Trump Pressures Georgia Secy. of State to Help Him Cheat

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 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.

Joe Biden Elected President of the United States

By Terrance Turner

Nov. 7, 2020 (updated Nov. 15)

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. has been elected President of the United States.

The former Vice President was formally named as the winner this morning, after an agonizing four-day vote counting effort. Biden won the election after winning Pennsylvania — a result that was called by the Associated Press and NBC News at around 10:30 am. Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes gave Biden a total of 273, just above the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

The victory in Pennsylvania came after a slow but surprising surge by Biden. Donald Trump had led the state by nearly 15 percentage points days ago. But Biden steadily chipped away at that lead. Over the past few days, a steady stream of mail-in votes pushed him forward. Within the past 24 hours, Biden pulled ahead, leading with 49.6% of the vote to Trump’s 49.1%.

“I am honored and humbled by the trust the American people have placed in me and in Vice President-elect Harris,” Biden said in a statement. “With the campaign over, it’s time to put the anger and the harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation. It’s time for America to unite. And to heal. We are the United States of America. And there’s nothing we can’t do, if we do it together.”

Biden’s victory makes him the oldest man to be elected president. It makes his running mate Kamala Harris the first woman to become vice president. She is also the first Black person and first Indian to become vice president. Harris reacted to her historic achievement via tweet: “This election is about so much more than @JoeBiden or me. It’s about the soul of America and our willingness to fight for it,” she wrote.

In an intriguing note, CNN reporter Jeff Zeleny revealed that it was on this day — 48 years ago today — that Joe Biden won election to the Senate for the first time. Today, he becomes 46th President of the United States. This victory also comes after a long, long, long saga that involved laborious vote-counting. For a closer look at the process, check out the brief recap below.

Inside the Process

Nov. 4, 2020 (approx. 12:00 pm): After 16 agonizing hours of poll-watching and TV-viewing and number-crunching, we STILL don’t know. CNN’s John King has been telling us to “be patient” since last night. And we still don’t know who’s president. This election hinges on Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Nevada. If Joe Biden maintains his narrow lead in those four states, he becomes the next President of the United States.

But it’s still razor-thin. Those four states are still too close to call.

UPDATE (Nov. 4, 2020, 4:00 pm): Joe Biden has won the states of Michigan and Wisconsin. CNN reported the news this afternoon. Those two states are among the three in the “blue wall” that Biden was seeking to rebuild. His opponent, Donald Trump, won the presidency in 2016 largely due to his narrow victories in those three states. Biden sought to regain those states in his path to victory.

UPDATE (Nov. 5, 2020, 12:35 pm): The presidential race has narrowed.

Overnight, Joe Biden’s lead in the state of Arizona has narrowed. Biden maintains his lead in the states of Arizona and Nevada; if he wins those states, he wins the presidency. Significantly, however, Trump’s lead has also narrowed in some states. One of them, crucially, is Pennsylvania.

The president enjoyed a sizable lead of nearly 600,000 votes yesterday, leading 56.7% to 41.9% at midnight Wednesday. By 3:00 pm that day, however, the lead was nearly cut in half: Trump had 53.1% to Biden’s 45.6%. By 11:00 pm Wednesday, the lead shrunk significantly again: Trump led 50.8% to 47.9%. Now, on Thursday afternoon, President Trump’s lead has shrunken yet again, from 600,000 to 114,000 votes. (Trump has 3,231,147 votes at this point; Biden has 3,117,136.)

Trump now has 50.2% of the vote in Pennsylvania; Biden has 48.5%. Between midnight Wednesday and noon Thursday, the president’s lead shrunk from nearly fifteen percentage points down to 1.8. Pennsylvania is crucial. If Biden wins Pennsylvania, he wins the presidency. Trump must win Pennsylvania to win the election. As CNN’s John King put it: “Biden can win without it; the president cannot.”

According to CNN, 92% of the vote in Pennsylvania has been counted. There is now a legal battle over election ballots that were sent by or before Election Day, but arrived after the date. The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit over these ballots. Roughly 550,000 ballots in Pennsylvania have yet to be counted. Penn Secy. of State Kathy Boockvar said she expects that most of the ballots will be counted by the end of the day. “Why is it taking so long?” CNN anchor Jake Tapper asked. Boockvar answered that people “are working as quickly as they can. But as you know, these things take time.” She explained that staff are working on “reconciliation” of the votes.

UPDATE (6:50 pm): The race in Georgia has tightened dramatically. At midnight on Wednesday, Trump led by nearly ten percentage points (54.1% vs. 44.7%). By 9 am, however, the lead narrowed (50.5% vs. 48.5%). A day later, the margin once again tightened: by Thursday at 9 am, Trump had merely 49.6% to Biden’s 49.2%. Then the president’s lead again dwindled — this time to nearly nothing. With 99% of the votes in Georgia counted, Trump has 49.4% to Biden’s 49.3%. The president is only ahead by 3,486 votes.

According to CNN, the reason for these surprising shifts is that the mail-in ballots were counted last. Some states counted in different orders; Ohio, for example, counted mail-in ballots first. Pennsylvania, by contrast, counted Election Day votes first, then counted the votes cast by mail (similar to Georgia). This is how it works. This is NOT fraud (as the president has suggested).

Meanwhile, the race in Pennsylvania continues to evolve. Trump leads there by only 64,000 votes; he has 49.8% of the vote, to Biden’s 48.9%. However, the opposite is occurring in Arizona. Biden had enjoyed a comfortable lead of up to four percentage points. But the link has gradually shrunk over the past two days. Currently, Biden leads 50.5% to 48.5%.

UPDATE (Nov. 7): Everything has changed.

What had been a close race in Georgia became a virtual dead heat — Biden with 49.4% of the vote, Trump with 49.4%. But Biden has the edge, with just over 1,600 votes (as of this writing). On Wednesday at midnight, Trump led by nearly ten percent of the vote (54.1% to Biden’s 44.7%). But by 9 am, the lead had narrowed (50.5% to 48.5%). That lead continued to shrink the next morning. By 9 am Thursday, Biden trailed by less than half a percentage point. The race was 49.6% to 49.2%. By 6 pm, it was 49.4 to 49.3. Slowly but surely, the lead shifted to Biden.

The “Keystone State” Hands Biden Victory; Jubilance Ensues

Biden’s narrow win in Georgia surprised many observers. But it was Pennsylvania that would hand him the presidency.

It was a fitting win, given that Biden was actually born in Pennsylvania. Biden, 77, was born in Scranton, PA, in 1942. He was the first of five children, according to AZ Central. The family didn’t move to Delaware until 1953. But that is where Biden has made his home. Now, he has a new home: the White House.

Reaction to the victory has been resounding and widespread. Celebrations have broke out across the country. According to ABC 13 Houston, “Just after The Associated Press and other news organizations declared that former Vice President Joe Biden beat President Donald Trump, fireworks erupted in Atlanta. In Maine, a band playing at a farmers’ market broke into the ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’.”

“Neighbors ran out of their homes in Manhattan and assembled into an unplanned street party, whooping, dancing and high-fiving strangers. In Louisville, Kentucky, Biden supporters gathered on their lawns to toast with champagne. In Harlem, they danced in the streets, banged cowbells and honked their car horns.” Thousands gathered to celebrate in Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital. Massive crowds gathered on the other side of the country, in San Francisco. People were literally dancing in the streets.

CNN commentator Nia-Malika Henderson pointed out that there was a sense of relief and happiness in the air. But she also noted the historic nature of the win — and its significance to her, as a Black woman. “I’m not that old [she’s 46], but I grew up at a time when I couldn’t even find black dolls, find books with, you know, reflections of black kids growing up,” she said. Now, a black (and brown) woman is Vice-President-Elect of the United States.

“I’m so excited to see a black woman in the White House, a brown woman in the White house, an Indian American woman in the White House,” said singer Lizzo, who campaigned for Biden in Michigan. “I am so ready to see if America can hold itself accountable.”

That night, both Biden and Harris gave addresses that matched the moment. Harris, dressed in suffragette white, addressed the crowd first. She opened by citing the legendary John Lewis: “Democracy is not a state; it is an act,” Harris began. “America’s democracy is not guaranteed. It is only as strong as our willingness to fight for it.” She thanked those who waited in lines to vote. “And when our very democracy was on the ballot in this election, with the very soul of America at stake,” she said, “you ushered in a new day for America.”

Harris lauded Biden as “a healer and uniter, a tested and steady hand”. She described him as “a guy with a big heart, who loves with abandon”. She noted that she first got to know him as the father of her friend (and Biden’s late son) Beau Biden. Harris and Beau Biden simultaneously served as attorneys general for their respective states (California and Delaware, respectively).

Harris thanked her husband and family, remembering her mother (who immigrated to the United States at just 19) in a poignant moment. And she commended women of all stripes and colors, with a special shoutout to one group: “Black women, who are so often overlooked, but have so often proven to be the backbone of our democracy.” Harris noted that many young girls (especially Black and brown ones) were watching. And she gave them hope for the future: “But while I might be the first woman in this position, I will not be the last.”

“I will strive to be a vice president like Joe was to Barack Obama: loyal, honest and prepared,” Harris went on. She vowed her running mate would be “a Commander-in-Chief who respects our troops, and a President for all Americans.” With that, she introduced the President-Elect of the United States: Joe Biden.

Biden jogged onto the stage, situated in front of a drive-through rally on the Christina River in northern Delaware. He began by recognizing familiar faces in the crowd, as well as his family. He devoted a portion of the speech to his wife, Dr. Jill Biden. But Biden also thanked election officials and poll workers who risked their lives in the midst of the pandemic.

At the outset of his speech, Biden struck a familiar, unifying tone: “I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but unify — who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States.” Biden stressed the need to unite as Americans: “We may be opponents, but we’re not enemies. We’re Americans.”

“I’m proud of the campaign we ran,” he said. He took pride in the coalition that helped him win: “Democrats, Republicans, independents, progressives, moderates, conservatives, young, old, urban, suburban, rural, gay, straight, transgender, White, Latino, Asian, Native American.” But he reserved special thanks to the Black voters who helped seal his victory: “Especially in those moments where this campaign was at its lowest, the African American community stood up again for me. You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours.”

In a move that would’ve been impossible for his predecessor, Biden reached out to those who didn’t vote for him. “To those who voted for Donald Trump: I understand the disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of times myself. But now, let’s give each other a chance,” he said. He added: “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again, and to make progress.” Speaking of progress, Biden announced a policy directive aimed at helping Americans cope with the coronavirus: Biden closed by saying he would announce on Monday a group of scientists and experts as transition advisers who would help combat COVID-19.

In a moving moment that reflected his Catholic faith, Biden said: “The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season — a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow. And a time to heal. This is the time to heal in America.”

Biden concluded: “I’ve always believed we can define America in one word: possibilities. That in America, everyone should be given the opportunity to go as far as their dreams and God-given ability will take them […] With full hearts and steady hands, with faith in America and in each other, with a love of country — and a thirst for justice — let us be the nation that we know we can be.

A nation united.

A nation strengthened.

A nation healed.”

UPDATE (Nov. 13, 2020): It’s official.

Politico is now reporting that every state has been called in the 2020 presidential race.

President-Elect Joe Biden has won the state of Arizona, Politico says. Biden has also won the state of Georgia. With these two victories, Biden has flipped two historically Republican red states. The last Democratic president to win Georgia was Bill Clinton in 1992. The last Democrat to win Arizona was also Clinton, in 1996.

Biden’s win in Arizona was razor-close. Politico reports that the final count in Arizona gave Biden 49.4% of the vote to President Trump’s 49.1%. (That’s roughly 1,670,000 votes to Trump’s 1,659,000.) 99% of the vote in Arizona is in, making the final tally unlikely to change substantially. In Georgia, the results are similarly close. Biden wins with 49.5% of the vote; Trump has 49.2%. That equates to roughly 2,472,000 votes for Biden and about 2,458,000 for Trump.

The New York Times confirmed the news today, adding that President Trump won North Carolina. (Georgia and North Carolina were the last states to be called.) However, Trump’s win in North Carolina gives him merely 232 votes in the Electoral College. Biden has 306. Ironically, that’s the same total Trump had in 2016. Tellingly, Biden flipped five states that Trump won four years ago: Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Mr. Trump did not flip any state that Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

UPDATE (Nov. 30): Biden’s wins in Arizona and Wisconsin were confirmed by election officials today, confirming a victory that is readily apparent to virtually everyone (except, perhaps, the current president). That adds to a historic vote total that Biden achieved last week, on Nov. 24:

Biden’s vote total now exceeds his opponent’s by a historic margin of more than 6 million votes. Joseph Biden has 80 million votes — the most ever by a presidential candidate. He won.

UPDATE (Dec. 14, 2020): It’s official. Joe Biden reached the required 270 Electoral College votes today. This seals his victory in the 2020 presidential election. He WILL be the next President of the United States when he takes the oath of office in January 2021.