Trump heard on phone call urging Georgia officials to "find" enough votes to overturn presidential results
Washington — On an hour-long phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Saturday, President Trump pressured him and other officials to "find" enough votes in the state's presidential election to make him the winner, according to audio of the call obtained by CBS News.
During the call, which Mr. Trump revealed occurred in a tweet earlier Sunday, the president told Raffensperger, "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 Washington Post first reported on the contents of the call and published the audio. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows also participated in the discussion.
"The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry," Mr. Trump can be heard saying on the audio recording. "And there's nothing wrong with saying that, you know, um, that you've recalculated."
Raffensperger, a Republican, pushed back against Mr. Trump's suggestion, telling him "the data you have is wrong." He also repeatedly told Mr. Trump the results of the election were accurate and rebuffed the president's unfounded claims.
Mr. Trump lost the presidential race in Georgia to President-elect Joe Biden by 11,779 votes. Since the November election, ballots cast in the state have been counted a total of three times, with the president-elect's win affirmed each time.
The president's call with Raffensperger marked a significant and stunning escalation in his attempts to reverse the outcome of the presidential election. In the weeks since November 3, Mr. Trump has mounted several campaigns in an effort to overturn the results, looking to the courts, then to state legislatures and now Congress to deliver him a second term.
But Mr. Trump's bevy of lawsuits have largely been dismissed, and the states have all certified their election results. Additionally, presidential electors from the 50 states and the District of Columbia convened December 14 to cast their votes, again reaffirming Mr. Biden's win.
Still, Mr. Trump has refused to accept the results of the election, especially in Georgia, and repeatedly attacked Raffensperger and Governor Brian Kemp, also a Republican. Mr. Biden's victory there marked the first time in nearly 30 years a Democrat won the state.
A source familiar with the matter said the secretary of state's office received 18 attempted calls from the White House since November 3, the day of the election. But this was the first call Raffensperger was on with Mr. Trump since Election Day.
In addition to suggesting Raffensperger "find" the votes to reverse his defeat in Georgia, he also repeated unfounded conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems, a company that provided software used in 28 states.
"Do you think it's possible that they shredded ballots in Fulton County? Because that's what the rumor is. And also that Dominion took out machines. That Dominion is really moving fast to get rid of their machinery. Do you know anything about that? Because that's illegal," Mr. Trump asked Raffensperger and his general counsel Ryan Germany, who was also on the call.
Germany told the president, "No, Dominion has not moved any machinery out of Fulton County" and repeatedly shot down Mr. Trump's continued claims as to whether Dominion "moved the inner parts of the machines and replaced them with other parts."
During the call, Mr. Trump called Raffensperger a "child" and "either dishonest or incompetent" for not believing there was voter fraud in Atlanta. The president called himself a "schmuck" for endorsing Kemp, and appeared to threaten Raffensperger and Germany over alleged fraud, though there has been no evidence to support his claims ballots were illegally destroyed.
"You know what they did, and you're not reporting it. That's a criminal, 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. And that's a big risk."
Mr. Trump then claimed ballots were being shredded and machinery removed.
"You can't let it happen and you are letting it happen," he said, according to the audio. "I'm notifying you that you're letting it happen."
Mr. Trump said Raffensperger's refusal to reverse the outcome of the presidential race will deter Republicans from turning out to vote in a pair of runoff elections Tuesday, the results of which will determine which party controls the Senate.
"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."
Mr. Trump referred to the call earlier Sunday on Twitter, saying he talked to Raffensperger about Fulton County and alleged voter fraud in the state.
"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!" the president said.
In response to Mr. Trump's tweet, Raffensperger said, "Respectfully, President Trump: What you're saying is not true. The truth will come out."
Congress will convene in a joint session Wednesday to tally and certify the results of the Electoral College. More than 100 GOP House members are expected to object to some states' results, and a group of nearly a dozen Republican senators also plan to challenge the electoral results unless a commission to audit the results is appointed.
Their objections, however, are highly unlikely to succeed, as both chambers must separately vote to sustain an objection. With Democrats controlling the House, it's all but guaranteed lawmakers will not toss out Mr. Biden's electoral votes.
Adam Brewster contributed to this report.
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