The Jolt: White House called Brad Raffensperger 18 times before he took Donald Trump’s call

12/14/2020 —  Atlanta, Georgia — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger during a press conference at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Monday, December 14, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer /

Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

12/14/2020 — Atlanta, Georgia — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger during a press conference at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Monday, December 14, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer /

NBC News reports that before the pair hooked up on Saturday, the White House switchboard had made 18 previous attempts to have President Donald Trump speak with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger since the Nov. 3 election.

Meanwhile, Raffensperger told ABC News this morning that he resisted previous overtures because of a lawsuit the president’s re-election campaign (and the Georgia GOP) had filed against him, challenging the Georgia results.

Asked if he intended to open up a criminal investigation into whether Trump violated state laws barring interference in determining election results, Raffensperger told ABC News this:

“I understand that the Fulton County district attorney wants to look at it. Maybe that's the appropriate venue for it to go."

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, said he would begin the process of censuring the president in the House. And some Democrats have again begun using the word “impeachment” -- a tedious exercise that’s unlikely with Trump on his way out of office.

But a Johnson move to censure Trump highlight’s how problematic the phone call was, and the matter could follow the president even after he leaves office.

On the GOP side, cable news has become a visual demonstration of the split that Trump has imposed on Georgia Republicans with his demand that Raffensperger find 11,780 votes for him – and overturn the results of the Georgia contest.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan this morning became the first Republican statewide elected official to defend Georgia’s secretary of state. Duncan said this about Trump’s call on CNN:

“I am 100% certified to tell you that it was inappropriate. And it certainly did not help the situation." Geoff Duncan [said]. “It was based on misinformation, it was based on, you know, all types of theories that have been debunked and disproved over the course of the last 10 weeks."

…"I'm certainly glad to have him on the other end of that call, to stand true and to follow the letter of the law," he said. “I was proud to hear his voice, I was proud to hear his answers, although they weren't what the President wanted to hear or anybody else on that side of the call wanted to hear."

On WGAU (1380AM) in Athens, Gov. Brian Kemp was asked by host Tim Bryant what he thought of Trump’s phone call. Said Kemp:

“I would tell people not to get distracted by that. There's been a lot of distraction over the last several weeks. What we need to stay focused on politically, in my mind, is these Senate runoffs. Republicans need to have a huge turnout to win this election tomorrow. I think it's pretty clear in the data that the Democrats have done a good job of getting the early vote out."

Kemp, who also has been a target of Trump’s ire since the November election, said he was still undecided about whether to attend tonight’s Trump rally in Dalton. “We’ve got a lot going on, on the COVID front. Vaccine distribution, our hospital situation is really taxed right now, and I have a busy day at the Capitol,” he said.

(The governor also said state lawmakers should expect no budget cuts when he rolls out his 2021 agenda next week.)

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who’s term expired on Sunday and who is depending on a Trump-inspired voter base to return him to Washington, condemned the decision by Raffensperger’s office to record the conversation – and release it. Said Perdue on Fox News:

“I don't think that it's going to affect our election. I'm still shocked that a member of the Republican party would tape a sitting president and then leak that. That's disgusting in my view."

That’s a line first broached by Georgia GOP chair David Shafer, who posted the following Twitter message:

“Mind boggling that ⁦‪@GaSecofState⁩ and his lawyers would secretly record and release a confidential settlement conference with the President. I have made open records requests to the Secretary of State which have never been acknowledged or answered. This is lawlessness."

Actually, Trump himself was the first to mention the Saturday phone conversation, on Twitter:

I spoke to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger yesterday about Fulton County and voter fraud in Georgia. 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!

Shortly before 10:30 a.m., Raffensperger responded on Twitter saying Trump was wrong. “The truth will come out.” It was no empty threat. Marc Caputo of Politico Playbook has a behind-the-scenes look at how the secret recording was brought to light.

It started on Saturday when Trump and his team reached out to talk to Raffensperger, who, according to an adviser, felt he would be unethically pressured by the president. Raffensperger had been here before: In November he accused Trump ally and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham of improperly exhorting him to meddle in the election to help Trump win Georgia. Graham later denied it.

So why not record the call with the president, Raffensperger's advisers thought, if nothing else for fact-checking purposes. “This is a man who has a history of reinventing history as it occurs," one of them told Playbook. “So if he's going to try to dispute anything on the call, it's nice to have something like this, hard evidence, to dispute whatever he's claiming about the secretary. Lindsey Graham asked us to throw out legally cast ballots. So yeah, after that call, we decided maybe we should do this."

Georgia Republicans should also remember that, in addition to an endorsement from Trump, Brian Kemp’s 2018 campaign for governor was also boosted by the secret recording of a conversation between Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who faced Kemp in a GOP primary runoff, and third-place finisher Clay Tippens.


The AJC has posted the entire conversation between President Trump and Secretary of State Brad Raffensper here. The Washington Post has a transcript here. We’ve picked out a few exchanges that need highlighting:

--Trump cited the size of his rallies as proof of a victory in Georgia:

“In Georgia, we set a record with a massive amount of votes. And they say it's not possible to have lost Georgia.

“And I could tell you by our rallies. I could tell you by the rally I'm having on Monday night, the place, they already have lines of people standing out front waiting. It's just not possible to have lost Georgia. It's not possible."

-- The president is in a different information universe that the one occupied by the secretary of state:

Raffensperger: Mr. President, the problem you have with social media, they — people can say anything.

Trump: Oh this isn't social media. This is Trump media. It's not social media. It's really not; it's not social media. I don't care about social media. I couldn't care less. Social media is Big Tech.

-- Democrat Stacey Abrams is renting space in the president’s head, and Gov. Brian Kemp will probably have Trump after him for some time to come:

“Stacey Abrams is laughing about you. She's going around saying these guys are dumber than a rock. What she's done to this party is unbelievable, I tell you. And I only ran against her once. And that was with a guy named Brian Kemp, and I beat her.

“And if I didn't run, Brian wouldn't have had even a shot, either in the general or in the primary. He was dead, dead as a doornail. He never thought he had a shot at either one of them. What a schmuck I was. But that's the way it is."


Monica Lewinsky may have already delivered the Tweet of the week: “[I]’m generally opposed to someone being surreptitiously taped on a phone call...but not this one, folks!”


Three U.S. House members from Georgia, all Republican, have said they plan to join roughly 100 colleagues in disputing Joe Biden’s win in certain states when Congress meets to tally Electoral College votes on Wednesday.

U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Cassville, Jody Hice of Monroe and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Rome all say that they have questions about the legitimacy of Biden’s win in Georgia and other states.

But that argument has become more difficult for them after a GOP colleague, Texas Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican, made a strategic move during Sunday’s kick-off session. Roy’s question to his colleagues: If Biden’s win in Georgia and five other states isn’t legitimate, then the House members elected on the same ballot shouldn’t be seated either, right?

In the end, Hice, Loudermilk Greene voted to seat themselves (only two conservatives from other states voted against the resolution). Meaning that, at least when it comes to their own races, they think the vote counting in Georgia was fine.


Another plot point from Sunday: Marjorie Taylor Greene reportedly entered into a brief dispute with House Democrats’ staff after refusing to wear a mask on the floor during the quorum call. Her office said the incident was overblown, but at least two reporters witnessed it and chronicled the dust-up on Twitter.

Your Washington insider noted that Greene wore her “Trump Won” mask for later votes and her swearing in. But whenever she chatted with a colleague, she pulled it down below her nose and mouth.


We caught up with Stacey Abrams, widely expected to run for governor again in 2022, at a Riverdale barber shop where she spoke to patrons about the importance of voting in Tuesday’s Senate runoffs.

Asked afterward what she made of any Republican-led effort to end no-excuse absentee balloting when the Legislature convenes next Monday, Abrams didn’t mince words:

“As long as it was a guarantee for their victories, it was a completely useful system," she said. “Now that they realize that the diversity of Georgia means more people will use that operation, they are deeply concerned about it. And I think it's both hypocritical, I think it is a reflection of the paucity of ideas that they have. When the way to win an election is not to come up with better ways to serve Georgia — like expanding Medicaid, like expanding criminal justice reform — but instead is focusing on, ‘how do we take away the right to vote?'"