Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election has been continually reaffirmed in the weeks since November 7 — by the Electoral College, by the courts, and by the recounts Donald Trump has requested in various states — but nevertheless, the president persists in his quest to overturn the results. Most recently, he put in a call to Georgia secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, urging him to “find” the votes necessary to reclaim the state from Biden. That’s according to the Washington Post, which was first in obtaining audio from an hour-long conversation that allegedly took place Saturday. Georgia Public Broadcasting has also obtained the recording, as has the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
On the call — which included White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, along with a handful of Trump attorneys — the president ran through a litany of conspiracy theories in an effort to bolster his argument. Insisting, erroneously, that “we have won this election in Georgia” (and “by 400,000 votes at least”), Trump warned Raffensperger: “The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry. And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.”
At this point, three separate tallies of Georgia’s approximately 5 million ballots have confirmed that Biden won the state. Initially, the Democrat’s lead was close enough to trigger a recount: Workers first went through the ballots by hand, confirming a Biden victory. At the president’s request, they then fed them back through the scanners, and found that Biden garnered 11,779 more votes than Trump did. In December, officials re-certified election results, and Raffensperger — who, it bears noting, is a Republican — condemned Trump’s efforts to sow disinformation.
On Saturday, Raffensperger reportedly reminded the president: “The challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong.”
Still, Trump reportedly remained adamant that “there’s no way I lost Georgia,” explaining that he only wants “to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.” In service of this goal, he lobbed a number of debunked conspiracy theories at Raffensperger and Raffensperger’s general counsel, Ryan Germany, also on the call. Rumors of “shredded ballots in Fulton County”; assertions that Dominion Voting Systems interfered with its machines; the claim that thousands of dead people voted; and that election workers rescanned 18,000 ballots — Raffensperger and Germany refuted all of it, with Raffensperger reminding Trump that “on social media, people can say anything.”
In the audio, the president sounds by turns desperate and cajoling; he alternates between apparent attempts to flatter Raffensperger, and seeming to threaten him. Citing the state’s congressional runoff election on Tuesday, Trump reportedly stated:
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. 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.
Whereas a failure to prove that thousands of ballots had been willfully destroyed would be tantamount to a “criminal offense,” according to Trump. “And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer.”
According to the Post, Trump’s behavior puts him in “legally questionable territory,” because asking state officials to come up with a specific number of favorable votes sure sounds like an attempt to manipulate an election outcome. Unsurprisingly, Trump has kept up his pestering of Raffensperger on Twitter, prompting the secretary of State to reply: “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out.”
Realistically speaking, it already has.