The media is abuzz this morning about a leaked recording of a phone call between President Trump and Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger from yesterday. It’s no secret that the President still believes that he won the Peach State in November and that significant amounts of voter fraud were the cause of the count going against him. After counting the votes three times and waging several court battles, Georgia election officials, including Republicans, disagree and that’s what Brad Raffensperger told the President. If that had been the end of things, this call wouldn’t have been all that remarkable, but the President went on to tell the Secretary of State that wanted him to “find” a sufficient number of votes to give the state to Trump, implying that a failure to do so would be “criminal” and could result in legal repercussions. The audio of the entire call was leaked to the press. (Associated Press)
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.
“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump said. “Because we won the state.”
I’m not sure which was worse here. The decision to make the call in the first place or Trump’s choice of threatening an elected official from his own party with legal action if he didn’t get his way?
I can’t even begin to guess what the President was thinking when he made this call. After four years in office, he knows how he is treated by the press and even some people in his own inner circle. There were reportedly the better part of a dozen people on that call. What were the odds that it wasn’t being recorded and nobody would leak it to the media if anything juicy took place? Surely the President must have at least suspected that would be the case.
If all the President wanted to do was continue his efforts to press for a more diligent investigation into claims of widespread voter fraud, that would have ben fine and completely in keeping with his efforts to date. All he needed to do was repeat his assertion that he actually carried Georgia and he wanted the accurate vote tally to reflect that. But when he decided to instruct the Secretary of State to “find” the exact number of votes it would take to overturn the now-certified results, he put a huge target on his own back. We’re already seeing the New York Times and Politico suggesting that Trump’s demands could be a violation of the law and lead to possible prosecution. Others are gleefully pointing out that this would be a violation of Georgia state law as opposed to federal law, so the President would be unable to pardon himself for such a violation.
On top of all of that, what would the point be even if Trump succeeded? Let’s say that the Georgia Secretary of State went out today and somehow “found”11,780 votes for the President. That would bring him to 248 electoral votes, still leaving him 31 shy of even being able to cause a tie and throw the election over to the House of Representatives. He would still need to overturn Pennsylvania and Michigan to get over the finish line. (Pennsylvania and Wisconsin would still leave him short by one.) It’s January 4th.
We’re past the point of saying that Donald Trump “is running out of time.” We’re about to seat the new Congress and it’s still entirely possible that the Democrats could take control of the Senate. The President needs to be focusing on the Georgia runoffs right now if he’s truly interested in helping his party and the conservative cause in general.
I will give the President credit for calling attention to some of the very serious issues we have with our electoral system. As I’ve written here before, there are serious problems with how absentee and mail-in ballots are handled in many states. The voter rolls are a pile of hot garbage in nearly all of the states and need to be cleaned up. Perhaps this extremely ugly election will spur some action on those fronts. But at this point, there simply isn’t a way for these results to be overturned and for Donald Trump to secure a second term. And his choice of words on that phone call has cast a shadow over his methods and motivations to boot.