U.S. President Donald Trump is “just plain wrong” about election irregularities in Georgia, the state’s top elections official said Monday after he rebuffed Trump’s plea over the weekend to find enough ballots to upend his pivotal 11,000-vote loss in the state to President-elect Joe Biden.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the elections official in the southern state, told ABC News’s “Good Morning America” show that when he and Trump had an hourlong phone call Saturday, it became obvious that the president continues to believe baseless theories about election fraud that he claimed wrongly handed the state’s 16 electoral votes to Biden. (Read transcript of phone call)
“He did most of the talking. We did most of the listening,” Raffensperger said. “The data that he has is just plain wrong. … He has bad data.”
“For the last two months, we’ve been fighting the rumor whack-a-mole,” Raffensperger said. “And it was pretty obvious very early on that we debunked every one of those theories that have been out there. But President Trump continues to believe them. … We believe that truth matters.”
Later Monday, one of Raffensperger’s assistants, Gabriel Sterling, told reporters there is “not a whit” of truth to Trump’s claims that voting machines were tampered with in Georgia. He said there was “zero proof” of the president’s fraud claims.
Sterling said there were no more votes to find in the state because all the votes had been counted.
Trump, who has refused to concede defeat to Biden, continued his attack on the election outcome Monday on Twitter, saying that in the evening, he would reveal “the real numbers,” when he heads to Georgia to campaign for two incumbent Republican senators facing runoff elections against Democratic challengers on Tuesday.
“How can you certify an election when the numbers being certified are verifiably WRONG,” Trump said in a comment that Twitter labeled as “disputed.”
Trump’s plea to Raffensperger to “find” more votes for him has drawn widespread condemnation after a tape of the conversation was published Sunday afternoon by The Washington Post.
Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan told CNN, “I am 100% certified to tell you that it was inappropriate, and it certainly did not help the situation. It was based on misinformation. It was based on all types of theories that have been debunked and disproved over the course of the last 10 weeks.”
Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, a staunch Trump supporter, told the “Fox & Friends” show on Fox News that Trump’s plea for more votes to overturn the Georgia vote was “not a helpful call.”
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, a Trump critic, said in a statement that the president’s "disgraceful effort to intimidate an elected official into deliberately changing and misrepresenting the legally confirmed vote totals in his state strikes at the heart of our democracy and merits nothing less than a criminal investigation.”
Michael Bromwich, a former Department of Justice inspector general, said on Twitter, “Unless there are portions of the tape that somehow negate criminal intent” in asking Raffensperger to find more votes for him, “his best defense would be insanity.”
Trump’s call to Raffensperger came ahead of the scheduled Wednesday vote in Congress to certify Biden’s 306-232 advantage in the Electoral College to make him the country’s 46th president when he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are inaugurated January 20.
Ahead of the congressional certification of the election outcome, more than 100 Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives and a dozen senators said they are planning to contest Biden’s narrow victories in battleground states.
But Democrats, who narrowly control the House, are certain to certify Biden’s win, while the Democratic minority in the Senate, along with key Republican leaders in the Senate who have acknowledged Biden’s victory and oppose their Republican colleagues’ challenge, are also likely to certify the election outcome in Biden’s favor.
In the phone call Saturday, Trump said to Raffensperger, “So, look. 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.”
Trump sometimes assailed Raffensperger and occasionally flattered him and his office’s general counsel, Ryan Germany. The president disputed the accuracy of three separate vote counts in Georgia that showed Biden was the first Democratic presidential contender to capture the state since 1992.
In the United States’ indirect form of democracy, Biden, by winning the popular vote in the state, won all 16 of Georgia’s electoral votes.
Even if Trump were to upend the Georgia vote, Biden would still have more than the 270-vote majority needed to win the presidency in the Electoral College.
Trump asked the Georgia officials to recalculate the vote count and said that if Raffensperger refused to overturn the vote, he would be taking “a big risk.”
Throughout the call, Raffensperger and Germany rebuffed Trump’s assertions that he had been defrauded of a win in the state. Trump has lost dozens of legal challenges claiming that vote and vote-counting irregularities cost him victories in Georgia and in other political battleground states.
Trump rejected the claims by Raffensperger and Germany that the Georgia outcome was legitimate. Throughout the call, he repeated that he had won the state.
“There’s no way I lost Georgia,” he said at one point. “There’s no way. We won by hundreds of thousands of votes.”
The president linked his fate in the state to Tuesday’s Senate runoff elections in which incumbent Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler respectively face Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock in contests that will determine control of the U.S. Senate during the first two years of the Biden presidency.
“You have a big election coming up,” Trump told Raffensperger, “and because of what you’ve done to the president — you know, the people of Georgia know that this was a scam.”
Trump’s call to Raffensperger was his latest effort to pressure state officials and lawmakers to overturn the votes in political battleground states that Biden won or name Trump supporters as electors instead of ones supporting Biden.
But none of the state officials have acceded to Trump’s complaints and demands.