Sinners’ reformation: Ex-Trump staffer turns to Georgia elections job

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Robert Sinners aided fake electors. Now he’s Raffensperger’s spokesman.

Before his conversion, Robert Sinners worked as a campaign operative for Donald Trump, served as a notary public on a lawsuit to decertify Georgia’s presidential election and told fake electors to conceal their schemes.

Today, Sinners says he has changed. He rejects election conspiracies after seeing firsthand that they weren’t true.

Sinners’ transformation landed him a job as the communications director for Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ahead of this year’s elections, responsible for building trust in elections instead of undermining it.

Sinners says he had enough of conspiracy theories when he heard the recorded phone call of then-President Trump pressuring fellow Republican Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to reverse Democrat Joe Biden’s win in 2020, an incident that’s now the subject of a special purpose grand jury in Fulton County.

“This far-flung election conversation has turned into the ultimate grift,” Sinners said in an interview. “As long as they can keep the grift going and keep these people sucked into their orbit, it’s going to be a fight that has to happen. And I want to be part of that fight against it.”

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Sinners isn’t a target of the special grand jury, and he gave videotaped testimony this summer to the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Sinners told Congress he was a “useful idiot” in a plan to present a phony slate of 16 Republican electors who met behind closed doors in the Georgia Capitol on Dec. 14, 2020, to cast the state’s votes for Trump.

Sinners, who was the Trump campaign’s Election Day operations manager for Georgia, sent an email to the fake electors asking for their “complete secrecy and discretion” to “ensure the end result” of Trump winning Georgia. Three vote counts and dozens of election investigations upheld Biden’s victory.

At the time, Sinners said Republican leaders told him the alternate electors were necessary to “protect legal rights” while Trump’s election challenges were pending in court.

He says he now knows better after learning about a broader attempt to use the Republican Party electors to install Trump as president regardless of the court challenges. The cases were all dismissed, including one that Sinners notarized seeking to throw out Georgia’s election results based on alleged problems with the presidential recount.

“I didn’t consciously add to the mess or the disinformation that was out there,” Sinners said. “But I felt a little bit of responsibility for being part of the overall effort, and I wanted to help be part of the solution” by working in Raffensperger’s office.

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Sinners became increasingly disillusioned in December 2020 as flimsy fraud claims mounted but evidence was lacking.

So much of what Trump supporters wanted to believe, from allegations of ineligible voters to claims of ballot stuffing, was based on suspicion rather than fact, he says. Investigations debunked claims including drop box fraud, dead voters, invalid voter signatures and counterfeit ballots.

Meanwhile, Trump and his supporters vilified Raffensperger, blaming him for the president’s loss after he encouraged absentee voting during the COVID-19 pandemic and certified vote counts submitted by each county showing that Trump lost to Biden.

By February 2021, the secretary of state’s office gave Sinners a constituent services job in which he was tasked with responding to disgruntled Georgia voters, many of whom believed the election had been stolen, and telling his fellow Republicans a hard truth: Trump had lost fair and square.

In Sinners, the secretary of state’s office found someone who can talk sense to Trump supporters who continue to doubt election integrity, interim Deputy Secretary of State Gabriel Sterling said. Sinners was promoted to communications director this summer.

“Is he going to win everybody over? Nope, because a lot of this is an emotional thing. But he is able to get them to a point where they might ask questions about themselves,” Sterling said. “He has been an asset to the office and been able to communicate well to the people who need to hear it the most.”

But Sinners shouldn’t escape accountability for his actions when he worked for the Trump campaign, said Anne-Gray Herring, policy analyst for Common Cause Georgia, an organization that advocates for ethical government.

“It’s great if he had a change of heart, but we can’t let our guard down, especially now, given the position he’s in,” Herring said. “We need to make sure that this kind of harmful thinking doesn’t re-emerge and show itself in the secretary of state’s office.”

Raffensperger’s opponent for secretary of state, Democrat Bee Nguyen, has been critical of Sinners’ employment, saying in June it was hard to trust his judgment after his work with the fake electors.

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Sinners says he expects his past to continue to haunt him.

He lost Republican friends by abandoning Trumpism, and Democrats are unwilling to forgive him for his role in the aftermath of the 2020 election, culminating with riots at the U.S. Capitol that delayed Congress from finalizing the results.

During his work for the Trump campaign, Sinners said in a deposition last month that he had no role in an incident in Coffee County in January 2021, when computer analysts working for former Trump attorney Sidney Powell copied software and files from Dominion Voting Systems election equipment.

Sinners says he has switched to the right side of history, and he calls Raffensperger one of his heroes for standing up to Trump.

“There’s always going to be people out there trying to break the rules, but I have very little reason to believe that the results of the 2020 election were impacted. Everything I’m seeing on the ground as we lead up to the 2022 election tells me it’s going to be an open, fair and accessible election,” Sinners said. “I’m trying to do the best job that I can to instill confidence in the vote.”