In recorded call, Trump pushed official to overturn Georgia vote

    An angry President Trump in a Saturday phone call pushed fellow Republican Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to overturn the state's presidential results, and appeared to at least partly blame him for what could be lower turnout in Tuesday's runoff elections that will decide control of the U.S. Senate. Alex Wong/Getty Images

    An angry President Trump pushed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, to overturn the state’s presidential results, and appeared to at least partly blame him for what could be lower turnout in Tuesday’s runoff elections that will decide control of the U.S. Senate, according to a recording of a phone call obtained by Georgia Public Broadcasting.

    “The people of Georgia know that this was a scam, and because of what you’ve done to the president, a lot of people aren’t going out to vote [in the runoffs],” Trump said in the remarkable Saturday call. “A lot of Republicans are going to vote negative because they hate what you did to the president.”

    He added: “You would be respected if this thing could be straightened out before the election.” Trump lost the state by nearly 12,000 votes to President-elect Joe Biden.

    More than 3 million Georgians have already voted in the two Jan. 5 runoffs that pit incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue against Democrat Jon Ossoff and incumbent GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler against Democrat Raphael Warnock.

    On Sunday morning, Trump railed against Raffensperger on social media, retweeting baseless claims of election fraud and stating that Georgia’s top election official was “unwilling, or unable, to answer questions” about alleged problems in the state.

    But the audio recording of the hourlong call details that Raffensperger and representatives of the secretary of state’s office continued to patiently knock down some of the more inflammatory claims made by Trump and other top Republicans who allege hundreds of thousands of votes were illegally counted.

    “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong,” Raffensperger said at one point. “We have to stand by our numbers; we believe our numbers are right.”

    Before Tuesday, advance turnout has lagged in heavily Republican parts of the state. Trump suggested Raffensperger was responsible for the drop in GOP enthusiasm, while the secretary of state has said the White House and state lawmakers spreading misinformation is to blame.

    On Sunday morning, Trump railed against Raffensperger on social media, retweeting baseless claims of election fraud and stating that Georgia’s top election official was “unwilling, or unable, to answer questions” about alleged problems in the state.

    But the audio recording of the hourlong call details that Raffensperger and representatives of the secretary of state’s office continued to patiently knock down some of the more inflammatory claims made by Trump and other top Republicans who allege hundreds of thousands of votes were illegally counted.

    “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong,” Raffensperger said at one point. “We have to stand by our numbers; we believe our numbers are right.”

    Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, told Raffensperger he was hopeful that in a “spirit of cooperation and compromise” there would be some way to find a path forward to overturn Georgia’s certified election results that were confirmed both by a full hand audit and a machine recount.

    “We don’t agree that you have one,” Raffensperger said.

    An attorney for the secretary of state’s office told the president on the call that state investigators, law enforcement and the courts looked into claims of illegal votes and found no evidence of widespread fraud that would overturn Trump’s narrow loss.

    But the president was undeterred.

    “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 stated at one point. “Flipping the state is a great testament to our country; it’s a testament that they can admit to a mistake. A lot of people think it wasn’t a mistake, it was much more criminal than that. But it’s a big problem in Georgia and it’s not a problem that’s going away.”

    This story appears in the Georgia Recorder through a news partnership with Georgia Public Broadcasting.