In an exceptional phone call this weekend, President Donald Trump pressured Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state by finding votes to shift the number in his favor, as received by NBC News.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger resisted pressure from Trump to change Georgia’s election results, even as the president made veiled threats of possible prosecution if denied. The call was made on Saturday.
Trump, who refused to allow the election, said during the call that he wanted to “find 11,780 votes” to change the outcome in Georgia.
He told Raffensperger, a Republican, that Georgia’s vote had dropped hundreds of thousands of votes and suggested that the Secretary of State announce that he had recalculated the numbers to show a Trump victory.
“Well, Mr. President, the challenge you have is the data you have is wrong,” Raffensberger replied, according to the record.
Raffensperger and the secretary’s general counsel, Attorney Ryan Germany, also pushed back on Trump’s claims that ballot papers had been destroyed or that Dominion had removed parts of voting machines in Georgia that were showing more Republican votes.
The contents of the phone call were first reported by the Washington Post.
Trump, referring to Saturday’s call in a tweet on Sunday morning, said Raffensperger could not answer his questions about alleged election fraud, saying, “He has no idea.” Raffensperger replied on Twitter, writing, “What you say is not true. The truth will come out.”
Bob Bauer, a senior adviser to President-elect Biden, slammed Trump’s actions in a statement on Sunday.
“We now have irrefutable evidence that a president is putting an official of his own party under pressure and threatening to induce him to overturn the legal, certified number of votes of one state and fabricate another in his place,” said Bauer. “It captures the whole, nefarious story of Donald Trump’s attack on American democracy.”
The Senate Minority Whip, Dick Durbin, D-IL, said in a statement that the call warranted a criminal investigation.
“President Trump’s taped conversation with Georgian Foreign Minister Raffensperger is more than a pathetic, rambling, delusional abuse. His shameful effort to intimidate an elected official into deliberately changing and misrepresenting the statutory votes in his state strikes in the heart of our democracy and deserves nothing less than a criminal investigation, “the statement said.
House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Condemned Trump’s actions as a “despicable abuse of power” that may be incontestable.
“If it is potentially criminal, it may be incontestable. And even if there is no crime, it may be punishable,” Schiff told reporters on Sunday.
Justin Levitt, an expert on suffrage and a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who was a former Justice Department official, believes Trump’s behavior in calling would be in violation of several laws if a prosecutor could prove the president did so white weren’t really thousands of countless ballots that would turn the election around.
These criminal violations could include a conspiracy to violate a federal electoral law that has been used in the past to prosecute electoral fraud and a violation of Georgian state law relating to incitement to electoral fraud, he said.
“It’s pretty appalling that the only question is whether the president is sufficiently detached from reality to believe he hasn’t committed a crime,” Levitt said.
The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment. During the call, President Raffensperger threatened possible legal ramifications if his demands were not met.
“You know what you did and you don’t report it,” Trump said during the call. “This is a criminal, this is a crime. And you cannot allow it. This is a great risk for you and for Ryan, your lawyer. This is a great risk.”
The call comes just days before two major Georgia Senate runoff elections, in which Democratic candidates’ victories in both races would turn control of the chamber, and less than a month before Biden’s inauguration. Trump is holding a rally for the Republican candidates on Monday.
Georgia is one of several states where the Trump campaign or the president’s supporters have fought unsuccessfully to change or invalidate the vote since Trump’s loss to Biden in the November election.
None of the lawsuits, recounts, or investigations in any state have identified the type of widespread electoral fraud or miscounts that would be required to reverse the election in Trump’s favor.
The number of votes in Georgia and other states since the November elections has already been confirmed, and the electoral college has confirmed Joe Biden’s victory.
Biden’s victory in Georgia was a big change in the Republican-controlled state as he was the first Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton in 1992. After the first count showed Biden as the winner of the state, Georgia carried out a recount that showed the same result. Raffensperger confirmed the result on November 20th.
The tight profit margin and the presence of Republicans in key positions have made it a target in the Trump team’s efforts to change the election results. Trump has also pressured Governor Brian Kemp to help reverse the outcome, but Kemp said it was not legal for him to call a special legislative session to appoint a new list of presidential voters.
Biden’s victory is due to be confirmed by a joint congressional session on Wednesday, but a group of 11 Republican senators and elected senators, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, want to delay the move, as do some members of the Republican House. Vice President Mike Pence “welcomed” the move to delay certification, according to his chief of staff, but others like Utah Senator Mitt Romney have been harshly critical of the plan.
Trump is expected to participate in anti-certification protests in Washington on Wednesday.