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Now: 4th Jan 6 Hearing Focuses on Trump's Intimidation of State Officials. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 21, 2022 - 14:30   ET



BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R), GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes, they did. We counted the ballots where the first tabulation would be scanned. And we did our 100 percent hand audit of the entire, all five million ballots in the state of Georgia.

All cast in place. And all absentee ballots. They were all hand- counted and they came remarkably close to the first count.

Then, upon the election being certified, President Trump, because he was within half a percent, could ask for a recount.

We counted them again for the scanner and we got remarkably the same count. Three counts all remarkably close, which showed that President Trump did come up short.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Nevertheless, as you will see, the president and his allies began making numerous false allegations of voter fraud. False allegations that you and Mr. Sterling, among others, had to address.

Mr. Sterling, thank you also for being here today.

Following the 2020 election, in addition to your normal duties, I understand that you became a spokesperson to try to combat disinformation about the election and the danger it was creating for election officials among others.

In a December 1 press conference, you addressed some of your remarks to President Trump.

Let's take a look at what you said that day.


GABRIEL STERLING, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER FOR GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: Mr. President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia. We are investigating. There's always a possibility.

I get it. You have a right to go to the courts. What you don't have the ability to do, and you need to step up and say this, is stop inspiring people who commit potential acts of violence.

Someone can get hurt. Someone can get shot. Someone can get killed. And it's not right. It's not right.


SCHIFF: Mr. Sterling, what prompted you to make these remarks?

STERLING: Mr. Schiff, we were trying to be as transparent as we could about the election and the counts going on.

A little after lunch that day, lunch time, I received a call from the project manager from the Dominion Voting Systems who was oddly audibly shaken. She is not the kind of person that I would assume would be that way.

She has a masters from MIT and a graduate of a naval academy and is very much on the ball and pretty unflappable.

And she informed me about a young contractor they had, who had been receiving threats from a video that had been posted by some QAnon supporters.

At that point, we had been in this sort of steeping in this kind of stuff. It was around us all the time. So I did take note of it. Adding to the pile of other stuff we were having to deal with.

And I did pull up Twitter and I scrolled through it and I saw the young man's name. It was a particular tweet that, for lack of a better word, was the straw that broke the camel's back.

The young man's name was a very unique name and I believe it was a first-generation American. And it had his name. It said, "You committed treason. May God have mercy on your soul." With a slowly twisting gift of a noose.

And for lack of a better word, I lost it. I just got irate. My boss was with me at the time, Deputy Secretary Jordan Fuchs. She could tell that I was angry. I tend to turn red from here up. And that happened at that time.

And she called Secretary Raffensperger to say, we are seeing these kinds of threats and, Gab, we need to say something about it.

And the secretary said, yes. And that's what prompted me to do what I did I lost my temper, but it seems necessary at the time because it was just getting worse.

And I could not tell you why that particular one was the one that put me over the edge, but it did.

SCHIFF: After you made this plea to the president, did Donald Trump urge his supporters to avoid the use of violence?

STERLING: Not to my knowledge.

SCHIFF: As we know, the president was aware of your speech because he tweeted about it later that day.

Let's take a look at what the president said.

In the tweet, Donald Trump claims that there was, quote, "massive voter fraud in Georgia."

Mr. Sterling, that was plain false, wasn't it?

STERLING: Yes sir.

SCHIFF: Nevertheless, the next day, on December 2nd, President Trump released a lengthy video again making false claims of election fraud in Georgia.

Let you look at what he said this time.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They found thousands and thousands of votes that were out of whack. All against me.


SCHIFF: In fact, the day after Donald Trump released that video -- so now we are talking two days after the emotional warning that you gave that someone will get killed -- representatives of President Trump appeared in Georgia, including Rudy Giuliani.

And launched a new conspiracy theory that would take on a life of its own and threaten the lives of several innocent election workers.

This story falsely alleges that sometime during election night, election workers at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, kicked out poll observers.


After the observers left, the story goes, these workers pulled so- called suitcases of ballots from under a table and ran those ballots through counting machines multiple times.

Completely without evidence, President Trump and his allies claimed that these suitcases contained as many as 18,000 ballots, all for Joe Biden. None of this was true.

And Rudy Giuliani appeared before the Georgia state Senate and played a surveillance video from State Farm Arena falsely claiming that it showed this conspiracy taking place.

Here's a sample of what Mr. Giuliani had to say during that hearing.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: When you look at what you saw on the video, which to me was a smoking gun, powerful smoking gun, I don't have to be a genius to figure out what happened.

I don't have to be a genius to figure out that those votes are not legitimate votes. You don't put legitimate votes under a table.


GIULIANI: Wait until you throw the opposition out and, in the middle of the night, count them. We would have to be fools to think that.


SCHIFF: President Trump's campaign amplified Giuliani's false testimony in a tweet pushing out the video footage. Giuliani, likewise, pushed out this testimony on social media.

As you can see in this tweet, Mr. Giuliani wrote that it was, quote, "now doubt," unquote, the Fulton County Democrats had stolen the election.

Later in this hearing, we will hear directly from one of the election workers in these videos about the effect these lies had on her and her family.

Mr. Sterling, did the investigators in your office review the entire surveillance tape for the State Farm Arena election night?

STERLING: They actually reviewed approximately 48 hours going over the time period when action was taking place at the counting centers.

SCHIFF: And what did the tape actually show?

STERLING: Depending on which time you want to start because, as mentioned, this conspiracy theory took on a life of its own where they conflated a water main break that wasn't a water main break and throwing observers out and a series of other things.

What it I actually showed was election workers were engaging in normal ballot processing.

One of the specific things -- one of the things that was very frustrating, was the so-called suitcases of ballots from under the table.

If you watch the entirety of the video, you saw that these were election workers who were under the impression they were going to get the home around 10:00 or 10:30.

People were putting on their coats and putting ballots that were prepared to be scanned into ballot carriers and then sealed with tamperproof seals, so they aren't messed with.

And it's an interesting thing because you watch -- there's four screens of video -- and as you are watching it, you can see the election monitors in the corner of the press as they are taking these ballot carriers and putting them under the table. You see it there.

One of the other hidden ones, if you look at the actual tape, was on the outside of the table away from the camera, you couldn't see it originally. And it goes under the "no good deed goes unpunished." We were told, as the secretary pointed out, and we were told it looked like they were shutting down the Fulton County count. The secretary expressed some displeasure at that because we wanted to have everybody keep county so we could get to the results and know the outcome.

So our elections director called their elections director who was at another location because this was Election Day. There were two different places where ballot things were being done by the Fulton County office.

So he -- at Fulton, then called Ralph Jones who was at State Farm Arena, and said, what the heck are you doing? Go ahead and stay.

As you watch the video yourself, you see him take the phone call as people are putting things away and getting ready to leave. You can tell, for about 15 or 20 seconds, he does not want to tell these people they had to stay.

He walks over and thinks about it for a second and you see him come back to the corner of the desk and kind of slumps his shoulders and said, OK, we have to keep on counting. You see them take their coats off and get the ballots out.

And the secondary thing you'll see on there is you will see people who are counting ballots, where a batch will go through, and they will take them off and run that through again.

What happened there's a standard operating procedure. If there's a mis-scan or misalignment or a rewrite, these are high-speed and high- capacity scanners. Three or four would go through after the mis-scan. They would delete that batch and put it back through again.

And by going through the hand tally, as the secretary pointed out, we showed that, had there been multiple ballots scanned without a corresponding physical ballot, your counts would've been a lot higher than the ballots themselves.

And by doing the hand tally, we saw to specific numbers that were met. The hand tally got us a .1053 percent of the total votes cast. And .009 percent on the margin, which is essentially dead-on accurate.


Most academic studies say a hand tally will have between 1 percent of 2 percent. But because we found marking devices makes very clear what the voter intended, made it a lot easier for us to conduct the hand count and show that none of that is true.

SCHIFF: Now I understand that when you reviewed these tapes and did the analysis, it disproved the conspiracy theory.

But you still had to take a lot of steps to try to make sure the public knew the truth about these allegations. And you did frequent briefings for the press.

Let's take a look at one of those press briefings, Mr. Sterling, that you held on December 7th to make a point like the one you made right now.


STERLING: -- to what I'm going to call disinformation Monday.

Out of the gate, many of you all saw the video tape from State Farm Arena. I spent hours with our post-certified investigators and spent hours going over the video to explain to people that what you saw, the secret suitcases with magic ballots, were actually ballots that had been packed into the absentee ballot carriers by the workers in plain view of the monitors and the press.

And what's really frustrating, is the president attorneys had this same videotape. They saw the exact same things that the rest of us could see. And they chose to mislead state Senators and the public about what was on that video.

I am quite sure that they will not characterize the video if they try to enter it as evidence because that is the kind of thing that can lead to sanctions because it's obviously untrue.

They knew it was untrue and they continue to do things like this.


SCHIFF: Mr. Sterling, despite the efforts by your office to combat this misinformation by speaking out publicly and through local media, you were unable to match the reach of President Trumps platform and social media megaphone, spreading these false conspiracy theories.

What was it like to compete with the president, who had the biggest bully pulpit in the world, push out these false claims?

STERLING: For lack of a better word, it was frustrating. But oftentimes, I felt our information was getting out, that there was a reticence of people who needed to believe because the president of the United States, who many looked up to and respected, was telling them it wasn't true.

Despite the facts. And I have characterized, at one point, it was kind of like a shovel trying to empty the ocean. And, yes, it was frustrating.

I even have family members who I had to argue with about some of these things. I would show them things and the problem you have is you are getting in people's hearts.

I remember this one specific attorney that we know that we showed walking through, this wasn't true, OK, I get that. This wasn't true, OK, I get that. This wasn't. Five or six things. But at the end, he said, I just know in my heart they cheated.

And I said, so once you get past the heart, the facts don't matter as much. And our job, from our point of view, is to get the facts out, do our job, tell the truth, follow the Constitution, follow the law, and defends the institutions and the institutions' health. SCHIFF: Let's take a look at what you were competing with.

This is the former president speaking in Georgia on December 5th.


TRUMP: The fraud is overwhelming. And again, I will ask you to look at that very, very powerful and very expensive screen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hidden cases and possible ballots are rolled out from under a table. Four people under a cloud of suspicion.

TRUMP: So if you just take the crime of what those Democrats workers were doing -- and by the way, there was no water main break. You know they said -- there was no water main break.

That's 10 times more than I need to win this state, 10 times. It's 10 times, maybe more than that. But it's 10 times more because we lost by a very close number.


SCHIFF: At this committee's hearing last Monday, we heard from senior federal law enforcement officials from the senior most federal law enforcement official in Atlanta at the time, U.S. attorney for the northern district, B.J. Pak, as well as former attorney general, Bill Barr.

They both testified that the allegations were thoroughly investigated and found to have no merit.

Here is U.S. Attorney Pak.


B.J. PAK, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: I told him that we looked into it. We had done several things, including interviewing the witnesses. I listened to the tapes and reviewed the videotape myself and there's nothing there. Giuliani is wrong on the suitcase full of ballots.


SCHIFF: Here is what Attorney General William Barr had to say about the same allegations.



WILLIAM BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I took a look, a hard look at this ourselves. And based on our review of it, including the interviews of the key witnesses, the Fulton County allegations were -- had no merit.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHIFF: We also have testimony from senior Department of Justice officials establishing that they specifically told President Trump these allegations had been thoroughly investigated and were completely without merit.

Here is acting attorney -- deputy attorney general, Richard Donoghue, describing a phone conversation in which he specifically told President Trump that these allegations were false.


RICHARD DONOGHUE, FORMER ACTING DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL (voice-over): He kept fixating on this suitcase that supposedly had fraudulent ballots. And the suitcase was rolled out from under the table.

And I said no, sir, there's no suitcase. You can watch that video over and over. There is no suitcase. There was a real thin -- (INAUDIBLE) -- where they carry the ballots.


SCHIFF: "Where they carry the ballots."

No matter how many times senior Department of Justice officials, including his own attorney general, told the president that these allegations were not true, President Trump kept promoting the lies and putting pressure on state officials to accept them.

On January 2nd, the president had a lengthy telephone conversation with Senator Raffensperger.

Prior to the president's call thought, I want to share a bit of important context.

First, the White House, including the president's former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, repeatedly called or texted the secretary's office some 18 times in order to set up this call. They were quite persistent.

Second, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows took the extraordinary step of showing up at a signature audit site in Georgia where he met with Secretary Raffensperger's chief investigator, Francis Watson, who was supervising the audit process. Behind me is a photograph from that visit.

Third, the day after Meadows' Georgia visit, he set up a call between President Trump and Francis Watson.

On the call between President Trump and Georgia investigator, Francis Watson, the former president continued to push the false claim that he had won the state of Georgia.

Let's listen to that part of the conversation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP (voice-over): You know, it's just you had the most important job in the country right now. Because if we win Georgia, first of all, if we win, they won't win right now, you know. They are down.

Because the people of Georgia are so angry at what happened to me. They know I won. Won by hundreds of thousands of votes. It wasn't close.


SCHIFF: And in this next clip, he told this state law enforcement official that she would be praised if she found the right answer.


TRUMP (voice-over): I hopefully -- when the right answer comes out, you will be praised. I mean, I don't know why, you know, they make it so hard. They will be praised. The people will say great, because that's what it's about, to make it right because everyone knows it's wrong. There's just no way.


SCHIFF: Mr. Raffensperger, I know you weren't on this call but that you have listened to it. President Trump didn't win by hundreds of thousands of votes in Georgia, did he?

RAFFENSPERGER: No, he did not. I have been traveling through the state of Georgia for a year now, and I simply put in a nutshell, what happened in the fall of 2020 is that 28,000 Georgians skipped the presidential race and yet they voted down ballot in other races.

And the Republican congressman ended up getting 33,000 more than President Trump. And that's why he came up short.

SCHIFF: Thank you Mr. Secretary.

The president, on this call, doesn't stop here. Let's listen to another part of the conversation between President Trump and Miss Watson.


TRUMP (voice-over): Whatever you can do, Francis, it would be a great thing. It's an important thing for the country. You owe it to yourself. I would very much appreciate it.


SCHIFF: "Whatever you can do, Francis." This is the president of the United States calling an investigator looking into the election in which he is a candidate and asking her to do whatever you can do.

Mr. Secretary, you placed this call to your chief investigator in September 2020, The Select Committee has received text messages indicating that Mark Meadows wanted to send some of the investigators in her office, in the words of one White House aide, a shitload of POTUS stuff, including coins, actual autographed MAGA hats, et cetera.

The White House staff intervened to make sure that didn't happen.

It was clear at the time of this call that the former president had his sights set on January 6th.

Listen to this portion when he told Francis Watson about a very important date.



TRUMP (voice-over): Do you think they'll be working after Christmas, to keep it going fast? Because, you know, we have the date of January 6, which is a very important date.


SCHIFF: An important date, of course, was the joint session of Congress where Georgia's electoral votes would be counted for Joe Biden.

A little over week after this call to Francis Watson, the president was finally able to speak with you, Secretary Raffensperger.

Bear in mind as we discuss this call today, by this point in time, early January, the election in Georgia had already been certified.

But perhaps more important, the president of the United States had already been told repeatedly by his own top Justice Department officials that the claims he was about to make to you about massive fraud in Georgia were completely false.

Mr. Secretary, the call between you and the president lasted 67 minutes, over an hour.

We obviously can't listen to the entire recording here today, although it is available on the Select Committee's Web site. But we'll listen to selected excerpts now so that we can get your insights.

Let's begin with the president raising the thoroughly debunks allegations of suitcases of ballots.


TRUMP (voice-over): They weren't in an official voter box. They were in what looked to be suitcases or trunks, suitcase. But they weren't in voter boxes.

The minimum number it could be, because we watched it, and they watched it certified, in slow motion, instant replay, if you can believe it, had slow motion, and it was magnified many times over. And the minimum it was, was 18,000 ballots all for Biden.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHIFF: These are the allegations that the Department of Justice, the attorney general, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and your office had all said were false. Is that right?

RAFFENSPERGER: Correct. And even more importantly, when B.J. Pak resigned as attorney of the northern district, President Trump appointing as acting U.S. general of the northern district, Bobby Christine.

And Bobby Christine looked at that, and was quoted at the AJC, and he found nothing, and he dismissed that case early on.

SCHIFF: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

The president references suitcases or trunks.

Mr. Sterling, were the objects seen in these videos suitcases or trunks, or were they just the ordinary containers used by election workers?

STERLING: They're standard ballot carriers that allow for seals to be put on them so they're tamperproof.

SCHIFF: The president claims there were 18,000 ballots smuggled in, all for Biden. I take it, gentlemen, that was also categorically false?

STERLING: A, there's no physical way he can know who the ballots were for.

But secondly, we had -- Fulton County for years has been an issue in our state when it comes to elections.

So we had -- they had a very difficult time during the primary, in large part, because of COVID. So we had put them under a consent decree the secretary negotiated.

We had a monitor on-site. And his name was Carter Jones. And he took a notation. He had gone from State Farm to the English Street warehouse to look at Election Day activities.

Before he left the State Farm Arena, he noted how many ballots had been counted on each one of the machines. When he came back, after we found out they were working again, he took note again, and when they closed.

And I believe the final number was something around 8,900 total ballots were scanned from the time he left to about 12:30 or 1:00 in the morning. Way below 18,000.

SCHIFF: Let's play the next clip.


TRUMP (voice-over): I heard it was close. I said, there's no way. But they dropped a lot of votes in their late at night. You know that, Brad.


SCHIFF: Mr. Secretary, did somebody drop a lot of votes there late at night?

RAFFENSPERGER: No. I believe that the president was referring to some of the counties when they would upload, but the ballots had all been accepted and had to be accepted by state law by 7:00 p.m. There were no additional ballots accepted after 7:00 p.m.

SCHIFF: Let's play the next clip in which the president makes claims about so-called dead voters.


TRUMP (voice-over): The other thing, dead people. So dead people voted. And I think the number is in the -- close to 5,000 people. And they went to obituaries, they went to all sorts of methods to come up with an accurate number. A minimum, it's close to about 5,000 voters.


SCHIFF: Mr. Secretary, did your office investigate whether those allegations were accurate? Did 5,000 dead people in Georgia vote?

RAFFENSPERGER: No, it's not accurate. And actually, in their lawsuits, they allege 10,315 dead people. We found two dead people when I wrote my letter to Congress that's stated January 6th and, subsequent to that, we found two more.

That's one, two, three, four people. Not 4,000. A total of four. Not 10,000, not 5,000.


SCHIFF: Let's play the next clip.


TRUMP (voice-over): And there's nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you've recalculated. Because 2,236 in absentee ballot were all recalculated. Because 2,236 in absentee ballots were all exact numbers that were done by accounting firms, law firms, et cetera.

Even if you cut them in half, cut them in half, cut them in half again, it's more votes than we need.


SCHIFF: Mr. Secretary, is there any way you could have lawfully changed the result in the state of Georgia, and somehow explained it away as a recalculation?

RAFFENSPERGER: No. The numbers are the numbers. Numbers don't lie. We had many allegations and we investigated every single one of them. I challenged my team, did we miss anything? They said there was over

66,000 underaged voters. We found there was zero.

You can register to vote in Georgia when you're 17.5. You have to be 18 by Election Day. We checked that out, every single voter.

They said there was 2,423 nonregistered voters. There were zero.

They said there were 2,056 felons. We identified less than 74 or less that were still on felony status.

Every allegation, we checked. We ran down the rabbit trail to make sure our numbers were accurate.

SCHIFF: There's no way you could have recalculated except by fudging the numbers?

RAFFENSPERGER: The numbers were the numbers. And we could not recalculate because we had made sure that we had checked every single allegation.

And we -- many investigations. We had nearly 300 from the 2020 election.

SCHIFF: Mr. Secretary, you tried to push back when the president made these unsupported claims, whether they were about suitcases of ballots or that Biden votes were counted three times.

Let's play the next clip.


RAFFENSPERGER (voice-over): Mr. President, they did not put that. We did an audit of that and we proved conclusively they were not scanned three times.

Mr. President, we'll send you the link from WSB that --

TRUMP (voice-over): I don't care about a link. I don't need it. I have a much better link --


RAFFENSPERGER: Mr. President --



SCHIFF: You told the president you would send him a link from WSB, which I understand is a local television station that had an unedited video from the State Farm Arena.

But the president wasn't interested in that. He said he had a much better link. Mr. Secretary, at the time that you were on the call with the

president, as we have shown, both the FBI and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, have proven these claims to be nonsense. And you told him about these investigations on the phone.

Let's listen to what President Trump had to say about the state and federal law enforcement officers who conducted, who investigate these false claims.


TRUMP (voice-over): There's no way they could - then they're incompetent. They're either dishonest or incompetent.


TRUMP: OK, there's only two answers, dishonesty or incompetent. There's no way. Look, there's no way.


SCHIFF: But the president didn't stop at insinuating that law enforcement officers were either dishonest or incompetent. He went on to suggest that you could be subject to criminal liability for your role in the matter.

Before I play that portion of the conversation, I would like to show you something that president retweeted a couple weeks before your call with him.

Here's the president retweeting a post from one of his allies, a lawyer who was later sanctioned by a judge in Michigan for making false claims of election fraud.

Let's take a look at that tweet. The tweet read, quote:

"President Trump, @RealDonaldTrump, is a genuinely good man. He does not really like to fire people. I bet he dislikes putting people in jail, especially," quote, unquote, "'Republicans.'"

"He gave @BrianKempGeorgia and @Georgiasecretaryofstate every chance to get it right. They refused. They will soon be going to jail."

So on your call, this was not the first time the president was suggesting you might be criminally liable.

With that, let's listen to this portion of the call.


TRUMP (voice-over): I think you're going to find that they are shredding ballots because they have to get rid of the ballots. Because the ballots are unsigned. The ballots are corrupt. And they're brand new. And they don't have seals. And there's a whole thing with the ballots. But the ballots are corrupt. And you're going to find that they are --

which is totally illegal. It's more illegal for you than it is for them because you know what they did and you're not reporting it. That's -- you know, that's a criminal offense.

And, you know, you can't let that happen. That's a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer. That's a big risk.


SCHIFF: Secretary Raffensperger, after making a false claim about shredding of ballots, the president suggested that you may be committing a crime by not going along with his claims of election fraud.


And after suggesting that you might have criminal exposure, President Trump makes his most explicit ask of the call.

Let's play a part of that conversation.