- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 3, 2021

President Trump pleaded with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a weekend phone call to “find” enough votes for the president to win the state, which Democrat Joseph R. Biden captured in the Nov. 3 election, according to an audio recording of the call.

“The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Raffensperger, a Republican. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.”

In the hourlong phone call, the president cited a “rumor” that voting machines in Georgia were moved and ballots were shredded, “based on my opinion.”

When Mr. Raffensperger rejected those claims, Mr. Trump called him a “child” and “either dishonest or incompetent” for not validating accusations of widespread election fraud.

“All I want to do is this — I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Mr. Trump said in the recording, which was obtained by The Washington Post and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Because we won the state. There’s no way I lost Georgia. There’s no way. We won by hundreds of thousands of votes.”

Mr. Raffensperger responded by saying, “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong.”

The state has certified Mr. Biden’s win by 11,779 votes out of nearly 5 million ballots cast.

Democrats decried Mr. Trump’s actions. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, said the president “may have subjected himself to additional criminal liability” by threatening Georgia officials with vague criminal consequences if they didn’t comply with his demands.

“Either he is unwell and really believes he won in Georgia despite all evidence to the contrary, or he knows better and thinks he can use his office to pressure state officials to change the outcome of the election,” Mr. Nadler said. “Either way, he remains profoundly unfit for office. The burden now falls to men and women of good conscience to contain the damage Donald Trump seems intent on causing on his way out the door.”

Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the phone call was “among the most despicable abuses of power of his long list — possibly criminal, morally repugnant, virulently anti-democratic and dangerous to our democracy.”

Bob Bauer, a senior adviser to Mr. Biden, said in a statement: “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. It captures the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump’s assault on American democracy.”

As the president had his latest confrontation with Georgia’s election officials, a growing number of Republicans in Congress were planning to object to certification of Mr. Biden’s votes from the state and a half-dozen other battleground states that the Democrat won.

Congress will vote Wednesday on whether to accept both candidates’ electoral vote totals, a process that is normally routine but looms as a bitter partisan fight this year. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is leading a group of Republican lawmakers calling for the appointment of an emergency bipartisan commission to review the election results in contested states within 10 days.

The president also demanded during the Saturday call that Georgia election officials reverse the presidential results before two runoff elections Tuesday that will determine control of the Senate this year. Mr. Trump is scheduled to campaign for Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in Georgia on Monday night, and he told Mr. Raffensperger that he intends to raise more evidence of election fraud at the rally.

“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,” Mr. Trump said. “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. OK? 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.”

The president told Mr. Raffensperger, “You should want to have an accurate election. And you’re a Republican.”

Mr. Raffensperger replied, “We believe we do have an accurate election.”

“No, no, no you don’t,” the president said. “Not even close.”

At another point during the call, the president warned Mr. Raffensperger and his office’s general counsel, Ryan Germany, that they were risking criminal liability if they upheld what Mr. Trump termed an “illegal” election.

“You know what they did, and you’re not reporting it,” Mr. Trump told them. “That’s a criminal offense, and you know you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer.”

The White House had no comment on the call. Mr. Trump said in a post on Twitter that Mr. 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.

“He has no clue!” the president said.

Mr. Raffensperger replied on Twitter, “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out.”

Some other Republicans said Mr. Trump crossed a line in the phone call.

“Pretty much everything the President said on this call was wrong, factually and morally,” tweeted former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, a Republican. “And good for Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger.”

Election lawyer Cleta Mitchell, who was with the president on the call, said later in a statement that Mr. Raffensperger’s office “has made many statements over the past two months that are simply not correct and everyone involved with the efforts on behalf of the President’s election challenge has said the same thing: show us your records on which you rely to make these statements that our numbers are wrong.”

Mr. Raffensperger’s office said it had investigated and found zero cases of unregistered voters casting ballots. His spokesman said the office was investigating “a couple” of suspected cases of votes being cast on behalf of dead people.

The “suitcases” under a table at a ballot-counting center in Fulton County have been identified by election officials as the standard boxes to transport ballots. State officials said no fraud was involved.

Mr. Perdue and Mrs. Loeffler are facing runoff elections Tuesday against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.

State officials, including Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, have certified Mr. Biden’s victory in Georgia.

The president and his supporters argue that the Georgia contest on Nov. 3 had widespread fraud and corruption. Mr. Raffensperger noted on Fox News on Saturday that the election results were verified by recounts.

“We did an audit of the race. President Trump still lost,” he said. “Then we did a full recount. President Trump still lost. … People have to realize that you have to get out and vote, and that’s how you win elections.”

The president tweeted that Republicans in Georgia “must be careful of the political corruption in Fulton County, which is rampant.”

He said Mr. Kemp and his “puppet” Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan “have done less than nothing.”

“They are a disgrace to the great people of Georgia!” the president tweeted.

“Why haven’t they done signature verification in Fulton County, Georgia,” the president asked. “Why haven’t they deducted all of the dead people who ‘voted’, illegals who voted, non Georgia residents who voted, and tens of thousands of others who voted illegally, from the final vote tally?”

He said, “Just a small portion of these votes give US a big and conclusive win in Georgia. Have they illegally destroyed ballots in Fulton County? After many weeks, we don’t yet even have a judge to hear this large scale voter fraud case. The only judge seems to be Stacey’s [Abrams] sister!”

Twitter flagged the president’s tweets about the Georgia election with a warning that his claims of fraud are “disputed.”

The president also spoke Saturday to about 300 state legislators from the battlegrounds of Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia. The Zoom call was hosted by Got Freedom, a nonprofit that is urging the legislators to review evidence of fraud and to consider decertifying the election results in the states Mr. Biden won.

The plan by many Republican lawmakers to object to Mr. Biden’s electoral votes is dividing the Republican Party. Another group of House Republicans, including Reps. Ken Buck of Colorado and Chip Roy of Texas, said Sunday that they won’t go along with the plan. They said Congress lacks “discretion to disqualify electors based on its own finding.”

They said it’s unconstitutional to “insert Congress into the center of the presidential election process” and that rejecting states’ electoral votes “would amount to stealing power from the people and the states.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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