A secret tape recording has emerged of US President Donald Trump pressuring Georgia’s top election official to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in the southern state.
In the hour-long phone call, published by the Washington Post on Monday (Australian time), Mr Trump can be heard alternately flattering, begging and then threatening Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger with unspecified criminal consequences in an effort to reverse his loss in Georgia to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden.
“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, so tell me, Brad, what are we going to do?” Mr Trump told Mr Raffensperger, according to the audio recording.
Mr Trump lost the presidential race in Georgia to Mrby 11,779 votes.
The phone call, recorded on Saturday (local time), is apparently the latest in Mr Trump’s two-month effort to claim his loss to Mr Biden in the November 3 election was the result of widespread voter fraud.
The conversation with Mr Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, comes as some of Mr Trump’s allies in Congress plan to object to the formal certification on Wednesday of Mr Biden’s victory.
The former vice president won by a margin of 306-232 in the state-by-state Electoral College and by more than seven million votes overall.
Mr Raffensperger and his office’s general counsel rejected Mr Trump’s assertions during the phone call, and told the president he was relying on debunked conspiracy theories spread on social media, according to the audio excerpts and the newspaper’s account.
“The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry,” Mr Trump said, according to the audio recording.
“And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.”
The White House declined to comment.
Mr Raffensperger’s office did not respond to requests for comment, while Mr Biden’s transition office had no immediate comment.
The call comes days before Senator Ted Cruz is set to lead several of Mr Trump’s allies in Congress in a long-shot bid to disrupt the formal recognition of Biden’s win.
Mr Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia was the first by a Democratic candidate in a generation and raises hopes the Democrats could win a pair of Senate run-offs in the state on Tuesday, giving them control of Congress.
Even if Mr Trump had won Georgia’s 16 Electoral College votes, he would still have lost the White House to Mr Biden, who will be sworn into office on January 20.
Before the Washington Post published its report of the call, Mr Trump said on Twitter on Sunday he had spoken by phone with Raffensperger about voter fraud in Georgia.
I spoke to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger yesterday about Fulton County and voter fraud in Georgia. He was unwilling, or unable, to answer questions such as the “ballots under table” scam, ballot destruction, out of state “voters”, dead voters, and more. He has no clue!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2021
Mr Raffensperger responded on Twitter: “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out.”
News of Saturday’s call drew immediate criticism from congressional Democrats including Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence committee.
“Trump’s contempt for democracy is laid bare. Once again. On tape,” Schiff wrote on Twitter.
“Pressuring an election official to ‘find’ the votes so he can win is potentially criminal, And another flagrant abuse of power by a corrupt man who would be a despot, if we allowed him. We will not.”