Outgoing United States President Donald Trump persuaded fellow Republican and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find him 11,780 votes” to overturn election results in the state, The Washington Post reported on Monday, citing a phone call between the two. President-elect Joe Biden had been confirmed as the winner of Georgia in November after a recount of ballots.
In a recording of the one-hour long phone call, accessed by the newspaper, Trump also threatened Raffensperger with criminal consequences if he refused to back his claims. Trump even told the top Georgia official that he was “taking a big risk”.
Raffensperger tried to explain to Trump that he was relying on conspiracy theories and that Biden’s victory in Georgia was fair. “The people of Georgia are angry, the people of the country are angry,” Trump said in response. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, that you’ve recalculated.”
The Georgia official told Trump that the data he had about the votes was inaccurate. Trump, in turn, said that he just wanted to “find 11,780 votes”. “...which is one more than we have,” he added. “Because we won the state.”
Trump added “So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.” He kept repeating throughout the call “there’s no way I lost Georgia”.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and lawyer Cleta Mitchell were also on the call. Raffensperger’s office had recorded the call but he instructed his staff members not to release it unless Trump misrepresented the conversation or criticised state officials, The New York Times reported.
Trump did criticise Raffensperger on Twitter. “I spoke to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger yesterday about Fulton County and voter fraud in Georgia,” he said. “He 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!”
Raffensperger responded: “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out.” The call recording was released hours after Raffensperger’s rebuttal.
The White House has refused to comment on the development, according to CNN. Democrat leaders, on the other hand, lashed out at Trump for the phone call. “It was a bald, baldfaced, bold abuse of power by the president of the United States,” Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said, according to NYT.
Senator Richard J Durbin from Illinois said the call was “more than a pathetic, rambling, delusional rant”. He called Trump “unhinged and dangerous”.
The US Electoral College had last month confirmed Biden’s victory in the presidential elections, closing the doors for Trump to challenge the result. Biden is set to take charge as president on January 20.
The Trump campaign and its supporters have tried and failed to convince judges of election irregularities in Michigan, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada, all of which were critical to Biden’s victory. A request for recount in Wisconsin also confirmed on November 29 that Biden had won the key swing state by a margin of about 20,600 votes.