President Donald Trump pressured the Republican Secretary of State for Georgia to “find” enough votes to undo Joe Biden’s victory in the state’s presidential election, repeatedly citing allegations of fraud refuted and raising the prospect of a “criminal offense” if officials did not alter the vote count, according to a recording of the conversation.
The phone call with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Saturday was the latest step in an unprecedented effort by a sitting president to pressure a state official to overturn an election result free and just that he lost. The president, who refused to accept his defeat to Democratic President-elect Biden, has repeatedly claimed that Raffensperger could change the certified results.
“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than what we have, ”Trump said. “Because we have won the state.”
Georgia counted its votes three times before certifying Biden’s victory by a margin of 11,779, Raffensperger noted: “President Trump, we have had several lawsuits and we have had to respond in court to lawsuits and assertions. We don’t agree that you won. “
Audio clips of the conversation were first posted online by the Washington Post. The Associated Press obtained the full audio of Trump’s conversation with Georgian officials from one person on call. The PA’s policy is not to amplify misinformation and unproven allegations. The AP will display the full audio by annotating a transcript with fact-checking material.
Trump’s renewed intervention and the persistent and unfounded allegations of fraud come nearly two weeks before he leaves office and two days before the double second round of elections in Georgia that will determine political control of the US Senate.
The president used the hour-long conversation to go through a list of allegations regarding the Georgia election, including the fact that hundreds of thousands of ballots mysteriously appeared in Fulton County, which includes Atlanta. Officials said there was no evidence that this was happening.
Georgian officials on call are repeatedly heard rebuffing the president’s claims, telling him he is relying on debunked theories and, in one case, on a selectively edited video.
At another point in the conversation, Trump appeared to threaten Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the secretary of state’s legal adviser, by suggesting that the two could be criminally responsible if they did not find that thousands of ballots in the Fulton County had been illegally destroyed. There is no evidence to support Trump’s claim.
“It’s a criminal offense,” Trump says. “And you can’t let that happen.”
Other participants in the call included Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and attorneys assisting Trump, including Washington attorney Cleta Mitchell.
Democrats and a few Republicans condemned Trump’s actions, while at least one Democrat called for a criminal investigation. Legal experts said Trump’s behavior raised questions about possible violations of election law.
Biden’s senior adviser, Bob Bauer, called the recording “compelling evidence” of Trump’s pressure and threat on an official in his own party to “quash the legal and certified vote count of a State and builds another in its place ”.
“It captures the whole shameful story of Donald Trump’s assault on American democracy,” Bauer said.
Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in that chamber, said Trump’s conduct “deserves nothing less than a criminal investigation.”
Trump confirmed in a tweet Sunday that he had spoken with Raffensperger. The White House referred questions to Trump’s re-election campaign, which did not respond to an emailed request for comment on Sunday. Raffensperger’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump has repeatedly attacked the way Raffensperger conducted the election in Georgia, claiming without evidence that the state’s 16 electoral votes were wrongly attributed to Biden.
“He has no idea!” Trump tweeted about Raffensperger, saying the state official “was unwilling or unable” to answer questions.
Raffensperger Twitter Answer: “Respectfully, President Trump: What you are saying is not true. The truth will come out. “
Various election officials across the country and former Trump attorney general William Barr said there was no widespread fraud in the election. The Republican governors of Arizona and Georgia, key battlefield states crucial to Biden’s victory, have also guaranteed the integrity of their national elections. Almost all of the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two dismissed by the Supreme Court, which includes three judges appointed by Trump.
In Georgia, the ballots were counted three times, including a mandatory manual count and a recount requested by Trump.
Still, Trump publicly disparaged the election, worrying Republicans who might discourage GOP voters from participating in Tuesday’s run-off between Senator Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican David Perdue against Democrat Jon Ossoff.
Rebecca Green, who helps lead the electoral law program at William and Mary Law School, said that while it is appropriate for a candidate to question the outcome of an election, the processes for doing so for the presidential election have run their course. States have certified their votes.
Green said Trump had raised “a lot of questions” about whether he violated election laws.
Carl Tobias, professor of law at the University of Richmond, said Trump was guilty of “reprehensible and, possibly illegal,” conduct.
Trump noted on the call that he intended to repeat his claims about the fraud at a Monday night rally in Dalton, a heavily Republican region in northern Georgia.
“The Georgian people are angry, the people of the country are angry,” he said on the recording.
Biden is also due to campaign in Georgia on Monday, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was puzzled in Garden City, Ga., On Sunday, criticizing Trump for the call.
“It was a bald, bald and daring abuse of power on the part of the President of the United States,” she said.
Loeffler and Perdue have largely supported Trump in his attempts to overturn the election results. But on Sunday, Loeffler said she has not decided to join her fellow Republicans in challenging the legitimacy of Biden’s victory over Trump when Congress meets on Wednesday to confirm Biden’s 306-232 vote victory in the Electoral college.
Perdue, who was in quarantine after being exposed to a staff member with coronavirus, said he supports the challenge, although he is not a sitting senator when the vote takes place because his term has expired. Still, he told Fox News Channel he encouraged his colleagues to oppose, saying it was “something the American people are demanding right now.”
His rival, Ossoff, speaking at the Garden City rally, attacked Perdue and Loeffler for failing to defend Georgian voters, specifically saying black voters in the state were targeted.
“When the President of the United States calls the election officials of Georgia and tries to intimidate them to change the outcome of the election, to deprive the Georgian voters, to deprive the black voters in Georgia who made this state for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is a direct attack on our democracy, ”he said.
More political cover of Fortune:
- Why a key Georgia county went from red to blue –and what it means for democrats
- Pfizer, Trump and Biden: a twisted triangle that complicating relief from COVID-19
- Biden’s First 100 Days: Student loan debt isn’t going anywhere
- Congressional COVID-19 relief bill includes $ 15 billion for Broadway, small concert halls, theaters
- PPP borrowers get the tax break the IRS tried to reverse