed doors in November 2021. Investigators quizzed him on a range of topics, including everything from voting fraud investigations, his conversation with U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and, of course, his infamous phone call with Trump two days before the Jan. 6 attack.

Though the interview transcript offers no shocking revelations, it underscores the pressure that Trump and key allies applied to Georgia’s top election official as they sought to overturn the election.

That pressure included letters demanding investigations from top GOP officials and the state’s Republican congressional delegation. It also included a surprise visit to the scene of a Cobb County signature audit by Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows and a Trump call to the lead investigator of the signature audit.

In his testimony, Raffensperger recounted how he responded to each inquiry, explained the findings of each investigation and walked through his call with Trump in almost sentence-by-sentence detail. Among the highlights:

  • Raffensperger said his deputy Gabe Sterling’s December 2020 prediction that someone would “get killed” because of false election fraud allegations proved prophetic on Jan. 6. At least five people died as a result of the attack. One police officer suffered a stroke the next day, and one Trump supporter was shot and killed by police.

“And I fully support the statements (Sterling) made that day. And, sadly, he was prophetic,” Raffensperger told investigators. “Because people did die. And I think it’s very sad when people die for whatever reason.”

  • Raffensperger tied the events of Jan. 6 directly to Trump’s voting fraud lies.

“Well, I think that people were spun up to just believing the lies that were told to them, and things got out of control,” he said. “And it’s just one of those hinge points in American history.”

  • Raffensperger has said Graham appeared to suggest he find ways to reject legally cast ballots during a November 2020 conversation about signature-matching of absentee ballots — an accusation Graham has denied. Raffensperger was not as explicit in his testimony to investigators.

He said he was “uncomfortable” with Graham’s line of questioning. He said he told the senator he would get back to him after consulting with his general counsel about signature-matching issues.

“And we just never got back to him,” Raffensperger said.

  • The secretary reviewed his conversation with Trump in great detail. Investigators walked him through each allegation of fraud that Trump raised in the phone call and Raffensperger’s explanations of why the allegations weren’t true.

As for Trump’s request to find 11,780 votes, the secretary said: “There weren’t 11,780 votes to find. We had checked every single allegation. Our staff had worked overtime.

“We continually circled back, you know, amongst our group in the office and said, did we miss anything?” Raffensperger said. “You know, what could we have overlooked? We wanted to make sure that we were accurate.”