On Saturday, January 2, 2021, President Trump conducted a one-hour phone call with Georgia election officials, including the Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, in which he pressured them to “find” 11,780 votes for Trump, which would be just one more than the current margin of votes that separate Trump’s loss from President-elect Biden’s victory in the state.
The full transcript and audio of the call was obtained by The Washington Post and can be accessed here.
Trump began the call by indicating that he wanted to “go over the numbers” and by falsely stating that “it’s pretty clear that we won” Georgia, despite numerous legal challenges that have gone virtually nowhere and despite the multiple recounts that did not turn up any evidence of widespread fraud.
He noted the differences in “rally sizes” and mentioned that it “never made sense” how his campaign could garner 20,000 people at a rally but his “competition would get less than a hundred people.” However, President-elect Biden’s campaign took seriously the COVID-19 pandemic, whereas President Trump’s did not. His decision to campaign virtually more often than not rather than hold massive in-person rallies was made based on the advice of medical experts around the country.
Trump added that somewhere between “250,000 to 300,000 ballots were dropped mysteriously into the rolls, much of that had to do with Fulton county.” The president indicated that if Georgia election officials were to go back and check the signatures of Fulton county ballots “you will find at least a couple hundred thousand of forged signatures.”
He also claimed that there were over 50,000 people that went to vote and “they were told they can’t vote because they had already been voted for and it’s a very sad thing.” Perhaps Trump forgot that he told his supporters to try to vote twice, once by mail and once in person, to “ensure” that their votes were counted. In reality, he encouraged his supporters to commit voter fraud in an attempt to trip up our election process and to stymie the systems in place to validate ballots and prevent fraud.
He went on to talk about the specific numbers related to the Georgia ballot count, such as the number of ballots that didn’t have an address, or only listed a PO box. Trump also claimed that at least 5,000 dead people voted in Georgia and that over 300,000 fake ballots were added and counted.
President Trump also indicated that “we have other states that I believe will be flipping to us very shortly.”
He then went on a tangent to talk about Detroit and claimed that 139% of the people voted. However, if we look at the facts, this claim falls apart instantly, as most of his claims do. The population of the municipality of Detroit (the city itself) was 672,662 in 2018. In 2020 the number of registered voters in the city amounted to 504,714. However, turnout in the 2020 presidential election was only 49.56%, meaning 250,138 voters turned out to vote last year. So, contrary to President Trump’s false claim, only about 37% of the population of Detroit voted.
Trump parroted a similar claim for Pennsylvania and claimed that “they had well over 200,000 more votes than they had people voting.” Let’s break this claim down in the same way that we did Detroit. Pennsylvania’s population in 2019 was estimated to be 12,801,989. According to voter turnout data in 2016 the number of registered voters in Pennsylvania was 8,722,977. From the results of the 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania, 6,915,283 total votes were counted. With President-elect Biden receiving 3,458,229 votes to President Trump’s 3,377,674. Ultimately, voter turnout in Pennsylvania last year was 54% based on this data. Which, again, erodes any sense of credibility in President Trump’s false claims.
Trump then went back to the topic of Michigan and claimed that there was “a tremendous number of dead people that voted…it was 18,000…some unbelievably high number.”
This wrapped up Trump’s initial points at around the 13-minute mark in the phone call. Afterwards White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows jumped in and reemphasized that there are numerous allegations and contentions surrounding the election. He then asked the Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, if there was a way that particular points of contention could be looked into so that a path forward could be less litigious.
Undoubtedly, this was asked for two reasons: (1) Secretary Raffensperger is a Republican and Trump’s modus operandi has been to pressure his fellow party members to bend to his will or face public demonization. (2) The numerous failures that have so far plagued the Trump administration’s attempts in the courts regarding the election does not bode well for future litigation.
Mr. Raffensperger’s reply went through the efforts that Georgia election officials have made to go through any contentions point by point. He began with the acknowledgement of the court cases that have been filed and subsequently thrown out and noted that he did not agree that the president had a valid lawsuit, nor do they agree with the number that President Trump asserted regarding 200,000 or more “fake” ballots being added into the counting process.
Raffensperger noted that election officials have given hours of their time to the State Senate, State House, and Georgia’s U.S. Republican Congressman to go over these alleged issues with the election point by point. Mr. Raffensperger also added that they conducted a recount, a hand-tally, of 100% of the votes cast in the election and compared them with the Dominion voting machines and came up with virtually the same results.
No sooner than Secretary Raffensperger completed that sentence President Trump jumped back in to rehash his former points, falsely repeat the claim that he won the state and the election, and pontificate about how little the margin of a victory matters. Trump went on to say, “What’s the difference between winning the election by two votes and winning it by half a million votes, I think we probably did win it by half a million votes.” President Trump went on to say that the people of Georgia and the nation are angry and that, “There is nothing wrong with saying that you know…uh…that you’ve recalculated.”
Mr. Raffensperger’s reply could not have been more clear. He declared, “Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong.” He went on to clarify that in their investigations the number of dead people that voted in Georgia amounted to two (2), not the 5,000 number that Trump mentioned.
From here on there was quite a bit of back and forth between the Trump team and Secretary Raffensperger about the supposed “evidence” that they have regarding election fraud. Ultimately, what Trump and his team were referring to was a video that Mr. Raffensperger noted was “sliced and diced” by Rudy Giuliani and his team. Despite the fact that this incendiary video was taken out of context and manipulated to portray a very particular narrative, Trump and his team claimed that it was all the proof they needed. However, their conclusions were based on a manipulated clip that took the events out of context.
Thankfully the courts have not yet agreed that hearsay, unfounded opinions, and manipulated media are legitimate evidence in litigations regarding the election.
Mr. Raffensperger offered to send Trump and his team a link to the unedited video, to which Trump responded, “I don’t care about a link, Brad I have a much better link.” Trump and his team also tried to frame the incident as some conspiratorial event in which suitcases of fake ballots were brought out to be counted under the cover of night. However, the New York Times and others debunked such claims weeks ago.
During the phone call yesterday Georgia election officials tried to convince President Trump and his team that their conspiracy theory held no water. They indicated that their law enforcement officers spoke to everyone there after the event came to light and that both the FBI and GBI (Georgia’s Bureau of Investigation) had agents on the ground doing the same. Trump lashed out and claimed, “Then they’re incompetent, they’re either dishonest or incompetent okay, there’s only two answers: dishonest or incompetent.”
Georgia election officials continued to tell the President and his team that the data they were using to come to these conspiratorial conclusions about widespread fraud were very simply dead wrong. Of course, Trump disagreed and claimed, “I won this election by hundreds of thousands of votes, there’s no way I lost Georgia.”
Afterwards Trump went on to a different question, “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…do you know anything about that?”
Ryan Germany was the official who answered this question: “No, Dominion has not moved any machinery out of Fulton county.” To which Trump countered, “But have they removed the inner parts of the machines and replaced them with other parts?”
Ryan Germany: “No.”
President Trump: “You sure? Ryan?”
Ryan Germany: “I’m sure.”
The Trump administration just keeps throwing garbage against the wall, desperately hoping that something will stick. The narrative that Dominion machines were someone rigged to favor Joe Biden is another common conspiracy being peddled by their camp and their supporters online. In late November of 2020, Fox News conducted an interview with a spokesperson for Dominion voting systems about election fraud allegations in which they discussed points of contention and described how such interference would be impossible.
Trump then asked about the shredding of ballots to which Ryan noted that no, Fulton county has not shredded any ballots. He noted that they did investigate Cobb county in regards to shredding, as they were doing normal office shredding getting rid of older records, but ensured the President that they found no issues there and that Fulton county was not shredding ballots. Trump, of course, was not convinced and declared that it simply, “Didn’t pass the smell test though, because we hear they are shredding thousands and thousands of ballots.”
Secretary of State Raffensperger chimed in, “Mr. President the problem you have with social media is people can say anything…” To which Trump butted in, “No, this isn’t social media, this is Trump media.” Trump then tried to claim that social media is “Big Tech” and that they’re “on your side” while simultaneously telling Mr. Raffensperger, “You should want to have an accurate election…and you’re a Republican.” Raffensperger responded, “We believe that we do have an accurate election.” To which Trump answered: “No you don’t.”
President Trump then moved on to signature verification and how his team requested to look at Fulton county but that Cobb county was the one that Georgia election officials looked into. When asked why Cobb counted was investigated rather than Fulton county, election officials responded that Cobb county was the only county in which there was any evidence submitted that the signature verification was not properly done.
From there Trump went on a tirade about the “corruption” of Stacey Abrams and Fulton county Georgia. He even told Mr. Raffensperger that Stacey Abrams is “playing you” and “laughing behind your back Brad, whether you know it or not.” It was almost as if Trump was projecting all of his own emotions into that phone call and tried to get Brad Raffensperger to feel belittled or outraged that he was being “played” by a prominent Democrat in his state.
Thankfully, not all Republicans are spineless demagogues that buckle under partisan pressure and leave their principles behind for political gain. Kudos to Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for his professionalism and level-headedness during the phone call with President Trump on Saturday. The insanity of this administration has been exhausting, but we will not give in to lunacy just yet.
After President Trump leveled some subtle and baseless legal threats towards Mr. Raffensperger he delivered the line that set media outlets ablaze: “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 and flipping the state is a great testament to our country.”
First off, telling Georgia’s Secretary of State that all he wants to do is “find” 11,780 votes, sounds a lot like a serious interference in our free and fair elections. It could even be construed as advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government. Secondly, “…11,780 votes, which is one more than we have…” was Trump misspeaking. It is actually one more vote than the margin of his loss to President-elect Biden.
Secretary Raffensperger’s lawyer, Ryan Germany, again spoke up to challenge Trump’s mischaracterizations of the election. He declared that, “What we’re seeing is not at all what you’re describing.”
Listening to President Trump repeat his falsehoods and hollow narratives over and over again is both exhausting and infuriating. The fact that so many within his administration refuse to challenge the fake realities that he tries to spin is a testament to just how corrupt his supporters are.
Trump reiterated his primary goal and reasoning behind it, “I have to find 12,000 votes and I have them times a lot, and therefore I won the state.” He also noted that he watched Mr. Raffensperger that morning declare that there was no criminality that took place in regards to the election, which Trump called “dangerous” in a hilarious projection.
To keep going through the contents of this phone call would simply be to tell you that the president kept on repeating his tired narratives in different forms.
- “We won the election!”
- “So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break. You know, we have that in spades already.”
At one point President Trump insulted the competence of Raffensperger’s lawyer, Ryan Germany, while praising his last name within the same breath.
Trump then asked, “So tell me, Brad, what are we going to do? We won the election, and it’s not fair to take it away from us like this. And it’s going to be very costly in many ways.”
Despite the subtle threats, the insults, and the constant repetition of conspiracy theory falsehoods by the president, Mr. Raffensperger maintained that Georgia election officials stand by their numbers, believe them to be accurate, and believe the election was freely and fairly conducted.
As the call came to a close, the last item on the agenda for Trump’s team centered on data from the Secretary of State in Georgia that they sought access to over the past few weeks. As was repeated by Mr. Ryan Germany, it isn’t clear if they are even allowed to share that data with the Trump team, but that he would be happy to get together with lawyers from their side to explain how their characterizations of the election are wrong and based on incorrect data. Although Trump dismissed any notions that he or his team were wrong or had incorrect data, he pushed for this meeting to happen on Monday or Tuesday, preferably before the runoff election set to take place.