Trump demands Georgia secretary of state 'find' enough votes to hand him win
Trump repeatedly made the request during an hour-long phone call Saturday.
In an hour-long phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Saturday, President Donald Trump falsely claimed it was "not possible" for him to have lost in The Peach State, and asked the secretary to "find" the exact number of votes he would need -- just one vote over the margin that he trailed President-elect Joe Biden by -- so he could be declared the winner of an election that three separate counts confirmed he lost.
“The people of Georgia are angry. The people of the country are angry, and there's nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you've recalculated,” Trump said on the call. "All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have... Fellas, I need 11,000 votes, give me a break."
Raffensperger, a Republican who supported the president's reelection but has maintained Georgia's election was legitimate and accurate, rebuffed the president's allegations, saying the data the president is citing to claim tens of thousands of illegal votes, "is wrong."
Despite the president's persistence, the secretary plainly stated, "We believe that we do have an accurate election."
"No, no, you don't. You don't have -- you don't have -- not even close. You've got -- you're off by hundreds of thousands of votes," Trump claimed in response.
The audio of what appears to be the entire phone call, which was first obtained and reported on by The Washington Post but also independently obtained by ABC News, is just the latest example of Trump attempting to overturn the results of an election he lost. The president and his allies have lost more than 50 lawsuits contesting the outcome in several battleground states, and the conspiracy theories regarding the election, which Trump relitigated with respect to Georgia during this phone call, have been repeatedly disputed and debunked by state and local election officials, as well as former Attorney General William Barr.
Democrats were quick to react to news of the call.
Dick Durbin, the second-highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said Trump's "disgraceful effort to intimidate an elected official into deliberately changing and misrepresenting the legally confirmed vote totals in his state strikes at the heart of our democracy and merits nothing less than a criminal investigation."
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who's been made into a boogeyman among the GOP, said the phone call was an "impeachable offense."
In Savannah, Georgia, while headlining a rally for the state's Democratic Senate candidates competing in dual runoff elections Tuesday, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said it was an "abuse of power."
"Have y’all heard about that recorded conversation? Well, it was, yes, certainly the voice of desperation. Most certainly that. And it was a bald, bald-faced, bold abuse of power by the president of the United States," she said.
The White House declined to comment on the call. Also heard speaking on it were Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and Ryan Germany, the general counsel serving in Raffensperger's office.
The president is headlining a rally in Georgia on Monday, the eve of the runoff elections that will determine which party controls the Senate for the first two years of Biden's administration. If Democrats win both races, the partisan make-up will be 50-50, including the independents who caucus with Democrats, and Harris would serve as the tie-breaking vote.
But fears among Republicans that Trump's rhetoric about the election will suppress GOP turnout are real, as ABC News has previously reported, and on this call, the president himself acknowledged that supporters of his may sit out the election altogether.
"You have a big election coming up... and 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 gonna vote negative because they hate what you did to the president," Trump said. "You would be respected if -- really respected if this thing could be straightened out before the election."
An analysis of votes that have already been cast via early voting and absentee by mail ballots, which was done by Georgia Votes using the secretary of state's office's data, shows that the five congressional districts with the highest turnout, relative to the November election, so far are all represented by Democrats. The district in second to last place is one of the most conservative in the state, the northwest 14th Congressional District, where Trump's rally will be on Monday.
Trump also accused Raffensperger of engaging in criminal acts, baselessly claiming election workers were “shredding ballots” -- an allegation he says is based on his opinion and what he’s heard -- and alleged the secretary was covering it up.
"It's more illegal for you than it is for them because you know what they did and you're not reporting it -- that's the -- you know, that's a criminal, that's a criminal offense. And, you know you can't let that happen. That's -- that's a big risk to you and Ryan (Germany), your lawyer, that's a big risk," Trump said during the call.
But it wasn't just the secretary who earned the ire of the president. Trump hasn't hesitated to publicly attack Gov. Brian Kemp, another Republican who supported Trump's reelection, but on this phone call, he went even further, calling himself a "schmuck" for endorsing his candidacy in the 2018 gubernatorial election.
"You've created the population of Georgia so badly. You -- between you and your governor, who wouldn't -- who was down at 21 -- he was down 21 points, and like a schmuck, I endorsed them and he got elected. But I will tell you, he's a disaster," Trump said on the call.
He went after both Raffensperger and Kemp again at the end of the call, saying, "I think we should come to a resolution of this before the election, otherwise you're gonna have you didn't have people just not voting. They don't want to vote. They hate the state. They hate the governor, and they hate the Secretary of State, I will tell you that right now. And the only people that like you are people that will never vote for you, you know that Brad, right?
ABC News has reached out to Kemp's office for comment, but has not heard back.
ABC News' Briana Stewart, Elizabeth Thomas, Trish Turner and Mariam Khan contributed reporting.
This report was featured in the Monday, Jan 4, 2020, episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.
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