ATLANTA, Dec. 10 (Reuters) – Weeks after the 2020 elections, a Chicago publicist working for hip-hop artist Kanye West traveled to the suburban home of Ruby Freeman, a terrified Georgia election worker who had been subjected to death threats after being mistaken by the former president Donald Trump had been charged with vote manipulation. The publicist knocked on the door and offered to help.
The visitor, Trevian Kutti, gave her name but didn’t say she works for West, a long-time billionaire friend of Trump. She said she had been sent by a “high-ranking person” who did not identify her to deliver an urgent message to Freeman: confess Trump’s allegations of election fraud or people would be home to her in 48 hours, and you d go to jail.
Freeman refused. The story of how a music mogul employee pressured a 62-year-old election worker at the center of a Trump conspiracy theory is based on previously unreported police records and reports, legal records, and Freeman’s first media interview since she was abducted in Trump’s attempt to undo his election defeat do.
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Kutti did not respond to requests for comment. Her biography for her work at the Women’s Global Initiative, a corporate network group, shows that she is a member of the “Young Black Leadership Council under President Donald Trump”. It states that in September 2018 she was “brought in as Kanye West’s publicist” and “now serves as West’s Director of Operations”.
When Kutti knocked on Freeman’s door on January 4th, Freeman called 911. Until then, Freeman said, she would be suspicious of strangers.
Beginning December 3, Trump and his campaign accused Freeman and her daughter Wandrea âShayeâ Moss of counting counterfeit postal ballot papers illegally after pulling them out of mysterious suitcases while working on election day at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta. In fact, the “suitcases” were standard ballot boxes, and votes were properly counted, with county and state officials quickly confirming and refuting the fraud allegations.
But Trump and his allies continued to accuse Freeman and Moss of election fraud. The allegations resulted in hundreds of threats and harassing messages against her and her family members.
When Kutti arrived, Freeman needed help but was cautious and refused to 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 with an unknown man. Like Freeman, Kutti and the other visitor were black. Kutti told the neighbor that Freeman was in danger and that she had been sent to help. Freeman said she was open to meeting them. According to a record of her 911 call, she asked the Cobb County police to send an officer to stand guard so she can go outside.
“They say I need help,” Freeman told the dispatcher, referring to the people at their 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, according to the police incident report, described herself as a “crisis manager”.
Kutti repeated that Freeman was “in danger” and had “48 hours” before “unknown people” showed up at her home, the report said. At the officerâs 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 carried by an officer present at the meeting. Reuters obtained the video through a public record request.
“I can’t say what exactly will happen,” says Kutti Freeman in the recording. “All I know is that it will upset your freedom,” she said, “and the freedom of one or more of your family members.”
“You’re a loose end to a party that needs to be cleaned up,” continued Kutti. She added that “covenants” were involved without giving details.
Kutti told Freeman that she would put a man whom Kutti identified as “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 “authoritative powers to protect you,” she said.
At this point, Kutti can be heard pleading with the officers to give them privacy. The body camera did not make a clear record of the conversation that followed after the officer walked away from the two women.
Kutti and the man on the speakerphone tried for the next hour to get Freeman to engage in polling fraud on election day. Kutti offered legal assistance in return, Freeman said.
“If you don’t tell everything,” Freeman recalls, as Kutti said, “you go to jail.”
Freeman grew suspicious and said she jumped up from her chair and said to 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 said they had not investigated the incident further.
West, who changed his name to “Ye” in October, did not respond to requests for comments sent by another publicist who represents him.
Reuters could not independently confirm whether Kutti still works for West or in what capacity.
Media reports have cited her connection with the rapper since 2018 when she gave up working with R. Kelly, an R&B singer convicted of extortion and sex trafficking in September. Kutti’s biography states that she is the founder of Trevian Worldwide, a media and entertainment consultancy with offices in four cities. Her clients include the boxer Terence Crawford and the Jordanian Queen Rania Al Abdullah.
The meeting took place two months after West closed a failed White House bid that caught media attention when several publications revealed that Trump’s allies and supporters were working on the ground to advance West’s campaign. Some Democrats said they viewed West’s presidential run as a ruse to siphon black votes from Democrat Joe Biden. Groups who supported the rapper’s campaign denied this charge.
On January 5, the day after Freeman’s meeting with Kutti, an agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation called Freeman and asked her to leave her 20-year-old home because it was unsafe, Freeman said.
The following day, January 6, Kutti’s prediction that people would invade Freeman’s house 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 crowd of angry Trump supporters surrounded their home and shouted through megaphones.
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Reporting by Jason Szep and Linda So; Arrangement by Brian Thevenot
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