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Trump makes multiple false claims in first campaign rally since election loss

Trump makes false claims on election results at Georgia rally
Trump makes false claims about election results at Georgia rally 02:36

In a rambling, unfocused speech on Saturday, President Trump aired grievances about the November election during a campaign rally ostensibly meant to boost Georgia Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue ahead of their runoff elections on January 5. In his first campaign event since losing the presidential election last month, Mr. Trump continued to deny President-elect Joe Biden's victory, instead peddling falsehoods about voter fraud and baselessly claiming the election was rigged.

Mr. Trump began the rally by incorrectly saying that he won the state, and was going to win the election, even though results have been certified in Georgia and several other states for Mr. Biden.

"We won Georgia, just so you know," Mr. Trump falsely said. "We never lost an election, we're winning this election."

Mr. Trump had to walk a tightrope in his speech, imparting to his supporters that the November election was rigged while still encouraging them to turn out to vote for Loeffler and Perdue. If Loeffler and Perdue both lose, that would give Democrats a razor-thin Senate majority of 50 to 50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris breaking any tie.

This presents a difficult scenario for Republicans, who wish to impart that the runoff election is critical for blocking Democratic control of both the legislative and executive branches and hindering the implementation of Mr. Biden's priorities, while also not acknowledging that it is so important because of Mr. Trump's loss.

U.S. President Trump's rally in Valdosta, GA
President Trump addresses the crowd at a rally with Senator David Perdue and Senator Kelly Loeffler in Valdosta, Georgia, on December 5, 2020. Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

"They cheated and they rigged our presidential election, but we'll still win it," Mr. Trump falsely said, while still encouraging voters to turn out for the runoff. "And they're going to try to rig this election too."

Mr. Trump appeared to acknowledge the dissonance in his argument, saying that while it would be tempting to stay home if they believe the November election was rigged, "we have to do just the opposite" in January. He encouraged people to register to vote and vote early or vote by absentee ballot, even though he has repeatedly cast doubt on voting by mail.

Loeffler and Perdue also briefly addressed the crowd, invited onto the rally stage by the president more than an hour into his remarks. Both candidates praised the president and emphasized the importance of voting in January.

"If we don't vote, we will lose the country. If we vote, we will win," Loeffler said. Perdue said that he would insure that Mr. Trump received a "fair, square deal in Georgia." Perdue's words were interrupted by a chant from rally-goers shouting, "Fight for Trump."

Though he touted Loeffler and Perdue's support for his policies and judicial nominees, the president spent most of his time talking about his own election, rather than the Senate candidates. Mr. Trump rattled off statistics about the number of votes he received, correctly noting that at 74 million votes, he won more votes than any other incumbent president. Mr. Biden won more than 80 million votes.

Mr. Trump made several false claims about there being widespread voter fraud, even though his campaign has offered no evidence. The Trump campaign has filed a new lawsuit in Georgia seeking to invalidate the state's election results, although the vast majority of the lawsuits brought by the campaign seeking to challenging the election in several states have failed. A lawsuit in Nevada, similar to the one just filed in Georgia, was dismissed "with prejudice" by a judge on Friday, who wrote in his ruling that the evidence they offered had "little to no value" and did not prove "under any standard of proof" the allegations of fraud and vote irregularities.

Nonetheless, Mr. Trump claimed that his campaign had evidence of fraud, although he did not provide any examples.

"We have so much evidence, we don't know what to do with it," Mr. Trump said, reiterating accusations without proof. He and his supporters watched clips from the conservative channel Newsmax that included multiple false and debunked claims about voter fraud.

The president made it explicitly clear he wants the Supreme Court or state legislatures to overturn the will of voters.

"Hopefully our legislatures or our Supreme Court will save our country," Mr. Trump said.

The crowd was receptive to Mr. Trump's falsehoods, occasionally breaking out into chants of "Four More Years" and "Stop The Steal."

Mr. Trump did occasionally appear to allude to his loss, saying at one point that China and Iran are "happy" now, and adding: "What we would have done in the next four years."

Despite Mr. Trump's explicit attempts to undermine faith in the election, most Republicans are supporting his false claims. An analysis by the Washington Post published on Saturday found that only 26 of the 249 Republicans in Congress have acknowledged Biden's victory.

The rally in Georgia was hosted by the Republican National Committee and not the Trump campaign. The RNC has also publicly backed Mr. Trump's false claims about the election.

However, some statewide Republican officials have spoken out against Mr. Trump's refusal to accept reality.

"Our investigators have seen no widespread fraud," Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said at a news conference this week. "It looks like Vice President Biden will be carrying Georgia, and he is our president-elect." 

Raffensperger has received death threats from some of Mr. Trump's supporters, as has voting system implementation manager Gabriel Sterling, who said this week that "someone's going to get hurt, someone's going to get shot, someone's going to get killed," because of the president's inflammatory rhetoric. Mr. Trump has attacked Raffensperger and the state's governor, Brian Kemp, also a Republican.

Kemp and Mr. Trump spoke on Saturday morning, the Georgia governor confirmed in a tweet. Kemp wrote that he has called for an audit of signatures on absentee ballots, after Mr. Trump claimed without evidence in a tweet that an audit "will show large scale discrepancies." Trump administration officials have publicly said that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the election.

Mr. Trump replied to Kemp in a subsequent tweet calling on him to "immediately ask for a Special Session of the Legislature." Kemp will not be attending the rally due to the sudden death of a family friend, who was staffer for Loeffler.

At the rally Friday, Mr. Trump slammed Raffensperger and called on Kemp to become "a lot tougher."

"You've got to make sure your secretary of state knows what the hell he's doing," the president said. He also said that Kemp "should be ashamed of himself." He floated the idea that Congressman Doug Collins, a loyal ally of the president, could challenge Kemp in 2022.

Meanwhile, Mr. Biden has said that he will travel to Georgia to campaign for Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff, who is facing Perdue, and Raphael Warnock, Loeffler's opponent. Former President Obama has also appeared in virtual campaign events for the two candidates.

In his speech on Saturday, Mr. Trump did spend time criticizing Ossoff and especially Warnock, calling them radical socialists.

Sara Cook contributed to this report.

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