- Dec 24, 2020
President Trump urged fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in an extraordinary one-hour phone call Saturday that election experts said raised legal questions.
The Washington Post obtained a recording of the conversation in which Trump alternately berated Raffensperger, tried to flatter him, begged him to act and threatened him with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue his false claims, at one point warning that Raffensperger was taking “a big risk.”
Throughout the call, Raffensperger and his office’s general counsel rejected his assertions, explaining that Trump is relying on debunked conspiracy theories and that President-elect Joe Biden’s 12,779-vote victory in Georgia was fair and accurate.
Trump dismissed their arguments.
“The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry,” he said. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.”
Raffensperger responded: “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong.”
At another point, Trump said: “So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.”
The rambling, at times incoherent conversation, offered a remarkable glimpse of how consumed and desperate the president remains about his loss, unwilling or unable to let the matter go and still believing he can reverse the results in enough battleground states to remain in office.
During their conversation, Trump issued a vague threat to both Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the secretary of state’s legal counsel, suggesting that if they don’t find that thousands of ballots in Fulton County have been illegally destroyed to block investigators — an allegation for which there is no evidence — they would be subject to criminal liability.
“That’s a criminal offense,” he said. “And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer.”
Trump also told Raffensperger that failure to act by Tuesday would jeopardize the political fortunes of David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, Georgia’s two Republican senators whose fate in that day’s runoff elections will determine control of the U.S. Senate.
Trump said he plans to talk about the fraud on Monday, when he is scheduled to lead an election eve rally in Dalton, Ga. — a message that could further muddle the efforts of Republicans to get their voters out.
“You have a big election coming up and because of what you’ve done to the president -- you know, the people of Georgia know that this was a scam,” Trump said. “Because of what you’ve done to the president, a lot of people aren’t going out to vote, and a lot of Republicans are going to vote negative, because they hate what you did to the president. Okay? They hate it. And they’re going to vote. And you would be respected, really respected, if this can be straightened out before the election.”
Throughout the call, Trump detailed an exhaustive list of disinformation and conspiracy theories to support his position. He claimed without evidence that he had won Georgia by at least a half-million votes. He floated a barrage of assertions that have been investigated and disproven: that thousands of dead people voted; that an Atlanta election worker scanned 18,000 forged ballots three times each and “100 percent” were for Biden; that thousands more voters living out of state came back to Georgia illegally just to vote in the election.
“So tell me, Brad, what are we going to do? We won the election, and it’s not fair to take it away from us like this,” Trump said. “And it’s going to be very costly in many ways. And I think you have to say that you’re going to reexamine it, and you can reexamine it, but reexamine it with people that want to find answers, not people who don’t want to find answers.”
Trump did most of the talking on the call. He was angry and impatient, calling Raffensperger a “child” and “either dishonest or incompetent” for not believing there was widespread ballot fraud in Atlanta — and twice calling himself a “schmuck” for endorsing Kemp, whom Trump holds in particular contempt for not embracing his claims of fraud.