President Donald Trump begged, berated, and threatened Georgia’s top election official to overturn the election results in his favor, citing disproven statistics and conspiracy theories, in a rambling phone call Saturday, according to audio obtained by the Washington Post.
During the hour-long phone call, Trump pressured Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger to “find” him enough votes to overturn the election. At one point, the president even suggested that Raffensperger could face criminal charges if these nonexistent votes weren’t found.
Trump’s desperate phone call — which some legal experts described as “extortion” and “mob talk” — comes as a dozen Republic lawmakers, citing election irregularities, have said they will object to certifying Joe Biden’s Electoral College win on Jan. 6. Trump has refused to accept the election results, engaging in largely futile legal efforts and endorsing his Republican allies’ baseless attempts to undermine the electoral process. On Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff said that Pence “welcomes” the GOP senators’ efforts to contest the election results, adding that he “shares the concerns of millions of Americans about voter fraud and irregularities in the last election.”
“The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry, and there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated,” Trump said on the call with Raffensperger and his office’s general counsel, Ryan Germany, according to audio excerpts released by The Post and other media outlets on Sunday. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and several conservative lawyers were also present on the call, the Post reported.
Following a recount, Biden was named the winner of Georgia’s election in a narrow victory on Nov. 14. He won by 11,779 votes and is the first Democrat to win the state since 1992.
“So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state,” Trump said on the call.
Throughout the call, Raffensperger, a Republican, pushed back against Trump’s wild and unproven assertions about Biden’s victory in Georgia and called out the president for citing blatantly false conspiracy theories about the state’s voting process and post-election audit.
“Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong,” Raffensperger said.
“There’s no way I lost Georgia,” Trump said on the call. “There’s no way. We won by hundreds of thousands of votes.”
In an exchange with Ryan Germany, Raffensperger’s general counsel, Trump pushed the lawyer to validate the false conspiracy theory that Dominion Voting Systems, a company that provides hardware and software for ballot counting, somehow rigged the election.
“Do you think it’s possible that they shredded ballots in Fulton County? ’Cause that’s what the rumor is,” Trump said. “And also that Dominion took out machines. That Dominion is really moving fast to get rid of their, uh, machinery. Do you know anything about that? Because that’s illegal.”
When Germany told the president that Dominion hadn’t moved any machinery out of Fulton County, Trump then asked if the company had “moved the inner parts of the machines and replaced them with other parts.”
“No,” Germany said.
“Are you sure, Ryan?” Trump asked.
“I’m sure. I’m sure, Mr. President,” Germany replied.
During the call, Trump suggested that Raffensperger could face criminal prosecution and that it was a “big risk” if he didn’t do as Trump asked.
“You know what they did and you’re not reporting it,” Trump said. “You know, that’s a criminal — 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. That’s a big risk.”
Trump had earlier tweeted about the phone call with Raffensperger, saying that 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 simply responded: “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out.”
A senior advisor for Biden, Bob Bauer, told MSNBC, “We have 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.”
BuzzFeed News has reached out to the White House and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office for comment.
Soon after the Washington Post published their story — and the full hourlong audio and transcript of the call — elected officials of both parties began blasting Trump, with many saying that his actions merited criminal charges.
“Trump’s call pushing the GA Secretary of State to doctor the election outcome is an immoral attempt to manipulate the election and a potential criminal act,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, said.
“This disgraceful effort to intimidate an elected official into deliberately changing & 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 Whip Sen. Dick Durbin said. “The President is unhinged and dangerous. Those who encourage and support his conduct, including my Senate colleagues, are putting the orderly and peaceful transition of power in our nation at risk.”
“This is absolutely appalling,” Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger said. “To every member of Congress considering objecting to the election results, you cannot- in light of this- do so with a clean conscience.”
GOP senators, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, who are at the forefront of the Republican efforts to contest the election results did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday.