Politics

Perdue and Loeffler Are Abetting Trump’s Coup Attempt

Their response to the leaked phone call shows how far they’re willing to go.

Trump walking and Loeffler giving a thumbs up
President Donald Trump arrives with GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler at a campaign rally in Dalton, Georgia, on Monday. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Georgia’s Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, call themselves the “last line of defense” against tyranny. They claim that if Democrats unseat them in Tuesday’s runoffs, the left will seize “total control,” like “Cuba and Venezuela and North Korea.” That’s absurd, given the GOP’s power in Congress, the states, and the Supreme Court. But America does face a tyrannical threat: President Donald Trump’s attempt, with broad Republican support, to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election. In that fight, Perdue and Loeffler aren’t standing against tyranny. They’re abetting it.

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Since Election Day, Trump has been trying to invalidate or tamper with Georgia’s ballot count, which he narrowly lost. He has threatened every official—most notably, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger—who followed the law and stood in his way. Perdue and Loeffler have sided with Trump, parroting his lies and demanding Raffensperger’s resignation. Even now, three weeks after the Electoral College confirmed Joe Biden’s victory, the Georgia senators continue to brush aside court rulings and spread lies about “nefarious activities” that somehow swung the election. Perdue says Republicans should seek “revenge” for fraud “perpetrated” by Democrats.

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On Sunday, Perdue endorsed a move in Congress to defy the election results by objecting, in a procedural challenge on Wednesday, to Biden’s win in the Electoral College. “I’m encouraging my colleagues to object,” said Perdue, dismissing his own state’s certified ballot count. Meanwhile, in a Fox News interview, Loeffler suggested that if she and Perdue were to win the runoffs on Tuesday, that would be a mandate to fight for Trump in Congress the next day. “We have to win because we have to be able to get to that next step, to be able to vote our conscience and what is right on Jan. 6,” she argued. “And then we have to be able to pursue holding people accountable for how these elections were handled.”

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Optimists dismissed the challenge in Congress as an empty gesture. But on Sunday afternoon, a leaked audio recording showed that Trump was dead serious about fighting to stay in power. The recording captured an hourlong Saturday phone call in which Trump and his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, pressed Raffensperger and his general counsel, Ryan Germany, to “find 11,780 votes” for the president, thereby “flipping the state.” Raffensperger and Germany reminded Trump that audits, court hearings, and law enforcement investigations had debunked the fraud allegations he was peddling. Trump ignored these reminders and continued to insist that the count must be flipped.

Three elements of the call were indisputably corrupt. First, Trump directly appealed to partisan allegiance. “You’re a Republican,” he told Raffensperger. Later, the president fumed, “You’ve taken a state that’s a Republican state, and you’ve made it almost impossible for a Republican to win.”

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Second, Trump set a crass political deadline. “You should meet tomorrow because you have a big election coming up,” he told Raffensperger. The president demanded that the ballot count “be straightened out before the election.” Later, he pressed again for a meeting “tomorrow” to “come to a resolution of this before the election.”

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Third, Trump explicitly argued that Raffensperger should reopen the November ballot count in order to help Republicans win the runoffs. “Because of what you’ve done to the president, a lot of people aren’t going out to vote,” he told Raffensperger. “And a lot of Republicans are going to vote negative because they hate what you did to the president. … It’s going to have a big impact on Tuesday if you guys don’t get this thing straightened out fast,” he warned.

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Some Republicans, after hearing audio of the call, condemned Trump’s obvious corruption. But Loeffler and Perdue embraced him. Loeffler announced on Monday that she would support the congressional movement to reject the president’s defeat in the Electoral College. Meanwhile, in TV interviews, Perdue defended Trump’s demands in the call, and he accused Raffensperger of betraying the GOP: “I’m still shocked that a member of the Republican Party would tape a sitting president and then leak that. It’s disgusting.” When Fox News anchor Sandra Smith noted that other Republicans had condemned Trump’s arm-twisting in the call, Perdue retorted that “a lot of people in Georgia and 75 million Americans, I think, align with him.”

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On Monday night, Trump flew to Georgia for a final rally before the runoffs. Perdue addressed the crowd by video, urging his Senate colleagues “to object to Georgia electors” on Wednesday. Trump, in his speech, said that November’s election had been stolen but that he hoped Vice President Mike Pence, presiding over the Senate’s consideration of electoral votes, “comes through for us.” Otherwise, Trump warned, America would become “a one-party country. And the party will be the wrong party.”

Perdue’s defense of Trump’s phone call might be just the surface of his own involvement. Twice in the past week, the senator has alluded to other calls in which he directly participated. Last Wednesday, he told interviewer Brian Pritchard, “We’ve had phone calls after phone calls asking for the state to step in and do something.” Later that day, he told radio host Guy Benson, “What I’m doing right now is going to the courts. The president’s gone to the courts. We had phone calls last night. We’re trying to get to the bottom of what happened in November.”

Who else was on these phone calls? What was sought or demanded? Have the Georgia senators or their allies, in unrecorded conversations, pressured election officials to tamper with ballot counts, open sketchy investigations, or violate the law in any other way? Those questions might take months to answer. But thanks to Trump’s recorded call, Perdue’s defense of it, and Loeffler’s talk of a mandate to defy the presidential election, we know this: A vote for Loeffler or Perdue on Tuesday is a vote to overthrow democracy.

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