With days to go until President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, many have questioned whether President Donald Trump really believes his baseless claims of voter fraud. Some have speculated that Trump knows he lost and is just pushing the lie that the election was stolen from him as a way to fire up his base and raise money. But the Washington Post obtained extraordinary audio of a phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that took place Saturday and shows how the president still believes conspiracy theories about the election and has no qualms about trying to pressure people to try to get his way. During the hourlong phone call Trump not only practically begged Raffensperger to act, he also issued vague threats, implying that failing to do his bidding could lead to criminal liability.
Raffensperger and his lawyer repeatedly told Trump that the count was accurate and that Biden did, in fact, win the state by 11,779 votes. Trump was having none of it and insisted that he knew he came out on top. “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong,” Raffensperger said. The Post published a four-and-a-half-minute cut of the audio that is worth listening to if for no other reason than to understand what a parallel universe the president is living in. It seems Trump has surrounded himself with conspiracy theorists who feed him false information that he then repeats as true without once providing any evidence to back his assertions. “There’s no way I lost Georgia,” Trump repeats over and over again in the call.
Even though Trump assures he won “by hundreds of thousands of votes,” at one point he makes clear he doesn’t care about all that. “I just want to find 11,780 votes,” Trump says. “Because we won the state.” At another point of the call he seems to issue vague threats that Raffensperger and his lawyer, Ryan Germany, could face legal repercussions. “That’s a criminal offense,” he said. “And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer.” Throughout the call he appeals to Raffensperger as a Republican, saying his refusal to do Trump’s bidding could end up hurting Republicans in the state in the crucial runoff election Tuesday that will decide which party controls the Senate. “You have a big election coming up and because of what you’ve done to the president—you know, the people of Georgia know that this was a scam,” Trump said. “Because of what you’ve done to the president, a lot of people aren’t going out to vote.”
Earlier Sunday, Trump and Raffensperger got into a public spat on Twitter. Trump wrote on Sunday that he had spoken to Raffensperger and 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.” Raffensperger publicly contradicted Trump. “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out,” he tweeted.
Update, Jan. 3, 2021, at 5:05 p.m.: After some Trump allies complained of the excerpted audio, the Washington Post released the full recording of the phone call.