“Find” Votes: Trump’s Extraordinary One-Hour Phone Call To A Top Official

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On Sunday, Trump tweeted that he had spoken to Raffensperger, saying the secretary of state 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!”

President Donald Trump urged fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in an extraordinary one-hour phone call Saturday that legal scholars described as a flagrant abuse of power and a potential criminal act.

The Washington Post obtained a recording of the conversation in which Trump alternately berated Raffensperger, tried to flatter him, begged him to act and threatened him with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue Trump’s false claims, at one point warning that Raffensperger was taking “a big risk.”

Throughout the call, Raffensperger and his office’s general counsel rejected Trump’s assertions, explaining that the president is relying on debunked conspiracy theories and that President-elect Joe Biden’s 11,779-vote victory in Georgia was fair and accurate.

Trump dismissed their arguments.


“The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry,” he said. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, that you’ve recalculated.”

Raffensperger responded: “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong.”


At another point, Trump said: “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.”

The rambling and at times incoherent conversation offered a remarkable glimpse of how consumed and desperate the president remains about his loss, unwilling or unable to let the matter go and still believing he can reverse the results in enough battleground states to remain in office.


“There’s no way I lost Georgia,” Trump said, a phrase he repeated again and again on the call. “There’s no way. We won by hundreds of thousands of votes.”

Several of his allies were on the line as he spoke, including White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and conservative lawyer Cleta Mitchell, a prominent GOP attorney whose involvement with Trump’s efforts had not been previously known.


In a statement, Mitchell said Raffensperger’s office “has made many statements over the past two months that are simply not correct and everyone involved with the efforts on behalf of the President’s election challenge has said the same thing: Show us your records on which you rely to make these statements that our numbers are wrong.”

The White House, the Trump campaign and Meadows did not respond to a request for comment.

Raffensperger’s office declined to comment.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted that he had spoken to Raffensperger, saying the secretary of state 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 with his own tweet: “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true.”

The details of the call drew demands from congressional Democrats for criminal investigations. Biden’s top campaign lawyer, Bob Bauer, said the recording “captures the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump’s assault on American democracy.”

Republicans, however, were largely silent. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, when asked about the call while campaigning in Georgia on Sunday for the two GOP senators who face a run-off Tuesday, dodged the question completely.

Trump’s pressure campaign on Raffensperger is the latest example of his attempt to subvert the outcome of the Nov. 3 election through personal outreach to state Republican officials. He previously invited Michigan Republican state leaders to the White House, pressured Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in a call to try to replace that state’s electors and asked the speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to help reverse his loss in that state.

His call to Raffensperger came as scores of Republicans have pledged to challenge the electoral college’s vote for Biden when Congress convenes for a joint session on Wednesday. Republicans do not have the votes to successfully thwart Biden’s victory, but Trump has urged supporters to travel to Washington to protest the outcome, and state and federal officials are already bracing for clashes outside the Capitol.

During their conversation, Trump issued a vague threat to both Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the secretary of state’s general counsel, suggesting that if they don’t find that thousands of ballots in Fulton County have been illegally destroyed to block investigators – an allegation for which there is no evidence – they would be subject to criminal liability.

“That’s a criminal offense,” he said. “And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer.”

Trump also told Raffensperger that failure to act by Tuesday would jeopardize the political fortunes of David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, Georgia’s two Republican senators whose fate in that day’s runoff elections will determine control of the U.S. Senate.

Trump said he plans to talk about the alleged fraud on Monday, when he is scheduled to lead an election eve rally in Dalton, Ga. – a message that could further muddle the efforts of Republicans to draw out their voters.

“You have a big election coming up and because of what you’ve done to the president – you know, the people of Georgia know that this was a scam,” Trump said. “Because of what you’ve done to the president, a lot of people aren’t going out to vote, and a lot of Republicans are going to vote negative, because they hate what you did to the president. OK? They hate it. And they’re going to vote. And you would be respected, really respected, if this can be straightened out before the election.”

Trump’s conversation with Raffensperger put him in legally questionable territory, legal experts said. By exhorting the secretary of state to “find” votes and to deploy investigators who “want to find answers,” Trump appears to be encouraging him to doctor the election outcome in Georgia.

Trump’s apparent threat of criminal consequences if Raffensperger does not act could be seen as an attempt at extortion and a suggestion that he might deploy the Justice Department to launch an investigation, they said.

“The president is either knowingly attempting to coerce state officials into corrupting the integrity of the election or is so deluded that he believes what he’s saying,” said Richard Pildes, a constitutional law professor at New York University, who noted that Trump’s actions may have violated several federal statutes.

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