- Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger said he has been under pressure from members of his own party, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, who he accused of encouraging him to find ways to throw out legal ballots.
- Graham denied the allegations but confirmed that he had asked Raffensberger about the state’s signature verification system.
- Around the same time, President Trump also claimed that signatures were not being matched in the recount he requested. The signatures were already verified twice and are not re-verified during recounts to protect voter privacy.
- Raffensberger has continually defended the integrity of the election, even as he and his wife have been receiving death threats since the two Republican Senators in runoffs asked him to resign and claimed, without evidence, there were irregularities in the election.
Raffensberger Says He’s Under Pressure
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger accused Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-Sc.) of encouraging him to throw out legal ballots in an interview with The Washington Post Monday.
Since Election Day, Georgia has become the center of the political world. Not only is the state home to the two Senate runoffs that will determine control of the chamber, but it is also nearing the end of a historic hand-recount of 5 million ballots. President Donald Trump requested that recount after former Vice President Joe Biden was projected to win the state by about 14,000 votes.
In the interview with The Post, Raffensperger said that as the state’s top election official, he was under enormous pressure from his own party.
That effort was launched two weeks ago when Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue — the two incumbent Republicans facing runoffs — took the unprecedented step of asking Raffensperger to resign and claimed, without any evidence, that there were irregularities in the election process.
Raffensberger defended himself and denied the unfounded claims, arguing that there was no credible evidence that there had been any election fraud on a scale large enough to sway the outcome of the election.
But since then, the pressure has only mounted, with Raffensberger also telling The Post that both he and his wife started receiving death threats right after the senators sent that letter.
President Trump has also helped escalate the situation. In a tweet over the weekend, Trump called Raffensberger a republican in name only (RINO), and claimed that the top election official “won’t let the people checking the ballots see the signatures for fraud. Why? Without this the whole process is very unfair and close to meaningless. Everyone knows that we won the state.”
Most of the claims in that tweet, which was flagged by Twitter, are either misleading or downright false. First of all, recounts are meant to review ballots, not signatures. Absentee voters do not even sign the ballots but the envelopes they come in, which are permanently separated from the ballots after they are verified to protect voter privacy.
Beyond that, the process for verifying the envelope signatures in Georgia is exceedingly thorough. Signatures were already verified twice by election officials: once when absentee voters applied for the ballots, and then again when they sent them in.
Lindsey Graham Allegations
However, Raffensberger alleged in his interview with The Post that Sen. Graham echoed Trump’s claims and pressed him about the state’s election process during a call on Friday.
“In their conversation, Graham questioned Raffensperger about the state’s signature-matching law and whether political bias could have prompted poll workers to accept ballots with nonmatching signatures, according to Raffensperger,” The Post reported.
“Graham also asked whether Raffensperger had the power to toss all mail ballots in counties found to have higher rates of nonmatching signatures,” the report continued. “Raffensperger said he was stunned that Graham appeared to suggest that he find a way to toss legally cast ballots,”
When asked by reporters about the call, Graham confirmed that he had in fact called Raffesnberger to ask about Georgia’s signature-matching requirements but denied that he had suggested that Raffensperger throw out legal ballots, calling the accusation “ridiculous.”
“The main issue for me is: How do you protect the integrity of mail-in voting, and how does signature verification work?” he added.
When asked about Graham’s response during an interview with CNN last night, Raffensberger stood his ground.
“It’s just an implication that look hard and see how many ballots you can throw out,” he said of Grahams remarks.
Response and Backlash
Many social media users condemned Graham and said that he should be investigated. Some pointed out the apparent hypocrisy in the fact that a sitting Republican was being accused of attempting to influence the election results after Trump and his cronies have spent weeks spreading totally false claims of Democrats committing fraud.
Others also argued that if the allegations are true Graham should resign, and claimed that his actions were potentially illegal under both federal and state law.
“Why is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee calling Georgia’s Secretary of State to discuss mechanics of an ongoing ballot count?” Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, tweeted. “Such a call would be implicitly coercive in the best case, even without Graham’s alleged suggestion about throwing out lawful votes.”
Graham, for his part, continued to defend himself, telling reporters Tuesday morning that he also had similar conversations with election officials in Nevada and Arizona. He also said he was simply doing this because he is a senator who is concerned about election integrity.
Both the Arizona and Nevada Secretaries of State said they had not spoken to Graham, and when pressed later, Graham said he spoke to the Governor of Arizona, not the state’s election official, and said he could not remember who he had spoken to in Nevada.
Notably, most Republicans stayed silent on the accusations on Monday and Tuesday, and the few who did mention the Georgia election again attacked Raffensberger. In a tweet Monday, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) said the state needed accountability and claimed “Georgians have lost confidence” in Raffensberger’s ability to lead.
Raffensberger Denounces Attacks
Raffensberger has continually hit back against the attacks and defended the integrity of the signature verifications, absentee ballots, and voting machines.
In a series of posts on Facebook, he debunked false claims made by Trump and explained that Georgia has had no-excuse absentee voting the last 15 years. He also said under his control of the election process, absentee ballots had been strengthened and secured for the first time since they were put in place.
Among other points, Raffensberger noted that he had outlawed absentee ballot harvesting, required mail-in ballots to be uploaded to an online portal with photo ID for each voter, and trained election officials on signature matching.
The state of Georgia has had no excuse absentee ballots since 2005— only those who request a ballot can vote absentee….Posted by GA Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Sunday, November 15, 2020
**Lin Wood Lawsuit** My team secured and strengthened absentee ballots for the first time since 2005. As Secretary of…Posted by GA Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Sunday, November 15, 2020
As for the integrity of the recount, Raffensperger said in the interview with The Post that he believed it would simply “affirm” the results of the initial count. He also added that the hand-count will provide evidence that the voting machines the state used — which have been the subject of numerous conspiracy theories spread by the president and his supporters — were accurate.
Raffensberger even told The Post that some counties in the state have already reported that their hand recounts matched the machine’s tallies exactly. However, he did also confirm that election officials in Floyd County did discover about 2,600 eligible votes that had not been included in the first tallies because election workers had failed to upload them off a memory stick.
While Raffensberger’s office did say the votes probably would have been discovered, it still called for the resignation of the county election director.
“The Floyd County situation was unfortunate,” a spokesperson told reporters, noting that the process had gone smoothly in most other large counties. The spokesperson also said that a good chunk of the newly discovered ballots were cast for Trump, which officially brings Biden’s lead from around 14,200 to around 13,300.
Biden is still expected to ultimately be called as the winner of the state, and even if there is another unexpected curveball in the Georgia recount, he still has enough electoral votes by far to secure the presidency.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Wall Street Journal) (CNN)
Jan. 6 Rally Organizers Say They Met With Members of Congress and White House Officials Ahead of Insurrection
Two sources told Rolling Stone that they participated in “dozens” of meetings with “multiple members of Congress” and top White House aides to plan the rallies that proceeded the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Rolling Stone Report
Members of Congress and White House Staffers under former President Donald Trump allegedly helped plan the Jan. 6 protests that took place outside the U.S. Capitol ahead of the insurrection, according to two sources who spoke to Rolling Stone.
According to a report the outlet published Sunday, the two people, identified only as “a rally organizer” and “a planner,” have both “begun communicating with congressional investigators.”
The two told Rolling Stone that they participated in “dozens” of planning briefings ahead of the protests and said that “multiple members of Congress were intimately involved in planning both Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss and the Jan. 6 events that turned violent.”
“I remember Marjorie Taylor Greene specifically,” the person identified as a rally organizer said. “I remember talking to probably close to a dozen other members at one point or another or their staffs.”
The two also told Rolling Stone that a number of other Congress members were either personally involved in the conversations or had staffers join, including Representatives Paul Gosar (R-Az.), Lauren Boebert (R-Co.), Mo Brooks (R-Al.), Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), Andy Biggs (R-Az.), and Louie Gohmert (R-Tx.).
The outlet added that it “separately obtained documentary evidence that both sources were in contact with Gosar and Boebert on Jan. 6,” though it did not go into further detail.
A spokesperson for Greene has denied involvement with planning the protests, but so far, no other members have responded to the report.
Previous Allegations Against Congressmembers Named
This is not the first time allegations have surfaced concerning the involvement of some of the aforementioned congress members regarding rallies that took place ahead of the riot.
As Rolling Stone noted, Gosar, Greene, and Boebert were all listed as speakers at the “Wild Protest” at the Capitol on Jan. 6, which was arranged by “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander.
Additionally, Alexander said during a now-deleted live stream in January that he personally planned the rally with the help of Gosar, Biggs, and Brooks.
Biggs and Brooks previously denied any involvement in planning the event, though Brooks did speak at a pro-Trump protest on Jan. 6.
Gosar, for his part, has remained quiet for months but tagged Alexander in numerous tweets involving Stop the Steal events leading up to Jan. 6, including one post that appears to be taken at a rally at the Capitol hours before the insurrection.
Notably, the organizer and the planner also told Rolling Stone that Gosar “dangled the possibility of a ‘blanket pardon’ in an unrelated ongoing investigation to encourage them to plan the protests.”
Alleged White House Involvement
Beyond members of Congress, the outlet reported that the sources “also claim they interacted with members of Trump’s team, including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who they describe as having had an opportunity to prevent the violence.”
Both reportedly described Meadows “as someone who played a major role in the conversations surrounding the protests.”
The two additionally said Katrina Pierson, who worked for the Trump campaign in both 2016 and 2020, was a key liaison between the organizers of the demonstrations and the White House.
“Katrina was like our go-to girl,” the organizer told the outlet. “She was like our primary advocate.”
According to Rolling Stone, the sources have so far only had informal talks with the House committee investigating the insurrection but are expecting to testify publicly. Both reportedly said they would share “new details about the members’ specific roles” in planning the rallies with congressional investigators.
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Business Insider) (Forbes)
Jan. 6 Committee Prepares Criminal Charges Against Steve Bannon for Ignoring Subpoena
The move comes after former President Trump told several of his previous aides not to cooperate with the committee’s investigation into the insurrection.
Bannon Refuses to Comply With Subpoena
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection announced Thursday that it is seeking to hold former White House advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena.
The decision marks a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to force officials under former President Donald Trump’s administration to comply with its probe amid Trump’s growing efforts to obstruct the inquiry.
In recent weeks, the former president has launched a number of attempts to block the panel from getting key documents, testimonies, and other evidence requested by the committee that he claims are protected by executive privilege.
Notably, some of those assertions have been shut down. On Friday, President Joe Biden rejected Trump’s effort to withhold documents relating to the insurrection.
Still, Trump has also directed former officials in his administration not to comply with subpoenas or cooperate with the committee.
That demand came after the panel issued subpoenas ordering depositions from Bannon and three other former officials: Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, and Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel.
After Trump issued his demand, Bannon’s lawyer announced that he would not obey the subpoena until the panel reached an agreement with Trump or a court ruled on the executive privilege matter.
Many legal experts have questioned whether Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, can claim executive privilege for something that happened when he was not working for the executive.
Panel Intensifies Compliance Efforts
The Thursday decision from the committee is significant because it will likely set up a legal battle and test how much authority the committee can and will exercise in requiring compliance.
It also sets an important precedent for those who have been subpoenaed. While Bannon is the first former official to openly defy the committee, there have been reports that others plan to do the same.
The panel previously said Patel and Meadows were “engaging” with investigators, but on Thursday, several outlets reported that the two — who were supposed to appear before the body on Thursday and Friday respectively — are now expected to be given an extension or continuance.
Sources told reporters that Scavino, who was also asked to testify Friday, has had his deposition postponed because service of his subpoena was delayed.
As far as what happens next for Bannon, the committee will vote to adopt the contempt report next week. Once that is complete, the matter will go before the House for a full vote.
Assuming the Democratic-held House approves the contempt charge, it will then get referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the matter before a grand jury.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)
Senate Votes To Extend Debt Ceiling Until December
The move adds another deadline to Dec. 3, which is also when the federal government is set to shut down unless Congress approves new spending.
Debt Ceiling Raised Temporarily
The Senate voted on Thursday to extend the debt ceiling until December, temporarily averting a fiscal catastrophe.
The move, which followed weeks of stalemate due to Republican objections, came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) partially backed down from his blockade and offered a short-term proposal.
After much whipping of votes, 11 Republicans joined Democrats to break the legislative filibuster and move to final approval of the measure. The bill ultimately passed in a vote of 50-48 without any Republican support.
The legislation will now head to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said members would be called back from their current recess for a vote on Tuesday.
The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the measure, but urged Congress to pass a longer extension.
“We cannot allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a confidence-shaking political showdown every two years or every two months,’’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Under the current bill, the nation’s borrowing limit will be increased by $480 billion, which the Treasury Department said will cover federal borrowing until around Dec. 3.
The agency had previously warned that it would run out of money by Oct. 18 if Congress failed to act. Such a move would have a chilling impact on the economy, forcing the U.S. to default on its debts and potentially plunging the country into a recession.
Major Hurdles Remain
While the legislation extending the ceiling will certainly offer temporary relief, it sets up another perilous deadline for the first Friday in December, when government funding is also set to expire if Congress does not approve another spending bill.
Regardless of the new deadline, many of the same hurdles lawmakers faced the first time around remain.
Democrats are still struggling to hammer out the final details of Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending agenda, which Republicans have strongly opposed.
Notably, Democratic leaders previously said they could pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve the measure with 50 votes and no Republican support.
Such a move would require all 50 Senators, but intraparty disputes remain over objections brought by Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), who have been stalling the process for months.
Although disagreements over reconciliation are ongoing among Democrats, McConnell has insisted the party use the obscure procedural process to raise the debt limit. Democrats, however, have balked at the idea, arguing that tying the debt ceiling to reconciliation would set a dangerous precedent.
Despite Republican efforts to connect the limit to Biden’s economic agenda, raising the ceiling is not the same as adopting new spending. Rather, the limit is increased to pay off spending that has already been authorized by previous sessions of Congress and past administrations.
In fact, much of the current debt stems from policies passed by Republicans during the Trump administration, including the 2017 tax overhaul.
As a result, while Democrats have signaled they may make concessions to Manchin and Sinema, they strongly believe that Republicans must join them to increase the debt ceiling to fund projects their party supported.
It is currently unclear when or how the ongoing stalemate will be resolved, or how either party will overcome their fervent objections.