ATLANTA (AP) — President 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, a day earlier. Audio snippets of the conversation 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’s certified election results show Biden won the state’s Nov. 3 election by 11,779 votes.
The White House referred questions to Trump’s reelection 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.”
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 offense,” Trump said. “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.
Election officials across the country, as well as Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, have confirmed there was no widespread fraud in the election. Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, key battleground states crucial to Biden’s victory, have also vouched for the integrity of the elections in their states. Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the Supreme Court, which includes three Trump-nominated justices.
The Senate runoffs pit Sen. Kelly Loeffler against Democrat Raphael Warnock and Sen. David Perdue against Democrat Jon Ossoff.
Trump has persisted in attacking top Georgia Republicans over his election loss in the state, raising fears that his words could cause some Republicans to stay away from the polls.
“I believe that we will win on Tuesday because of the grassroots momentum, the unprecedented movement energy in Georgia right now,” Ossoff told CNN’s “State of the Union.” He said “it feels in Georgia like we are on the cusp of a historic victory.”
Loeffler, when asked about siding with the growing group of Senate Republicans seeking to contest the Electoral College count, said she was “looking very closely at it, and I’ve been one of the first to say, everything’s on the table.”
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was scheduled to be in Savannah on Sunday afternoon. Trump and Biden plan last-minute, in-person efforts Monday to mobilize voters after more than 3 million people cast ballots early.