ATLANTA — President Donald Trump badgered and berated Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a call Saturday, repeating falsehoods about his election defeat in Georgia — the latest example of the extraordinary pressure he’s exerted on state Republican officials ahead of critical runoffs for control of the U.S. Senate.
Raffensperger refused pressure from Trump to overturn the election results, telling him that the “data you have is wrong” as he pushed back on Trump’s sham theories of “stuffed ballot boxes” that the president said would reverse Joe Biden’s roughly 12,000-vote victory in Georgia.
A recording of the roughly hourlong call was obtained on Sunday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was confirmed by two people involved in the conversation. It was disclosed a day before Trump is set to stage a rally in northwest Georgia for U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.
Throughout the call, Trump invoked debunked conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud and continued to urge Raffensperger to reverse the election outcome, repeating falsehoods about ballot boxes “stuffed with votes” and other sham narratives.
“We won this election in Georgia based on all of this. There’s nothing wrong with saying that, Brad. The people of Georgia are angry and these numbers are going to be repeated on Monday night,” he said, adding: “There’s nothing wrong with saying that you’ve recalculated.”
At one point in the rambling conversation, the president said that “I just want to find 11,780 votes” — the gap between him and Biden, who became the first Democrat to flip the state since 1992.
“It’s pretty clear that we won. We won pretty substantially. And you even see it by rally size,” Trump said, later accusing one of Raffensperger’s attorneys of being a “Never Trumper.”
“There’s just no way. Look, there’s no way. There’s no way.”
Close to the end of the conversation, Raffensperger interjected that Trump was falling victim to false conspiracy theories he’s seen on Twitter.
“Mr. President, the problem you have with social media is that people can say anything.”
“No, this isn’t social media. This is Trump media,” the president responded. “You should want to have an accurate election and you’re a Republican.”
“We believe we do have an accurate election,” Raffensperger replied.
“No you don’t. No. No you don’t. You don’t have it — not even close.”
Among the people on the call were Raffensperger, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and several aides and attorneys. At one point, Meadows urged Georgia officials “in the spirit of cooperation and compromise” to find a path forward that doesn’t involve the court system.
“The state is in turmoil over this. I know you would like to get to the bottom of it,” Trump said, chastising Raffensperger for a recent TV appearance where he said there’s no systemic election fraud.
“People should be happy to have an accurate count, instead of an election where there’s turmoil. There’s turmoil in Georgia and other places — you’re not the only one. We have other states I believe will be flipping to us very shortly.”
State and federal elections officials have said there’s no evidence of widespread irregularities in Georgia and other battleground states, and courts at every level have dismissed challenges from Trump’s campaign and its allies seeking to overturn Georgia’s close election.
The president has feuded with Raffensperger and other Republicans for weeks, blaming them for his narrow election defeat in Georgia. The call came shortly before he was set to headline a Monday rally for Loeffler and Perdue ahead of Tuesday’s runoffs for control of the U.S. Senate.
Republicans worry that Trump’s ceaseless attacks on Raffensperger, Gov. Brian Kemp and other state GOP figures has undermined the party’s unity and is sending conflicting messages to the president’s loyalists before pivotal elections against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
Trump lashed out in particular at Stacey Abrams, the Democratic former gubernatorial candidate who he said “outsmarted you at every step” with a consent decree in March that addresses accusations about a lack of statewide standards for judging signatures on absentee ballot envelopes.
“You’ve taken a state that’s a Republican state and you’ve made it almost impossible for a Republican to win because of cheating — because they cheated like nobody’s ever cheated before,” Trump said.
- Greg Bluestein, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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