Trump Pressured Georgia Official to ‘Find’ Enough Votes to Overturn Election
The New York Times
Michael D. Shear
16 mins ago
WASHINGTON — President Trump demanded that Georgia’s Republican secretary of state“find” him enough votes to overturn the presidential election, and vaguely threatened him with “a criminal offense,” during an hourlong telephone conversation with him on Saturday, according to audio excerpts from the conversation.
Mr. Trump, who has spent almost nine weeks making false conspiracy claims about his loss to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., told Brad Raffensperger, the state’s top elections official, that Mr. Raffensperger should recalculate the vote count so Mr. Trump would win the state’s 16 electoral votes.
“I just want to find 11,780 votes, -- which is one more than we have,” Mr. Trump said on the call, a recording of which was obtained by The Washington Post, which published excerpts from the audio on its website Sunday. “Because we won the state.”
Mr. Raffensperger rejected the president’s efforts to get him to reverse the election results, which are set to be certified by Congress during a session on Wednesday. Some of Mr. Trump’s allies in the House and the Senate have said they will object to the results of the elections in several states, including Georgia.
But Mr. Raffensperger told Mr. Trump that he stood by the results.
“Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong,” he said, according to the audio recording.
During the call, the president offered several false conspiracy theories, including
-- debunked charges that ballots in Fulton County were shredded and
-- that voting machines operated by Dominion Voting Systems were tampered with and replaced.
Ryan Germany, the legal counsel in Mr. Raffensperger’s office, can be heard telling the president that such charges are untrue.
“You should want to have an accurate election. And you’re a Republican,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Raffensperger,
-- who replied that “we believe that we do have an accurate election.”
Mr. Trump responded: “No, no, no, you don’t, you don’t have, you don’t have, not even close. You guys, you’re off by hundreds of thousands of votes.”
Then - - the president suggested that Mr. Raffensperger could be prosecuted criminally.
“You know what they did and you’re not reporting it,” the president said. “You know, that’s a criminal — that’s a criminal offense. And you know, you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer. That’s a big risk.”
The president confirmed the call in a tweet Sunday morning, claiming that Mr. Raffensperger “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!”
In a response on Twitter,Mr. Raffensperger wrote: “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out.”
Jaime Harrison with MAJOR update about Georgia's Senate election
BREAKING: Jaime Harrison just gave a MAJOR update about Georgia's Senate election in an exclusive interview with Occupy Democrats host Brian Tyler Cohen.
Warnock wins Georgia runoff, CNN projects, as control of Senate comes down to Perdue-Ossoff race
By Alex Rogers, CNN
Wed January 6, 2021
(CNN)The Rev. Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, will be the first Black senator from Georgia, CNN projected early Wednesday, a repudiation of Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her adherence to President Donald Trump. Control of the US Senate now comes down to Republican David Perdue, who is trailing in his fight to keep his seat against Democrat Jon Ossoff.
Ossoff declared victory Wednesday morning, though CNN hasn't yet projected a winner in the race.
Warnock is the first Georgia Democrat elected to the Senate in 20 years, and his election is the culmination of years of voter registration drives conducted by former state House Democratic leader Stacey Abrams and other activists. President-elect Joe Biden also won Georgia, the first time for a Democratic presidential candidate since the 1990s.
"I am an iteration and an example of the American dream," the senator-elect told CNN's John Berman Wednesday morning on "New Day." He added, "When I think about the arc of our history, what Georgia did last night is its own message in the midst of a moment in which so many people are trying to divide our country, at a time we can least afford to be divided."
Warnock’s victory puts Democrats within one seat of control of the Senate. Fellow Dem Jon Ossoff has declared
victory in the other runoff, which is still too close to call. Sam Brodey
The Daily Beast
January 6, 2021
ATLANTA—The state of Georgia has elected its first Black U.S. senator: on Tuesday, Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, defeated Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) in one of the state’s two runoff elections.
Warnock’s victory puts Democrats within one seat of attaining a majority in the U.S. Senate. If Jon Ossoff defeats Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) in the too-close-to-call second runoff, the party will effectively control the chamber, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as a tie-breaking vote. The votes in the second runoff are still being counted but Ossoff declared victory at around 8 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Warnock, whose mother grew up working in the cotton fields, rose to become the preacher at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the congregation once led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In a late-night video, he remarked on his historic ascent to one of the most powerful deliberative bodies in the world.
“The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton picked her youngest son to be a United States senator,” he said. “Tonight, we proved with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible.”
At around 2 a.m., the major TV networks and the Associated Press called the race in Warnock’s favor.
The senator-elect gave an emotional interview on CNN early Wednesday, saying Dr. Martin Luther King would be “smiling” to look down and see that he was being elected to the Senate, probably alongside his Jewish colleague Jon Ossoff.
Warnock had been a familiar figure in Georgia Democratic circles for years, known
for his activism on health care, criminal justice, and other issues. But he had never
before run for office, and the 2020 campaign became perhaps the most grueling
test imaginable for a first-time candidate.
Warnock spent most of the 2020 campaign preparing for a one-on-one against either Loeffler or former Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), as the two Republicans were locked in a bitter contest to secure a spot in the January runoff. As a result, he was not attacked for most of the year—which changed immediately after Loeffler edged out Collins in the Nov. 3 election.
Backed by hundreds of millions of dollars, Loeffler and her GOP allies funded an all-out blitz of TV attack ads going after Warnock. They cribbed footage from his many hours of sermons as a preacher at Ebenezer Baptist Church in an effort to portray him as a far-left radical who admired communist dictators and disparaged the military and police. In the heated final stage of the race, they used a March 2020 dispute between Warnock and his ex-wife to claim he was a domestic abuser.
Democrats denounced many of these ads as part of a racist effort to smear a Black candidate. But they also aggressively attacked Loeffler, particularly for her financial dealings. In March, The Daily Beast reported that Loeffler offloaded millions of dollars in stock holdings after senators received a private briefing about the coronavirus outbreak in January. Loeffler claimed she was exonerated by federal authorities, but Warnock referred to the stories often during the campaign, painting Loeffler as a self-interested elite in the Trumpian mold.
It was hard for Loeffler to escape Trump’s shadow during the runoff campaign. The president’s constant attacks on Georgia’s election system after his November defeat in the state sparked fears within the GOP that conservative voters would not show up to participate in a “rigged” process.
Loeffler, who worked assiduously to ally herself to the president in the eyes of his base, tried hard to validate their angst about the election that Biden won. In media appearances and even on the debate stage with Warnock in December, Loeffler declined to push back on Trump’s quest to destroy Kemp—who appointed Loeffler to the Senate—and his open calls for him to be primaried.
In a rally featuring Trump on Monday night, Loeffler used her precious time to tell the crowd and cameras that she would fight to overturn Biden’s rightful victory by objecting to the Electoral College’s certification of the election results on Wednesday.
Though Warnock passed one grueling test, his next one begins almost immediately. Because this was a special election to fill the rest of former Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R-GA) term, Warnock will face voters again in November 2022 to earn a full six-year term in the chamber.
White House Forced Georgia U.S. Attorney to Resign
White House officials pushed Atlanta’s top federal prosecutor to resign before Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs because President Trump was upset he wasn’t doing enough to investigate the president’s unproven claims of election fraud, people familiar with the matter said.
A senior Justice Department official, at the behest of the White House, called - Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak and told him he needed to step down because he wasn’t pursuing vote-fraud allegations to Mr. Trump’s satisfaction, the people said.
Mr. Pak resigned abruptly on Monday—the day before the runoffs—saying in an early morning email to colleagues that his departure was due to “unforeseen circumstances.”
The pressure on Mr. Pak was part of Mr. Trump’s weekslong push to try to alter presidential election results favoring President-elect Joe Biden, which included his win in Georgia. Mr. Trump this week, following the U.S. Capitol riot, said he would leave office on Jan. 20 when Mr. Biden is inaugurated.
Recently departed Attorney General William Barr has said the Justice Department hadn’t found evidence of widespread voter fraud that could reverse Mr. Biden’s victory, including claims of fraud, ballot destruction and voting-machine manipulation.
Dozens of state and federal court decisions also have rejected efforts by Mr. Trump and his supporters. And Congress formally certified Mr. Biden’s Electoral College victory on Thursday, after a violent pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol and forced a delay in the process.
The White House and the Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Mr. Pak didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Pak’s resignation came one day after the public release of the audio of a Jan. 2 call in which Mr. Trump had urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to overturn the November election results. Mr. Trump told Mr. Raffensperger in the roughly hourlong call that the Georgia Republican could face legal action and said he should find nearly 12,000 votes of five million cast to reverse Mr. Biden’s victory in the state.
Mr. Raffensperger rejected pressure to further investigate an election, telling the president, “The challenge that you have is that the data you have is wrong.”
The president also complained on the call that Mr. Pak was a “never Trumper.”
Georgia conducted recounts that didn’t change the outcome. Mr. Raffensperger and other Georgia officials investigated various allegations and found no evidence of widespread fraud.
It isn’t known whether the Justice Department official’s call to Mr. Pak took place before or after the Raffensperger recording was made public.
When a U.S. attorney leaves the post, the No. 2 official in the office usually takes over on an interim basis until a new top prosecutor is named. In this case, Mr. Trump bypassed that typical process and immediately named the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Georgia, Bobby Christine, to assume the job in an acting capacity. Atlanta falls in the Northern District of Georgia, and there is a separate Middle District in the state.
Mr. Christine declined to comment.
Mr. Christine, a Trump appointee, assumed the post by a written order of the president on Monday, Jan. 4, the same day as Mr. Pak’s resignation.
Mr. Trump also personally called a staffer in the Georgia secretary of state’s office and demanded it produce proof of election fraud, an official at the Georgia secretary of state’s office said on Saturday. The president made that call in December before separate outreach to Mr. Raffensperger.
An official at the Georgia secretary of state’s office on Saturday said the White House called officials and staff at the office for weeks demanding proof of election fraud—long before the call to Mr. Raffensperger.
“They were desperately trying to find evidence for lawsuits that were about to be thrown out of court,” the Georgia official said. “They kept telling us that, ‘You need to give us the evidence’ and the truth is there isn’t any evidence to give.”
The Georgia official said staffers were worried when they heard Mr. Pak had resigned, fearing the White House would put in people to investigate them. “Retaliation was very much a concern,” the official said.
The Washington Post earlier Saturday reported the phone call between Mr. Trump and the secretary of state staffer.
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in Atlanta also found the allegations of election fraud in the state lacking and didn’t see a need to pursue them, people familiar with the matter said. The FBI’s Atlanta office declined to comment.
Mr. Trump’s call to Mr. Raffensperger came as the president and his supporters since November had pushed to overturn the election results in Georgia, including through public attacks on the state’s Republican governor and other officials by Mr. Trump, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others.
On the call with Mr. Raffensperger, Ryan Germany, the secretary of state’s general counsel, told the president: “What we are seeing is not at all what you are describing.”
At one point on the weekend call with Mr. Raffensperger, in which Mr. Trump repeatedly complained about supposed irregularities in Fulton County, which includes most of Atlanta, Mr. Trump apparently referred to Mr. Pak, saying: “I mean, you have your Never Trumper U.S. attorney there.”
Colleagues and associates of Mr. Pak said they had viewed Mr. Pak as a proud and early supporter of Mr. Trump, who nominated him to his post in July 2017. Mr. Pak thanked the president by name at his swearing-in ceremony after the Senate confirmed him to the post two months later, and again in the brief statement he released on his resignation. “I am grateful to President Trump and the United States Senate for the opportunity to serve, and to Attorneys General (Jeff) Sessions and (William) Barr for their leadership of the department,” Mr. Pak said.
Mr. Pak had been interviewing with law firms in recent months, and had lined up a job in the private sector, but had planned to stay in the post through the end of Mr. Trump’s term, people familiar with Mr. Pak’s plans said.
Democrats see Georgia as model for success across South Democrats are looking to their stunning success in Georgia as they aim to make further inroads in the Deep South, a region where they've long been shunned.
The victories of President-elect Joe Biden and Sens.-elect Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock were the product of years of on-the-ground organizing in Georgia, with a particular focus on turning out suburban and Black voters. Now Democrats are eyeing possible opportunities to replicate that model in states like North and South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana in future election cycles.
"The story of Georgia is the story of a changing South. That is the truth," said one North Carolina Democratic operative who's worked on down-ballot races there. "In a changing South where a lot of races are very close, the strategy that was put into place in Georgia can make a big difference just about anywhere, I think."
Democrats have long whispered about the Deep South as a region where they can one day be competitive given the growing Black populations and burgeoning suburbs in several states. Yet the party has been locked out of power there for decades except for scattered victories like Doug Jones's three-year stint as an Alabama senator and John Bel Edwards's victories in the 2015 and 2019 Louisiana gubernatorial races.
The trio of wins in Georgia marked the most significant triumphs for Democrats in the Deep South in years and followed over a decade of exhaustive voter registration and outreach drives that were virtually unprecedented in the region's modern history.
However, it remains to be seen whether the playbook that won Georgia can be employed in states across the region.
While similar - albeit nascent - organizing efforts are underway in other southern states, Georgia Democrats benefited from having a massive metropolitan center in Atlanta.
On top of that, the Deep South remains among the most conservative areas of the country, one in which Republicans have formed deep roots.
Still, Democrats are optimistic that the Georgia strategy, with tweaks to address local differences, could lead to further victories in the region.
"There are parts of strategy that are applicable and there are parts that aren't. I mean, we're not going to have an Atlanta anytime soon, right? We've got a Birmingham, we've got Mobile, we've got Montgomery, we've got Huntsville, but we don't have the tremendous urban concentration that they have over there," said Alabama Democratic Party Executive Director Wade Perry.
"The focus onvoter registration and thefocus on building coalitions of consensus with like-minded organizations I think is applicable. You've got environmental groups out there, you've got social justice groups out there, and to the extent that we can get those groups all pulling in the same direction with progressives, with Democrats, that's how you start to build power."
Democrats and organizers point chiefly to the region's substantial Black population for their optimism. Mississippi has the highest percentage of African Americans in the country at 38 percent, and nearly all who are registered vote Democrat. More than a quarter of the populations of Alabama and South Carolina are Black, and more than 22 percent of North Carolinians are Black.
Nowhere was Black Americans' voting power more on display than in the Georgia races, where strong African American turnout was credited with producing all three Democratic statewide wins. Activists suggest the path to success in the South is not trying to persuade fabled swing voters to move their way but toensure that those who already lean toward Democrats make their way to the polls.
Nsé Ufot, the CEO of the New Georgia Project, said the Democratic victories should disabuse "the party and the candidates ... of this notion that there's some moderate white unicorn, that you are going to craft the perfect argument, and he will then abandon the party of Trump to come back and vote for Democrats."
"Being very clear about who it is that you're trying to move to vote I think is really important," she told The Hill.
But the national party has struggled for years to formulate a message that drives African Americans to the polls.
Organizers told The Hill they think the party has too often leaned on outside consultants who struggle to connect with voters' concerns instead of working to tap into local talent who can more easily relate with the people the party is trying to reach.
"Because we want to play bank politics, meaning we want the white consultants from D.C. to come with their supposedly expert ideas to organizers on the ground, and never listening to organizers on the ground, we have so many losses in places and spaces we should never lose," said Mondale Robinson, the founder of Black Male Voter Project, which helps facilitate conversations between Black male voters and organizers across the South.
Still, even with perfect organizing efforts, Democrats face an uphill climb in the Deep South.
Due to a lack of Atlanta-sized hubs in other southern states, campaigns will be forced to boost their support with Black voters in rural expanses where the party's ranks have been decimated.
Ufot noted that organizing efforts in Georgia expanded well beyond Atlanta and could provide a roadmap for organizers in other states. New Georgia Project has a staff of 100 people in eight offices who knocked on 405,000 doors ahead of the November elections and 1.7 million doors in the nine weeks heading into the runoffs.
"You cannot win statewide if you just win Atlanta. You can't win statewide if you just win Jackson or Raleigh or Charlotte, or New Orleans," she said. "I can tell you, down to the county, what it takes to win statewide in Georgia, what the win margin needs to be and what the vote total needs to be in all 159 of Georgia's counties. Developing that level of understanding...is going to be really important."
In many states where organizing is still in an early stage, campaigns and parties will have to fill the void - and they say they can't do it without outside help.
"We're gonna have to have real investment from outside of the South to do the things that need doing. Voter registration costs money. Voter contact costs money," said Perry of the Alabama Democratic Party. "We have to have to get people from outside of Alabama to invest and that's part of our challenge in the state party that we're working on now."
Even in the most competitive campaigns in the South this cycle, Democrats couldn't overcome the region's staunch conservatism and muscular Republican apparatuses.
South Carolina's Jaime Harrison and Mississippi's Mike Espy raised millions of dollars in their high-profile bids to unseat Republican incumbents and were showered with support from Washington establishment figures. North Carolina's Cal Cunningham ran in one of the most expensive Senate races in history to oust Sen. Thom Tillis (R) in a purple state. Polls showed all three races were tight, and Democrats wondered if 2020 was finally their year in the South.
Harrison and Espy still ended up losing by 10 points, and Cunningham lost a nail-biter after his campaign was derailed by reports of an extramarital affair.
But with Georgia offering a glimpse of what's possible, southern Democrats hope the national party will focus a brighter spotlight on the Deep South than in the past.
"I definitely think you'll see a new wave of flirtation in the South about the need to have a stronger relationship with the South because of Georgia," Antjuan Seawright, a South Carolina-based strategist, said."There are real pockets of possibility everywhere, and I think that gives people a glimmer of hope about the future of these places."