Trump demands Georgia elections official overturn his defeat in hourlong call

‘The data you have is wrong,’ Raffensperger replies

President Donald Trump badgered and berated Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a call Saturday, demanding that he “find” votes to reverse his election defeat in Georgia — the latest example of the extraordinary pressure he’s exerted on state Republican officials ahead of critical runoffs for control of the U.S. Senate.

Raffensperger refused demands from Trump to overturn the election results, telling him that the “data you have is wrong” as he pushed back on Trump’s sham theories of “stuffed ballot boxes” that the president said would reverse Joe Biden’s roughly 12,000-vote victory in Georgia.

“Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break. We have that in spades already,” Trump said, suggesting more legal action. “Or we can keep it going. But that’s not fair to the voters of Georgia.”

A recording of the roughly hourlong call was obtained on Sunday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was confirmed by two people involved in the conversation. It was disclosed a day before Trump is set to stage a rally in northwest Georgia for U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

ExploreRECORDING OF CALL: Trump, Raffensperger disagree over Georgia votes

Throughout the call, Trump invoked debunked conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud and continued to urge Raffensperger to reverse the election outcome, warning that it could undermine Republican chances of maintaining control of the Senate.

“We won this election in Georgia based on all of this. There’s nothing wrong with saying that, Brad. The people of Georgia are angry and these numbers are going to be repeated on Monday night,” Trump said, adding: “There’s nothing wrong with saying that you’ve recalculated.”

State and federal elections officials have said there’s no evidence of widespread irregularities in Georgia and other battleground states, and courts at every level have dismissed challenges from Trump’s campaign and its allies seeking to overturn Georgia’s close election.

ExploreReaction to Trump's call: Democrats denounce the call as criminal, GOP mostly silent

At one point in the rambling conversation, the president said that “I just want to find 11,780 votes” – one more than the vote gap between him and Biden, who became the first Democratic presidential nominee to win the state since 1992.

“It’s pretty clear that we won. We won pretty substantially. And you even see it by rally size,” Trump said, later accusing one of Raffensperger’s attorneys of being a “Never Trumper.”

“There’s just no way. Look, there’s no way. There’s no way.”

Raffensperger, sounding exasperated, responded forcefully at one point in the back-and-forth: “Well, Mr. President, the challenge you have is the data you have is wrong.”

 President Donald Trump heads to Georgia as GOP doubts over elections persist. FILE PHOTO (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
President Donald Trump heads to Georgia as GOP doubts over elections persist. FILE PHOTO (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The call triggered outrage among Democrats, and some Republicans, who viewed it as Trump’s attempt to invalidate the will of roughly 2.5 million Georgia voters. David Worley, a Democrat and member of the state Election Board in Georgia, asked for an investigation late Sunday to see if the phone call violated state law.

Some legal experts said Trump could potentially be prosecuted under Georgia law that bans the solicitation of election fraud by urging Raffensperger to “find” votes to sway the outcome of the race. Anthony Kreis, a constitutional law professor at Georgia State University, said Trump “wanted to use his position of influence and authority to alter official election results.”

“The law is designed precisely to prevent this kind of undue pressure on our elected officials,” he said.

There was also sharp political fallout on the campaign trail. At a rally in Savannah for Senate Democratic candidates, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said Trump’s recording put on display his “voice of desperation.”

“It was a bald-faced, bold abuse of power by the president of the United States,” she said.

‘An accurate election’

In the conversation, Trump repeatedly dismissed state elections officials who sought to present facts refuting his claims. Near the end of phone call, Raffensperger interjected that Trump was falling victim to false conspiracy theories he’s seen on Twitter.

“Mr. President, the problem you have with social media is that people can say anything.”

“No, this isn’t social media. This is Trump media,” the president responded. “You should want to have an accurate election and you’re a Republican.”

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

“No, you don’t. No. No, you don’t. You don’t have it — not even close.”

Among the people on the call were Raffensperger, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and several aides and attorneys, including Washington lawyer Cleta Mitchell. Seeking to defuse the tension, Meadows urged Georgia officials “in the spirit of cooperation and compromise” to find a path forward that doesn’t involve the court system.

“We don’t agree that you have won,” Raffensperger responded, referring to the election.

At another juncture in the conversation, Trump chastised Raffensperger for a recent TV appearance where he said there was no systemic fraud in Georgia.

“I know you would like to get to the bottom of it,” Trump said, adding: “People should be happy to have an accurate count, instead of an election where there’s turmoil. There’s turmoil in Georgia and other places — you’re not the only one. We have other states I believe will be flipping to us very shortly.”

ExploreMore Georgia election news from the last weekend before the Georgia Senate runoff

‘Like a schmuck’

The president has feuded with Raffensperger and other Republicans for weeks, blaming them for his narrow election defeat in Georgia, even as he prepares to stage a rally for the two GOP incumbents in Dalton on Monday.

11/20/2020 �  Canton, Georgia �Vice President Mike Pence (left), Senator Kelly Loeffler (center) and Senator David Perdue (right) wave at the crowd gathered during a Defend the Majority Republican Rally in Canton, Ga., Friday, November 20, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Caption
11/20/2020 � Canton, Georgia �Vice President Mike Pence (left), Senator Kelly Loeffler (center) and Senator David Perdue (right) wave at the crowd gathered during a Defend the Majority Republican Rally in Canton, Ga., Friday, November 20, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Republicans worry that Trump’s ceaseless attacks on Raffensperger, Gov. Brian Kemp and other state GOP figures has undermined the party’s unity and is sending conflicting messages to the president’s loyalists before pivotal runoff elections against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. Trump suggested the Republicans could lose if Raffensperger didn’t intervene on his behalf.

“It’s going to have a big impact on Tuesday if you guys don’t get this thing straightened out fast,” said Trump. At another point in the conversation, he warned that a “lot of people aren’t going out to vote” in the runoffs to send a message to Raffensperger.

“A lot of Republicans are going to vote negative because they hate what you did to the president.”

With the runoffs nearing, Democrats leveraged Trump’s comments to play into their argument that the Republicans put their loyalty to Trump before their public service.

“That is a direct attack on our democracy,” Ossoff told a crowd of hundreds at a drive-in Savannah rally, as horns honked in approval. “And if David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler had one piece of steel in their spine, one shred of integrity, they would be out here defending Georgia voters from that kind of assault.”

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Trump lashed out in particular at Stacey Abrams, the Democratic former gubernatorial candidate who he said “outsmarted you at every step” with a consent decree in March that addresses accusations about a lack of statewide standards for judging signatures on absentee ballot envelopes.

And he fumed at Kemp, whom he’s urged to resign, for not doing more to intervene in the election results.

“Like a schmuck I endorsed him,” he said, adding: “The people are so angry in Georgia, I can’t imagine he’s ever getting elected again.”

But much of the call was squarely aimed at Raffensperger, a first-term Republican who also will likely face a primary challenge in 2022.

“They’re laughing at you. You’ve taken a state that’s a Republican state and you’ve made it almost impossible for a Republican to win because of cheating — because they cheated like nobody’s ever cheated before,” Trump said, venting later that the call is “going nowhere.”

At each turn, Raffensperger and his office’s attorney, Ryan Germany, pushed back at the false claims.

“That’s not accurate, Mr. President,” Germany said. “The numbers we are showing are accurate.”

Staff writer J.D. Capelouto in Savannah contributed to this report.

12/15/2020 —  Atlanta, Georgia — President-Elect Joseph Biden (center) greets the crowd with Georgia U.S. Democrat Senate candidates Rev. Raphael Warnock (left) and Jon Ossoff (right) following a “Get Ready to Vote” rally at Pratt-Pullman Yard in Atlanta’s Kirkwood neighborhood, Tuesday, December 15, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Caption
12/15/2020 — Atlanta, Georgia — President-Elect Joseph Biden (center) greets the crowd with Georgia U.S. Democrat Senate candidates Rev. Raphael Warnock (left) and Jon Ossoff (right) following a “Get Ready to Vote” rally at Pratt-Pullman Yard in Atlanta’s Kirkwood neighborhood, Tuesday, December 15, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

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