Top Ga. vote official pushes back in Trump talk
(4 Jan 2021) FOR CLEAN VERSION SEE STORY NUMBER: 4304369
US President Donald Trump pressured Georgia's Republican Secretary of State to “find” enough votes to overturn Joe Biden's win in the state's presidential election, repeatedly citing disproven claims of fraud and raising the prospect of “criminal offense" if officials did not change the vote count, according to a recording of the conversation.
The phone call with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Saturday was the latest step in an unprecedented effort by a sitting president to pressure a state official to reverse the outcome of a free and fair election that he lost.
The president, who has refused to accept his loss to Democratic president-elect Biden, repeatedly argued that Raffensperger could change the certified results.
Georgia counted its votes three times before certifying Biden's win by a 11,779 margin.
Audio snippets of the conversation were first posted online by The Washington Post.
The Associated Press obtained the full audio of Trump’s conversation with Georgia officials from a person on the call.
The AP has a policy of not amplifying disinformation and unproven allegations.
The AP plans to post the full audio as it annotates a transcript with fact check material.
Trump's renewed intervention and the persistent and unfounded claims of fraud come nearly two weeks before he leaves office and two days before twin runoff elections in Georgia that will determine political control of the US Senate.
The president used the hourlong conversation to tick through a list of claims about the election in Georgia, including that hundreds of thousands of ballots mysteriously appeared in Fulton County, which includes Atlanta.
Officials have said there is no evidence of that happening.
The Georgia officials on the call are heard repeatedly pushing back against the president’s assertions, telling him that he’s relying on debunked theories and, in one case, selectively edited video.
At another point in the conversation, Trump appeared to threaten Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the secretary of state’s legal counsel, by suggesting both could be criminally liable if they failed to find that thousands of ballots in Fulton County had been illegally destroyed.
There is no evidence to support Trump’s claim.
Others on the call included Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and attorneys assisting Trump, including Washington lawyer Cleta Mitchell.
Trump confirmed in a tweet on Sunday that he had spoken with Raffensperger.
The White House referred questions to Trump’s reelection campaign, which did not respond on Sunday to an emailed request for comment.
Raffensperger’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump has repeatedly attacked how Raffensperger conducted Georgia’s elections, claiming without evidence that the state’s 16 electoral votes were wrongly given to Biden.
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