U.S. President Donald Trump badgered and pleaded with Georgia’s election chief to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state, suggesting in a telephone call that the official “find” enough votes to hand Trump the victory.
The conversation Saturday was the latest step in an unprecedented effort by a sitting president to pressure a state official to reverse the outcome of a free and fair election that he lost. The renewed intervention and the persistent and unfounded claims of fraud by the first president to lose reelection in almost 30 years come nearly two weeks before Trump leaves office and two days before twin runoffs in Georgia that will determine control of the Senate.
Trump confirmed in a tweet Sunday that he had spoken with Georgia’s secretary of state, Republican Brad Raffensperger, who tweeted that claims Trump made during the call were untrue.
A full transcript and audio from the call were posted online by The Washington Post. A recording of the call was later obtained by The Associated Press from a person who was on the call.
The president, who has refused to accept his loss to the Democratic president-elect, is heard telling Raffensperger at one point: “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.”
Georgia certified election results showing that Biden won the state’s Nov. 3 election by 11,779 votes.
The White House referred questions to Trump’s re-election campaign, which did not respond Sunday to an emailed request for comment. Raffensperger’s office did not respond to a text message seeking comment.
Biden senior adviser Bob Bauer said the recording was “irrefutable proof” of Trump pressuring and threatening an official in his own party to “rescind a state’s lawful, certified vote count and fabricate another in its place.”
“It captures the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump’s assault on American democracy,” Bauer said.
At another point in the conversation, Trump appeared to threaten Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the secretary of state’s legal counsel, by suggesting both could be criminally liable if they failed to find that thousands of ballots in Fulton County had been illegally destroyed. There is no evidence to support Trump’s claim.
“That’s a criminal offence,” Trump says. “And you can’t let that happen.”
Trump has repeatedly attacked how Raffensperger ran Georgia’s elections, claiming without evidence that the state’s 16 electoral votes were wrongly given to Biden.
“He has no clue!” Trump tweeted of Raffensperger, saying the state official “was unwilling, or unable” to answer questions about a series of claims about ballot handling and voters that have been debunked or shot down by judges and election authorities.
Raffensperger’s Twitter response: “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out.”