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In recorded call, Trump pressures Georgia official to 'find' votes to overturn election

In recorded call, Trump pressures Georgia official to 'find' votes to overturn election

US President Donald Trump departs on travel to West Point, New York from the South Lawn at the White House in Washington on Dec 12, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Cheriss May)

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump pressured Georgia's top election official to "find" enough votes to overturn his defeat in the southern state, according to a recording of the hour-long call published by US media on Sunday (Jan 3).

The Saturday call was the latest move in Trump's two-month effort insisting that his loss to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden in the Nov 3 election was the result of widespread voter fraud, a claim that has been widely rejected by state and federal election officials and multiple courts.

Trump's call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, came as some of Trump's allies in the US Congress plan to object to the formal certification of Biden's victory on Wednesday. The former vice president won by a margin of 306-232 in the state-by-state Electoral College, and by more than 7 million votes overall.

READ: Republicans condemn GOP 'scheme' to undo election for Trump

On the call, which was released by the Washington Post, Trump repeatedly pressures Raffensperger to declare that Trump has won more votes than Biden.

"All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have," Trump says, according to audio of the call. "There's nothing wrong with saying, you know, that you've recalculated."

The state conducted three separate ballot counts, resulting in two official certifications of Biden's victory. Final results show Biden won 11,779 more votes than Trump out of nearly 5 million cast.

Raffensperger and his office's general counsel reject Trump's assertions and tell the president that he was relying on debunked conspiracy theories spread on social media about what was a fair and accurate election.

"Mr President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong," Raffensperger says.

READ: Georgia election guardian Raffensperger faces heat as Trump contests defeat

The White House declined to comment. Raffensperger's office did not respond to requests for comment.

Bob Bauer, a senior adviser to Biden, said the recording captures "the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump's assault on American democracy."

The White House declined to comment. Raffensperger's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Bob Bauer, a senior adviser to Biden, said the recording captures "the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump's assault on American democracy."

"We 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," Bauer said.

READ: US Congress convenes at start of high-stakes political week

Biden's narrow victory in Georgia was the first by a Democratic presidential candidate in a generation and has raised hopes among Democrats that they could win a pair of US Senate runoffs in the state on Tuesday, giving their party control of Congress.

Even if Trump had won Georgia's 16 Electoral College votes, he would still have lost the White House to Biden, who will be sworn into office on Jan 20.

Before the Washington Post published its report of the call, Trump said on Twitter on Sunday that he had spoken by phone with Raffensperger about 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!" Trump tweeted.

Raffensperger responded on Twitter: "Respectfully, President Trump: What you're saying is not true. The truth will come out."

POTENTIALLY CRIMINAL ACT

Trump’s action drew immediate criticism from election-law experts and congressional Democrats who said it could amount to an illegal act.

“Not only is pressuring election officials against the law, threatening Raffensperger if he doesn’t comply with Trump’s wishes borders on extortion,” said Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis said Trump may have violated state and federal laws against soliciting election fraud.

“If any other person did this – someone else with power to leverage over an election official – there is no doubt in my mind that at the very least a criminal investigation would be opened right away,” said Kreis, adding that he thought that was unlikely in Trump’s case.

If Trump were prosecuted, he would likely argue that he genuinely believed that the election was rigged against him in elaborate ways, said Justin Levitt, an election law professor at Loyola Law School.

READ: Pelosi narrowly reelected speaker, faces difficult 2021

Even if Trump had won Georgia’s 16 Electoral College votes, he would still have lost the White House to Biden, who will be sworn into office on Jan 20.

Trump’s lawyers have had no luck over the past two months as they have pressured officials in Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania and other closely contested states to overturn his losses.

Trump’s call came days before Senator Ted Cruz is set to lead several fellow Republican lawmakers in a long-shot bid to disrupt the formal recognition of Biden’s win when Electoral College results are tallied in Congress on Jan 6.

The move is seen as a mostly symbolic protest and is not supported by Senate Republican leaders.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch Trump supporter, said in a statement on Sunday that Cruz’ insistence on a vote audit commission had “zero chance” of success.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on Twitter that if Cruz and “his gang” wanted to investigate election fraud, they should start with Trump’s call with Raffensperger.

Ten former defense secretaries urged Trump to concede, writing in a joint article that the time for questioning the results had passed, and that any effort to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes “would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory.”

Source: Reuters/ec

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