The Jan. 6 select committee dissected a Trump-backed conspiracy theory about the 2020 election in Atlanta, breaking down how it originated from the campaign, was amplified on social media, and ultimately “threatened the lives of several innocent election workers,” Rep. Adam Schiff said.
Schiff, a committee members and a California Democrat, explained Trump’s conspiracy theory: Trump claimed that election officials in Atlanta kicked out GOP poll watchers, brought in suitcases of ballots with votes for Biden, and repeatedly ran the ballots through the vote-counting machines. (The claim was completely false.)
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani first peddled the claims at a Georgia State Senate hearing, where he played footage of vote-counting at the State Farm Arena and called it “a smoking gun” of alleged fraud, asserting that suitcases of illegitimate ballots were snuck into the room.
The Trump campaign “amplified Giuliani’s false testimony,” Schiff said, by tweeting out the same footage from the arena. The footage came from OAN, a far-right TV network that often promotes pro-Trump conspiracy theories. Giuliani also tweeted about the video after his appearance in front of the Georgia lawmakers.
The only problem? Georgia election officials looked into the suitcases issue and quickly determined that it wasn’t proof of fraud. Gabe Sterling, a top Georgia election official, publicly debunked the theory in an early December 2020 news conference, a clip of which was played during Tuesday’s committee hearing.
Testifying to the committee, Sterling said “this conspiracy theory took on a life of its own” and that the footage showed “normal ballot processing,” despite all of the frenzies claims from Team Trump.
Trump was also briefed by the Justice Department that the allegations of fake ballots in suitcases was unfounded. Yet it has remained to be one of the centerpieces of Trump’s allegations of fraud in 2020.