Government report warns of potential violence and foreign interference during Georgia Senate runoffs

Government report warns of potential violence and foreign interference during Georgia Senate runoffs

23 Dec    Finance News

With the Georgia Senate runoff races just two weeks away, the Department of Homeland Security is warning of the possibility of “ideologically motivated violence” and even a foreign influence campaign as voters prepare to go to the polls, according to a new internal report obtained by Yahoo News.

The Dec. 22 report, marked for official use only, says Georgia faces a “potentially heightened physical threat environment” that could drive violence or threats of violence similar to those seen nationwide during the 2020 presidential and state election season. Incidents of violence in or near the state capitol in Atlanta, courts and other “symbolic political institutions” could also negatively affect elected officials or election workers in Georgia, the report says.

“We further judge that violent extremists or other actors could quickly mobilize to violence or generate violent disruptions of otherwise lawful protests in response to a range of issues,” the report says, including possible disputes over the results of the Nov. 3 presidential election.

DHS Georgia Warning by Yahoo News

The agency based its judgments on a review of national and local media coverage, relevant social media postings, state law enforcement officials detailing “ideologically motivated violence or threats of violence” and its other election violence assessments made over the past six months.

The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nearly 2 million Georgians have voted ahead of the much-anticipated Jan. 5 runoff races, state election data shows. The election will determine whether Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler will keep their seats, or if they’ll lose them to Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock. If either Ossoff or Warnock loses, the GOP will retain its Senate majority and its ability to block the agenda of President-elect Joe Biden.

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Georgia is among several battleground states that have been plagued with unsubstantiated allegations of widespread systemic voter fraud during and after the presidential election from the Trump campaign and its allies. Multiple unsuccessful lawsuits have alleged massive fraud without evidence, including ballot stuffing and a voting-machine conspiracy linked to Venezuela.

From left, Kamala Harris, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris campaigns for Democratic Senate challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in Columbus, Ga. (Ben Gray/AP)

Some high-profile Trump supporters, such as Georgia-based attorney Lin Wood, have questioned whether conservatives should vote in the runoffs due to mostly unfounded concerns over election security. But other more prominent Republicans, including President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, have urged their supporters to return to the polls, assuring them that the Jan. 5 elections will be closely monitored.

The notion that the presidential election was illegitimate has left Georgians deeply divided. Allegations of voter fraud have led to threats against election officials as well as Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans and Trump supporters who have dismissed the fraud claims and complied with normal election procedures in certifying the Georgia results that handed Biden the state’s 16 electoral votes. Trump has yet to concede the election and still falsely maintains that it was stolen from him.

The Homeland Security report cites threats made this month against individuals involved in Georgia’s audit and subsequent recount of votes cast in the presidential election, per local and national media coverage and law enforcement.

From left, Kelly Loeffler, David Purdue and Ivanka Trump
Ivanka Trump, right, campaigns with Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in Milton, Ga. (John Bazemore/AP)

On Nov. 21, the report says, groups with opposing ideological views engaged in physical altercations in front of the state capitol during otherwise peaceful demonstrations over the presidential election results.

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Regarding cyber-related threats, the DHS report says the department has no indication that hackers targeted the Georgia election networks during the Nov. 3 election or are trying to interfere with the networks ahead of the Jan. 5 runoffs. But it cautions that “foreign threat actors” recognize the national significance of the runoffs, viewing them as an opportunity to use “social media and other influence tactics focused on the state.”

The report says that Georgia’s federal, state and local agencies are “well positioned to monitor, report, and mitigate potential threats to or associated with the election.”

Jana Winter contributed reporting to this story.

Thumbnail credit: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images


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