January 6, the “Big Lie” and the fate of democracy

A year ago today, on January 2, 2021, President Donald Trump launched his most brazen effort to reverse his electoral defeat. During a recorded phone call, he told Republican Secretary of State for Georgia Brad Raffensperger, “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.”

Mr Trump also told Raffensperger he could face unspecified criminal charges if he does not comply. “It’s a criminal offense… It’s a big risk for you,” Mr. Trump warned.

“I listened,” Raffensperger told CBS News Washington chief correspondent Major Garrett. “But I also knew that, ‘You can dig as much as you want, Mr President. We have the facts, and I’m sorry, you lost.'”

Garrett asked, “Did that shock you?”

“I was going to make sure that we were following the law and the constitution, and I was not going to be swayed, pushed or deviated from that.”

Raffensperger recounts this call, and the turbulent months following the 2020 election, in his new book, “Integrity Counts” (distributed by a division of ViacomCBS).

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Raffensperger has been prosecuted on charges that he helped steal the election from Mr. Trump. He has faced death threats; his wife has been threatened with sexual violence. Raffensberger, a longtime Republican and conservative who voted for Mr. Trump, felt hounded – by his fellow Republicans.

Garrett asked, “How did it go? “

“You watch yourself,” Raffensperger replied. “You watch your back. And you have to start looking for what people are saying. “

Sense? “Is there something on the side of their hip? Things like that.”

Raffensperger also has a dog. “Is it a guard dog?” Garrett asked.

“No. But he’s a dog of conscience,” he smirked.

Unfounded allegations of fraud in Georgia and other states – amplified by Mr. Trump (“This election has been stolen, from you, from me and the country”) – fueled the violent siege on Capitol Hill on January 6. Raffensperger said: “They were misled, they were deceived, they were given lies about the election results.”

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To date, more than 700 people have been indicted in the deadly attack on Congress on January 6, an attempt to stop the certification of Electoral College ballots for President-elect Joe Biden and to entrust Mr. Trump the presidency.

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These lies were exposed in color in Maricopa County, Arizona, where the GOP-controlled state Senate sponsored a so-called “election audit” last May. He concluded Mr. Biden actually won with more votes than initially expected..

A summer symposium on electoral fraud in 2020, led by My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, provided no evidence.

Even so, 2021 saw 19 states, most of them ruled by Republicans, to squeeze election laws, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

Ironically, the conservative Heritage Foundation found that four of President Trump’s most contested states had some of the safest voting procedures.

Helen Butler is a proud Democrat who served on the Trump-pro Morgan County, Ga. Electoral board for more than a decade. Republican county leaders recently passed new rules there, allowing them to purge board members, including Butler.

She told Garrett: “If you replenish the board with many members that are made up of one political party and the political line of that party is that you have to change the election result to keep someone. in power, that’s one way to do it. ”

It means, as the old saying goes, that it doesn’t matter who votes; it is more important who account.

Butler said: “I see it like, ‘We didn’t make it this time, but next time I’m going to do it because I have total control of the electoral process.'”

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Threats of violence still haunt Americans who have done nothing but count the ballots. One of them is Tom Freitag, Chief Electoral Officer in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He told Garrett he had received “a lot of calls, emails, angry threats.”

“What sort of things are we talking about?

“We received an email saying we would all be hanged for treason.”

Bucks County is a swing county within a swing state. Mr. Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes in 2016; he lost almost twice as much in 2020.

Garrett first met Frietag in September 2020 as he worked around the clock to build a vote-counting facility from scratch, all to comply with a staggering new mail-in vote demand, triggered by new state law, intensified by pandemic security concerns. They were installing high-speed scanners to scan ballots quickly. “We have ten,” he said.

When asked today how the counting process went, Frietag said: “We were all nervous before we started. Overall I think it went very well with the hand. that was distributed to us. “

And yet the threats and bullying continued for a full year.

“Are you so frustrated you might stop?” Garrett asked.

“There have been days when I wonder why I always do this,” replied Frietag. “I don’t think I’ve gotten to the point where I want to quit yet, but there have been days when I didn’t really feel like working.”

Bob Harvie, an elected county commissioner in Bucks County, said, “It’s not something I’ve seen, other than going back to the Civil War. And that scares me.

We asked Harvie about January 6, “If you want to destroy democracy, the first thing you do is pit the members of this country against each other,” he said. “And the second thing you do is get people to start doubting the validity of the election.”

The doubts – they circulate in the country like a contagion of plots.

Wisconsin, long a hotbed of bitterly contested and very close elections, is in the throes of a Republicans-led covert investigation into electoral fraud in 2020.

State Senator Kathy Bernier, herself a former election administrator, is a staunch supporter of Trump and one of the most conservative voices in the legislature. Yet, she said, “I’m a Republican. [but] we cannot keep beating a dead horse. We must move forward.
“Were there any cases of electoral fraud? Yes, there were. And they are currently under investigation. But there was no organized and widespread electoral fraud in the area. ‘State of Wisconsin that anyone has provided proof of. ”

The man leading the effort to find him, Republican State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, declined CBS Sunday Morning’s request for an interview for the story.

For some pro-Trump Republicans, challenging or denying the outcome is no different than the Democrats’ refusal to accept Mr. Trump’s election – no less harmful, they would say, than the lingering allegations of Russian collusion.

Bernier accepts Mr. Biden as president, but adds, “Democrats are just as guilty as Republicans for perpetuating disinformation or outright lies.”

Secretary of State Raffensperger, in general, agrees: “These stolen electoral demands, what they do is they undermine voter confidence in the electoral process.

He’s more focused now on his next election, a sort of GOP referendum on election denial. His opponent, Congressman Jody Hice, opposed the certification of election results in Georgia.

Garrett asked Raffensperger, “What do you think of this next primary? ”

“Well see, I can stand on the truth,” Raffensperger. “What he will stand?

Hice declined our repeated requests to speak to him.

Raffensperger said: “I think at some point people have to face the brutal truth of the election results.”

“Do you ever have the impression that on this particular subject, you are howling in the wind?” ”

“Like a voice in the desert?” Yeah.


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Story produced by Arden Farhi. Publisher: Ed Givnish.


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