ATLANTA, Dec 10 (Reuters) – Weeks after the 2020 election, a Chicago publicist for hip-hop artist Kanye West traveled to the suburban home of Ruby Freeman, a terrified Georgia poll worker who has faced death threats after being falsely accused by the former president Donald Trump had been manipulating votes. The publicist knocked on the door and offered his help.
The visitor, Trevian Kutti, gave her name but didn’t say she worked for West, a longtime billionaire friend of Trump’s. She said she was sent by a “high-profile person,” who she did not identify, to deliver an urgent message to Freeman: Confess to Trump’s allegations of voter fraud, or people would come to her house within 48 hours, and she . d go to jail.
Freiman refused. This story of how a music mogul associate pressured a 62-year-old poll worker at the center of a Trump conspiracy theory is based on previously unreported police records and reports, court filings, and Freeman’s first media interview since she was tangled in Trump’s bid to reverse his election loss close.
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Kutti did not respond to requests for comment. Her biography for her work with the Women’s Global Initiative, a business networking group, credits her as a member of the Young Black Leadership Council under President Donald Trump. It notes that in September 2018 she “was signed on as a publicist for Kanye West” and “now serves as West’s director of operations.”
After this story went public, a rep for West said that Kutti was not associated with the music star when she met Freeman. Pierre Rougier, a spokesman for the rapper, said Sunday, “Trevian Kutti was not affiliated with Kanye West or any of his businesses as of the date of the facts reported in these articles or since those facts arose.”
Rougier did not answer any further questions about whether Kutti worked for West at other times or whether West and Kutti knew each other. Prior to the publication of this article, Reuters reached out to another West representative, but received no response.
When Kutti knocked on Freeman’s door on January 4, Freeman called 911. Until then, Freeman said, she was suspicious of strangers.
Beginning Dec. 3, Trump and his campaign repeatedly accused Freeman and her daughter Wandrea “Shaye” Moss of illegally counting fake mail-in ballots after they pulled them from mysterious suitcases while working on Election Day at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena. In fact, the “suitcases” were standard voting boxes and the votes were duly counted, county and state officials quickly acknowledging and the fraud allegations refuted.
But Trump and his allies continued to accuse Freeman and Moss of vote-rigging. The allegations prompted hundreds of threats and harassing messages directed at her and her family members.
When Kutti arrived, Freeman needed help but was cautious and didn’t open the door because of the threats, according to Freeman and a police report.
So Freeman asked a neighbor to come over and speak to Kutti, who was dating an unknown man. Like Freeman, Kutti and the other visitor were black. Kutti told the neighbor Freeman was in danger and she had been sent to provide assistance. Freeman said she was open to meeting them. She asked the Cobb County Police Department to send an officer on guard so she could go outside, according to a recording of her 911 call.
“They say I need help,” Freeman told the dispatcher, referring to the people at her door, “that it’s only a matter of time before they come out for me and my family.”
An officer arrived and spoke to Kutti, who described herself as a “crisis manager,” according to the police incident report.
Kutti reiterated that Freeman “was in danger” and had “48 hours” before “unknown subjects” showed up at her home, the report said. At the officer’s suggestion, the women agreed to meet at a police station. The officer’s report did not identify the man accompanying Kutti.
“YOU ARE A LOOSE END”
At the station, Kutti and Freeman met in a corner, according to footage from a body camera worn by an officer present at the meeting. Reuters obtained the video through a public records request.
“I can’t say exactly what’s going to happen,” Kutti Freeman says in the recording. “All I know is that it will interfere with your freedom,” she said, “and the freedom of one or more of your family members.”
“You’re a loose end for a party that needs cleaning up,” Kutti continued. She added that “Federals” were involved, without giving details.
According to Freeman, Kutti told her that she would put a man named “Harrison Ford” on the speakerphone. (Freeman said the man on the phone wasn’t the actor of the same name.) Kutti said the man had “authoritarian powers to get you protection,” bodycam footage shows.
At this point, Kutti can be heard asking the officer to give them privacy. The body camera did not capture a clear recording of the conversation that ensued after the officer walked away from the two women.
According to Freeman, for the next hour Kutti and the man on the speakerphone tried to get Freeman to engage in voter fraud on Election Day. Kutti offered legal aid in return, Freeman said.
“If you don’t tell everything,” Freeman recalled to Kutti, “you’re going to jail.”
Freeman became suspicious and said she jumped out of her chair and told Kutti, “The devil is a liar,” before calling for an officer.
Back home later, Freeman said she Googled Kutti’s name and found out she was a Trump supporter.
Police say they did not investigate the incident further.
West, who changed his name to “Ye” in October, did not respond to requests for comment sent by another publicist representing him.
Media reports have cited Kutti’s association with the rapper since 2018, when she stopped working with R. Kelly, an R&B singer convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking in September. According to Kutti’s biography, she is the founder of Trevian Worldwide, a media and entertainment consultancy with offices in four cities. Her clients, she says, include boxer Terence Crawford and Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan.
The meeting came two months after West ended a failed White House bid that drew media attention when multiple publications revealed that Trump allies and supporters were working locally to advance West’s campaign. Some Democrats said they viewed West’s presidential bid as a ploy to steal black votes from Democrat Joe Biden. Groups supporting the rapper’s campaign denied these charges.
On Jan. 5, the day after Freeman met Kutti, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent called Freeman and asked her to leave her 20-year-old home because it wasn’t safe, Freeman said.
The following day, Jan. 6, Kutti’s prediction that people would be coming to Freeman’s home in 48 hours proved correct, according to a defamation lawsuit Freeman and Moss filed against a far-right news site last week. Freeman, the lawsuit says, left hours before a mob of angry Trump supporters surrounded her home and yelled through megaphones.
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Reporting by Jason Szep and Linda So; Edited by Brian Thevenot
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