President Donald Trump pressured the Georgia secretary of state in an extraordinary phone conversation Saturday to “find” enough votes to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the Southern state, news media reported Sunday.
The secretly taped conversation with fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, first reported by the Washington Post, includes threats that Raffensperger and another Georgia official could face “a big risk” if they failed to pursue his request.
“The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry,” Trump is heard saying on the tape, parts of which were aired by CNN.
“And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated,” the president says. “You’re off by hundreds of thousands of votes.”
Raffensperger is heard responding: “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong.”
Biden won the long Republican-leaning state by fewer than 12,000 votes — a margin unchanged after recounts and audits. None of Trump’s allegations have been supported.
Even a hypothetical reversal there would not deprive Biden of victory.
Word of the recording came at an extraordinary juncture, two days before special runoff elections in Georgia that will decide control of the US Senate, and three days before Congress is to certify the results of the November 3 election.
That certification, normally routine, is now being challenged by scores of lawmakers at Trump’s behest.
‘Contempt for democracy’
Ahead of the release of the audio, Trump tweeted about the call, saying that Raffensperger “was unwilling, or unable, to answer questions such as the ‘ballots under table’ scam, ballot destruction, out of state ‘voters’, dead voters, and more.”
After the release, the White House declined to comment.
Democrats were quick to condemn the call.
“Trump’s contempt for democracy is laid bare,” Representative Adam Schiff said on Twitter. “Once again. On tape.
“Pressuring an election official to ‘find’ the votes so he can win is potentially criminal, and another flagrant abuse of power by a corrupt man who would be a despot, if we allowed him. We will not.”
Some political commentators compared the call to the Watergate tapes that led to the fall of President Richard Nixon.
John Dean, a White House counsel to Nixon before turning against him, told CNN that the new tape was “very damning for the president.”
“It’s pretty ugly.”
Trump has waged an all-out fight against the election results. But scores of recounts and lawsuits, as well as a review by his own Justice Department, have failed to substantiate the claims.
At one point, he invited Republican election officials from Michigan to the White House in an apparent effort to pressure them over their vote certification.
He also pressed Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, in a separate phone call.
Raffensperger and other election officials who have rejected Trump’s entreaties, in Georgia and other states, have received death threats from his supporters.
It was not clear who released the tape, but under Georgia law Raffensperger could legally have taped it without Trump’s consent.