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U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., a four-term congressman from northeast Georgia who has echoed Trump's election complaints, "will stop the Fraud and get honesty into our Elections!’’ Trump said in a statement. Trump and allies have repeatedly stated, without evidence, that there was voter fraud in Georgia and other states won by President Joe Biden.

In endorsing Hice, Trump again served notice he will insert himself into Republican primaries, even at the risk of splitting the party ahead of important general elections – and even in Georgia, where he is under investigation for pressuring Raffensperger and other Georgia election officials over the 2020 results. 

"I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state," Trump told Raffensperger in a January phone call taped by Georgia officials.

More:Georgia prosecutors investigate election fraud, conspiracy after Trump's pressure campaign as part of 'high-priority' criminal probe

More:Trump is heard on audiotape pressuring Georgia secretary of state to 'find' votes to overturn Biden's win

Amid numerous reviews, Raffensperger said the election in Georgia was fairly conducted.

"We know that we have followed the law, we have followed the Constitution," he told CNN in January.

As for the Hice/Trump challenge, Raffensperger said Monday that reckless accusations about the election helped defeat GOP Senate candidates in Georgia earlier this year.

“Few have done more to cynically undermine faith in our election than Jody Hice," Raffensperger said. "We saw in January what Georgia voters will do to candidates who use that rhetoric."

During the post-election period, Raffensperger and aides denounced Trump's unfounded conspiracy theories about voter fraud, saying they could incite supporters to violence. Weeks later, on Jan. 6, Trump supporters staged an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol designed to stop the counting of the electoral votes that elected Biden.

Trump, impeached by Congress a second time over the insurrection, is also the subject of investigation into improper election interference by Fulton County prosecutors.

Trump has also vowed to back a primary opponent against Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, another Republican who stood behind the state's voting process amid the president's complaints.

Trump plans to be heavily involved in 2022 congressional and state elections, though his actions may wind up splitting up the Republican party as it tries to regain control of Congress and preserve important state offices.

In addition to his threats against Georgia Republicans, Trump has vowed to back primary challengers against GOP members of Congress who went against him on impeachment.

More:At CPAC, Donald Trump targets the Republican Party of Liz Cheney and Mitch McConnell

More:Donald Trump at CPAC: Ex-president tears into Biden and his Republican critics; revives 'rigged' election lie

Max Miller, a former Trump administration official, won the ex-president's endorsement in his challenge to U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, one of ten House Republicans to vote for Trump's impeachment over the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Trump has also targeted U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, one of the seven Republican senators to vote to convict him in his second impeachment trial. Murkowski is the only Republican senator who voted to convict who is up for re-election in 2022.

It is unusual for former presidents to get involved in their party's primaries, especially for lower level offices like secretary of state.

Hice, who first won election to the U.S. House in 2014, was among the dozens of congressional Republicans who objected to the counting of electoral votes, the event that preceded the insurrection.

Trump's complaints about the election in Georgia have already had an impact in Georgia, with national consequences.

Many Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blamed Trump for undermining Republican turnout in two U.S. Senate runoff races in January. Democrats won both of those races, giving their party control of the U.S. Senate.

One of those Democrats, Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., won a special election and has to run again next year. Trump is pushing a Georgia celebrity, former football star Herschel Walker, to run against Warnock.

Trump, who is also under investigation in New York over his business career, again  refused to say whether he will again seek the presidency in 2024, during an interview on a podcast called The Truth with Lisa Booth‪e.

Asked about the future leaders of the Republican Party, Trump listed a group of people who are also pondering presidential bids, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, and U.S. Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Ted Cruz of Texas. 

The impact of Trump's endorsements remains to be seen. During the podcast, Trump claimed his support means the difference between victory and defeat in Republican races.

Some political analysts, however, said Trump will need to put work, and money, behind some of his candidates because his brand alone isn't enough.

Rick Tyler, a Trump critic and author of "Still Right: An Immigrant-Loving, Hybrid-Driving, Composting American Makes the Case for Conservatism," said the former president has "no leadership capacity" and "will only promote himself" in the next year's elections.

Trump "is incapable of creating the political environment necessary for Republicans to win next year," Tyler said.

Others said Trump's residual popularity with conservative voters will inevitably boost his selected candidates. Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman and now a critic of Trump, said Trump "owns the GOP base," and those are the kinds of people who vote in primaries.

"Any candidate he endorses in 2022 will be the clear favorite to win," Walsh said.

Original Link:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/03/22/donald-trump-backs-rival-raffensperger-georgia-election-official/4796110001/

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