Something is Rotten in the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office

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The source for the Washington Post‘s fake quotes also made the January 2 recording, sources say.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – JANUARY 04: Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s Voting System Implementation manager, speaks during a press conference addressing Georgia’s alleged voter irregularities at the Georgia State Capitol on January 04, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. In a one-hour phone call Saturday with Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Secretary of State, President Trump urged him to overturn his defeat in the November election against President-elect Joe Biden. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Two recordings of conversations between President Trump and officials in the Georgia Secretary of State’s office are at issue in a growing controversy. Both played a major role in stoking a narrative about Trump trying to steal the election by throwing out ballots.

The first was made on December 23, but it was not released until last week in the Wall Street Journal. That recording prompted a mammoth correction from the Washington Post, which in its original story erroneously reported that Trump told investigator Frances Watson to “find the fraud” and that she would be a “national hero” if she did.

The person who gave the erroneous quotes for the December 23 story has been identified by the Washington Post as Jordan Fuchs, Deputy Secretary of State of Georgia. She gave an interview to the Post‘s Erik Wemple on Tuesday, telling him “I believe the story accurately reflected the investigator’s interpretation of the call. The only mistake here was in the direct quotes, and they should have been more of a summary.” She continued:

“I think it’s pretty absurd for anybody to suggest that the president wasn’t urging the investigator to ‘find the fraud,’” Fuchs added, “These are quotes that [Watson] told me at the time.”

When the recording was published by the Wall Street Journal, they noted:

When The Post first reported on the call, state officials said they did not believe that a recording existed. Officials located the recording on a trash folder on Watson’s device while responding to a public records request, according to a person familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the internal process.

Wonder who that was? As for the original, erroneous characterizations given by Fuchs, if she was truly concerned about illegal pressure being applied on the phone call, which Watson claims she did not feel, she could have gone to law enforcement and preserved the call record. Instead, she went to the Washington Post and the recording was put in the trash.

“They secretly recorded the telephone call, mischaracterized its contents to the news media and then attempted to destroy the recording. It is confidence-shattering,” David Shafer, chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, told TAC.

Fuchs’s involvement in the December 23 incident has led many to assume she was the source of the leaked recording from January 2 as well, also published by the Washington Post. Two sources told TAC that this was, in fact, the case. The only three people on Raffensperger’s side of the January 2 call were Raffensperger himself, general counsel Ryan Germany, and Fuchs. Fuchs also had an existing relationship with one of the Post reporters whose byline was on the story.

“She refuses to acknowledge whether she recorded the call on January 2,” Mark Rountree, president of Landmark Communications, tells TAC. “That’s what she’s hiding from.” A second source who works in Georgia politics also identified Fuchs as the source of the January 2 recording.

“She hid from both, but the Washington Post has outed her for the first call. The question now becomes, will they out her in the second call?” Rountree told TAC.

Rountree’s firm has employed as VPs both Fuchs and Gabriel Sterling, the COO of the Secretary of State’s office who became the face of pushback against the Trump campaign’s claims of fraud in Georgia. Rountree also helped run Brad Raffensperger’s campaign for the office in 2018, so these are people he knows quite well.

Fuchs allegedly told another former Landmark employee that she was traveling to Florida on January 1. Florida is a two-party consent state, so if she is the source of the recording and it was recorded there, she may have violated Florida’s wiretapping law.

Fuchs did not respond to questions about her location that day or whether she was the source of the recording, which were left on read for about 12 hours. Gabriel Sterling also did not respond to the same questions.

“When she worked here, she was obsessed with the Washington Post. You’d walk by her office and on her monitor was the Washington Post, all the time,” Rountree added. “She obsesses about the Post and she feels like people who are not in the Washington Post are not important. She somehow got charmed and obsessed when she worked as an intern in Washington, D.C., for a year. I think she just became enthralled with the idea of dirty politics, going Woodward and Bernstein and Nixon.”

The Washington Post ran the original story on January 9th, alleging that Trump said “find the fraud” and that the Georgia investigator Frances Watson would be a “national hero” if she did. They have since corrected the story to reflect Trump’s real words, and identified Fuchs as the source. The Secretary of State’s office could have corrected the record when it was initially reported incorrectly by the Post, in the midst of a heated election debate, but they didn’t. Numerous other outlets ran with the story based on the same anonymous sourcing.

If Fuchs was not the source of the leaked recording, that means there is more than one official in the Georgia Secretary of State’s office who is leaking in a politicized way. That means the office has bigger problems.

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