Frida Ghitis, a former CNN producer and correspondent, is a world affairs columnist. She is a frequent opinion contributor to CNN, a contributing columnist to The Washington Post and a columnist for World Politics Review. Follow her on Twitter @fridaghitis. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)President Donald Trump cried foul about the 2020 election even before a single voter had cast a ballot. Now, at long last, we have testimony from a credible witness who says he was the subject of an attempt to alter the results of the election. Unfortunately for Trump, and alarmingly for the country, the man who has been accused of leaning on a state official to do so is the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Graham rejects as “ridiculous,” the grave allegations made by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — also a Republican — who says he was left stunned by a Friday phone call in which the Senator seemed to recommend throwing out legal ballots. Frida GhitisFrida GhitisFrida GhitisOn Tuesday, a Raffensperger staffer said he participated in the call and heard Graham ask if they could throw out ballots. Raffensperger told the Washington Post, “It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road,” and he later confirmed to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “It was just an implication of, ‘Look hard and see how many ballots you could throw out.'” Graham claims he was just trying to understand how Georgia verifies mail-in ballot signatures.He also claimed on Tuesday that he queried officials in Nevada and Arizona for the same reason. Read MoreThe rift between two Republican elected officials throws a spotlight on how Trump is ripping in two the Republican party he managed to unify during his now-ending presidency. The divisions have exploded in full view in Georgia, but they are becoming evident in other parts of the country. Republicans mostly fell into line as Trump spent four years violating all norms. But some are finding it more difficult to countenance his attacks on the election results, particularly because it requires impugning the integrity of local officials who worked hard to secure an efficient and credible process.Three terrible presidential transitions that hurt AmericaThree terrible presidential transitions that hurt AmericaThree terrible presidential transitions that hurt AmericaGraham is one of the Republicans who appeared to discard his principles in favor of the expediency of supporting Trump. After calling Trump a “race-baiting, xenophobic bigot” in 2015, he became one of his most devout backers. Now, with Trump smearing election officials over Twitter, amplifying all manner of ridiculous conspiracy theories, Graham is egging him on, urging him to “fight hard,” even as the Trump campaign’s lawsuits fall apart one after the other, and as Trump’s relentless campaign threatens to undermine President-elect Joe Biden’s effort to heal the country’s dangerous divisions.In Georgia, a state that Democrats won for the first time since 1992 and is now in the midst of a full hand recount — more than the law requires — the Republican Party looks like it’s coming unraveled.Raffensperger, who early in his term as secretary of state came under fire from Democrats, has now become the bullseye for prominent Republicans following Trump’s lead. The two Republicans facing a runoff for their Senate seat, Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, urged him to resign for because they claim he “failed to deliver honest and transparent elections.” They offered no evidence. In fact, by all indications, the elections were clean and transparent. I know how much it hurts to lose an election. But Trump's concession is vital for US democracyI know how much it hurts to lose an election. But Trump's concession is vital for US democracyI know how much it hurts to lose an election. But Trump's concession is vital for US democracyRaffensperger made the decision to order the full recount, which he says will confirm Biden’s victory and will verify the accuracy of the voting machines, which are also the subject of a bizarre Trump-promoted conspiracy theory.The secretary of state is defending himself vigorously in a Republican civil war in Georgia that includes Rep. Doug Collins, who failed in his bid for the Senate and is now heading Trump’s efforts to overturn the results. Collins has accused Raffensperger of siding with Democrats and not being more vocal about backing voter fraud claims. Raffensperger responded to his attacks, calling Collins a “liar” and a “charlatan.”Other Georgia Republicans, including Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and former Sen. Saxby Chambliss, say they’ve seen no evidence of widespread fraud.Across the country, most Republicans have either kept quiet or sided with Trump’s baseless allegations of massive fraud, afraid to publicly acknowledge he lost the election, something they reportedly do in private. By acquiescing to Trump, they have become accomplices in the President’s assault on American democracy with its harmful consequences. Trump's Pentagon takedown makes the US vulnerable during the transition Trump's Pentagon takedown makes the US vulnerable during the transition Trump's Pentagon takedown makes the US vulnerable during the transition Trump has insulted and attacked, among others, Republican Commissioner Al Schmidt of Philadelphia, tweeting that Schmidt “refuses to look at a mountain of corruption & dishonesty,” and concluding falsely, “We win!” Schmidt responded to the allegations by saying “we just had the most transparent and secure election in the history of Philadelphia.” He called claims of fraud, “the most fantastical…ridiculous allegations,” and warned about “how hungry people are to consume lies.”Other local Republican officials are also defending the results from Trump’s attacks. In Arizona, Attorney General Mark Brnovich pointed to the absurdity of the claims of massive vote-stealing fraud, noting that Trump lost the presidency but Democrats lost other races. “If indeed there was some great conspiracy, it apparently didn’t work,” he said. Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan slammed Trump’s denial of the election results. After the President reiterated baseless voter fraud claims during a press conference about two weeks ago, Hogan declared, “No election or person is more important than our democracy.”Utah’s Governor-elect Spencer Cox, also a Republican, urged the public to ignore Trump’s rants, tweeting, “Please don’t believe unfounded allegations that destroy trust in the process.” On CNN he reiterated, “There’s no evidence of mass voter fraud.”Get our free weekly newsletter

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In the waning days of the Trump presidency, as he perpetrates his most egregious attack on American democracy, the Republican Party is splitting in two directions. On one side is the truth-denying, ethically-imperiled practitioners of whatever-Trump-says-is-gospel. The other, invigorated by the challenge of defending democracy, is possibly much smaller or at the very least less noisy. Its members acknowledge reality, even when it says their party lost, and are fighting for high principles, including democracy. It is in this smaller segment of the party where Republicans may yet find redemption.As for Graham, the accusations against him are serious. Credible claims of election misconduct should be investigated, especially when they involve high-ranking government officials.

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https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/17/opinions/graham-raffensperger-republican-civil-war-ghitis/index.html

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