A leaked phone call by Donald Trump and his lawyers to Georgia’s election officials on Saturday is raising questions about the president’s attempts to interfere in the state’s elections process.
The audio of the hour-long call, which was first reported by the Washington Post between Trump, Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and others, featured several exchanges with the president urging that “11,780 votes” be found to overturn the state’s election results.
“We’re going to have an accurate number over the next two days with certified accountants, but an accurate number will be given, but it’s in the 50s of thousands, and that’s people that went to vote, and they were told they can’t vote because they’ve already been voted for, and it’s a very sad thing,” Trump said. “They walked out complaining, but the number’s large. We’ll have it for you, but it’s very, it’s much more than the number of 11,779. That’s the current margin, is only 11,779. Brad, I think you agree with that, right?”
The President later added, “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.” President-elect Joe Biden won Georgia by a total of 11,779 votes– a total certified on Dec. 14.
A semi-incoherent conversation that at times hard to follow provided a look into Trump’s desperate attempts to overturn the election results in Georgia. It also proved the president’s unwillingness to accept the certified results and asserts his intentions to try and remain in office for a second term.
“There’s no way I lost Georgia,” Trump said, a phrase he repeated on the call several times. “We won by hundreds of thousands of votes.”
A statement rebuked by Raffensperger and Georgia’s chief attorney Ryan German throughout the conversation.
“Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong,” said Raffensperger.
“We talked to the congressmen, and they were surprised. But they — I guess, there’s a person named Mr. Brainard that came to these meetings and presented data, and he said that there was dead people, I believe it was upward of 5,000. The actual number were two. Two. Two people that were dead that voted. And so, that’s wrong, that was two.”
Trump asked officials about an incident from election night with a pipe bursting at State Farm Arena. A series of events that was edited down for a viral video and later presented by Rudy Giuliani as an “example” of fraudulent activity. Raffensperger said the entire video was reviewed by WSB-TV and presented to representatives of the Trump Campaign. He also said the events were thoroughly investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and found no instances of wrongdoing. Germany backed up Raffensperger’s comments by saying, “We had our law enforcement officers talk to everyone who was, who was there after that event came to light. G.B.I. was with them as well as F.B.I. agents.”
Trump responded by challenging the process of that investigation saying, “Well, there’s no way they could — then they’re incompetent. They’re either dishonest or incompetent, OK?”
“There’s only two answers, dishonesty or incompetence. There’s just no way. Look. There’s no way. And on the other thing, I said too, there’s no way. I mean, there’s no way that these things could have been, you know, you have all these different people that, that voted but they don’t live in Georgia anymore. What was that number, Cleta? That was a pretty good number, too.”
The president moved on to accuse voting machine manufacture Dominion of removing equipment out of the state.
“That Dominion is really moving fast to get rid of their, uh, machinery,” Trump stated. “Do you know anything about that? Because that’s illegal, right?”
Germany responded by saying the accusation by Trump was false. An executive for Dominion filed a lawsuit against the Trump campaign, Rudy Giuliani, Trump adviser Sidney Powell, conservative media outlets One America News Network and Newsmax Media and right-wing website Gateway Pundit for defamation on Dec. 22.
An entire transcript and audio of the call can be found here.
A report from the New York Times said Trump may have violated laws that prohibit interference in federal or state elections, but it’s unlikely any charges would be pursued against the President.
“It seems to me like what he did clearly violates Georgia statutes,” said Leigh Ann Webster, an Atlanta criminal defense lawyer told the Times citing a state law that makes it illegal for anyone who “solicits, requests, commands, importunes or otherwise attempts to cause the other person to engage” in election fraud.”
Bob Bauer, a senior adviser to President-elect Biden, issued a statement about Trump’s call on Sunday.
“We now have irrefutable proof of a president pressuring and threatening an official of his own party to get him to rescind a state’s lawful, certified vote count and fabricate another in its place,” Bauer said. “It captures the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump’s assault on American democracy.”
A busy schedule for the President this week who’s expected to be stumping for the Republican Senate candidates in Georgia before Tuesday’s runoff election. He’ll then return to Washington to protest the certification of electoral vote by Congress on Wednesday. A win by the Democratic candidates in both races would flip control of the Senate before Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
Georgia is one of several battleground states where the Trump campaign have fought unsuccessfully to reverse the results of November’s election. Out of the more than 50 lawsuits, none of them have proven widespread voter fraud or misconduct.