Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
By Terrance Turner
Jan. 3, 2021 (Updated Jan. 22)
The President of the United States is still trying to overturn the election.
The Washington Post has released audio of a phone call yesterday between President Donald Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R). In the call, Trump repeatedly pressures Raffensperger to recalculate the vote totals in Georgia so that Trump can win the state’s 16 electoral votes. “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,” the Post reports.
“During their conversation, Trump issued a vague threat to both Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the secretary of state’s general 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.”
On the call, Trump says: “You know what you did, and you’re not reporting it. You know, that’s a criminal — that’s a criminal offense. And you know, you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer. But they are shredding ballots, in my opinion — based on what I’ve heard — and they are removing machinery, and they’re moving it as fast as they can. Both of which are criminal finds. And you can’t let it happen, and you are letting it happen.”
Trump also implies that if Raffensperger doesn’t help him invalidate the election results (which have been audited three times), it could affect the crucial Senate runoff elections on Tuesday. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, Georgia’s two Republican senators, are up for re-election in those runoffs — which will determine control of the U.S. Senate. Trump suggested that failure to help him “find” votes would affect turnout.
“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.”
The president refuses to accept that he lost the state — and the 2020 election. “There’s no way I lost Georgia,” Trump said, a phrase he repeated again and again on the call. “There’s no way. We won by hundreds of thousands of votes.” In fact, President-Elect Joe Biden won the state of Georgia by 11,779 votes. Trump needs one vote more than that to win. “So look,” Trump says on the recording. “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.”
Trump repeatedly made baseless allegations of voter fraud on the call –which have been debunked by several news outlets. Associated Press reporters Hope Yen, Jeff Amy, and Michael Balsamo fact-checked several of Trump’s claims. “We have a number of things. We have at least 2 or 3 — anywhere from 250-300,000 ballots — were dropped mysteriously into the rolls,” Trump said on the call. “Much of that had to do with Fulton County, which hasn’t been checked.”
“There’s nothing mysterious or suspect about it,” write Yen, Amy, and Balsamo. “He is describing a legitimate vote-counting process, not a suden surge of malfeasance […] Trump appears to be referring to large numbers of voters that were tabulated in the early hours of Wednesday morning after Election Day and later.” Georgia had large stacks of mail-in ballots that had to be counted after polls closed and after in-person votes were counted.
“We think that if you check the signatures — a real check of the signatures going back in Fulton County — you’ll find at least a couple of hundred thousand of forged signatures,” Trump says on the call. The AP writers push back: “That has no basis in reality. It would be impossible for anyone to have forged hundreds of thousands of signatures on mail-in ballots in Fulton County because there were only about 147,000 mail-ballots,” they state.
But it wasn’t just his doing: the Post adds that advisers were supporting Trump in this fact-free charge of fraud. “It was clear from the call that Trump has surrounded himself with aides who have fed his false perceptions that the election was stolen,” writes Washington Post reporter Amy Gardner. “When he claimed that more than 5,000 ballots were cast in Georgia in the name of dead people, Raffensperger responded forcefully: ‘The actual number was two. Two. Two people that were dead that voted.’ But White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows replied, “I can promise you there are more than that.”
Another Trump lawyer on the call, Kurt Hilbert, accused Raffensperger’s office of refusing to turn over data to assess evidence of fraud. He also claimed to know of at least 24,000 illegally cast ballots that would flip the result to Trump. There is no proof of that.
In fact, an audit in Georgia’s Cobb County was conducted just four days ago. The audit found no evidence of fraud: The Hill quoted Raffensperger as saying that there was “a 99.99% accuracy rate in performing correct signature verification procedures.” That audit is the THIRD review of the vote total in Georgia. Previously, statewide votes were recounted by hand and then by a machine. Both tallies reaffirmed the original vote count, according to Raffensperger. On the call, he repeatedly rebuffed Trump’s calls for further action and reaffirmed that the election results were legitimate.
Unfortunately, some Republican senators have chosen to disagree. A group of at least 12 GOP Senate members, led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, have pledged to challenge the presidential election results when Joe Biden is certified on Tuesday, January 6. Cruz and 11 others — Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Mike Braun (R-Ind.), and Senators-Elect Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) — will object. Cruz told Fox News this morning that he and his colleagues “will, together, object to certification in order to force the appointment of an emergency electoral commission to perform an emergency audit of the election results to assess these claims of fraud.” Yesterday, the 12 issued a statement that reads, in part:
“Congress should immediately appoint an Electoral Commission, with full investigatory and fact-finding authority, to conduct an emergency 10-day audit of the election returns in the disputed states. Once completed, individual states would evaluate the Commission’s findings and could convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed.
“Accordingly, we intend to vote on January 6 to reject the electors from disputed states as not ‘regularly given’ and ‘lawfully certified’ (the statutory requisite), unless and until that emergency 10-day audit is completed.
“We are not naïve. We fully expect most if not all Democrats, and perhaps more than a few Republicans, to vote otherwise. But support of election integrity should not be a partisan issue. A fair and credible audit-conducted expeditiously and completed well before January 20-would dramatically improve Americans’ faith in our electoral process and would significantly enhance the legitimacy of whoever becomes our next President. We owe that to the People.“
UPDATE: (Jan. 22, 2021): A bombshell new report by the New York Times alleges that a lawyer in the Justice Department colluded with Donald J. Trump to oust the acting attorney general — so they could use the Department to force Georgia lawmakers to overturn the election. The ultimate goal, of course, was giving Trump the electoral win he so desperately craved.
The Times reports: “The unassuming lawyer who worked on the plan, Jeffrey Clark, had been devising ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark.”
The plan fell through when officials in the Department learned of the plan. Upon learning of the-then president’s scheme, they threatened to resign. That ended the plot. The Times made this report after speaking with four former Trump administration officials (all of whom were anonymous due to fears of retaliation).
On CNN’s “Don Lemon Tonight”, Sen. David Cicilline was asked about this bombshell report. Cicilline was reticent to say whether this new reporting would be part of the prosecution’s case against Trump in the upcoming Senate trial. But he did acknowledge that the Senate impeachment managers are reviewing evidence already collected and new evidence that emerges as part of the case.
UPDATE (JULY 30, 2021): Today, House Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, released handwritten notes taken by then-Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard P. Donoghue of a December 27, 2020, phone call with Donald J. Trump and former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.
A summary of the call, available on House.gov, paints a damning portrait. It outlines efforts by Trump to pressure the Department of Justice to invalidate or overturn the 2020 election. It contains an exchange between former President Trump (referred to as “P”) and Mr. Rosen, who was Deputy Attorney General (“DAG”) prior to his appointment as Acting Attorney General a few days before the call. On page 4 of his notes, Donoghue wrote: “- DAG … ‘understand that the DOJ can’t + won’t snap its fingers + change the outcome of the election, doesn’t work that way.’” (p. 4)
According to Donoghue, the former president responded: “Don’t expect you to do that, just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. [Republican] Congressmen.’”
The notes indicate that Donoghue (and perhaps Rosen) pushed back against Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud: “Sir, we have done dozens of investigations, hundreds of interviews, major allegations are not supported by evidence, developed.” (p. 5) Donoghue later wrote: “Told him flat out that much of the info he is getting is false, +/or just not supported by the evidence – we look at allegations but they do not pan out.” (p. 6)