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In a phone call with Georgia election officials, President Donald Trump scolded, cajoled and pleaded with them to “find” enough votes to show that he won the state. Trump has long alleged that he “won” the Nov. 3 election and that voter fraud gave the election to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden.
The Saturday evening phone call, which was condemned by Maine’s congressional delegation and numerous Republican lawmakers, was a stark reminder of Trump’s loose affiliation with the truth and of the lengths he will go to in an attempt to keep his hold on power.
Official tallies show Biden winning Georgia by 11,779 votes. Georgia was one of five states that went for Trump in 2016 but switched to back Biden in the November election.
“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 said during the hour-long phone call, in which he did most of the talking.
“So what are we going to do here, folks?” he said at another point. “I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.”
Give us a break. Give the American people a break. This would be a laughable conversation if it weren’t the president of the United States trying to intimidate state officials, using disproven information and already ans wered questions, to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 election. Instead, in part because more than 100 members of Congress and millions of Americans back the president’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, it is a dangerous assault on our democracy and the Constitution that undergirds it.
“It is too late to find votes,” Sen. Susan Collins said in a statement on Monday.
“The election in Georgia — and in all the states — is over. The people have voted, the electors have voted, and the Congress will formally count the votes on Jan. 6. A new Congress was sworn in yesterday and a new president will be inaugurated on Jan. 20,” she added.
“Let’s call this what it is: an overt, corrupt attempt to overturn the will of the voters,” Sen. Angus King said on Sunday.
King called Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results, coupled with calls for his supporters to take the streets this week as Congress certifies the election results, “one of the most serious assaults upon our country’s democratic system in American history.”
A dozen times during the call, the Georgia officials — Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the chief lawyer for the secretary of state’s office — told the president and his lawyers that the numbers they were using and allegations they were making were not accurate.
“Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong,” Raffensperger said after Trump touted attendance at his rallies and suggested that the secretary of state say he’d “recalculated” the votes to declare Trump the winner.
Raffensperger and Ryan told the president and his team that the allegations they’d made were investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation and heard by numerous courts, and dismissed by all.
Undeterred, the president continued to talk about incidents that had come to his attention, some of them circulated and debunked on social media. Raffensperger and Germany debunked the president’s claims. No, ballots from the Nov. 3 election were not shredded, they said. No, out-of-state residents did not vote in Georgia; but people who had moved back to Georgia from other states over several years did vote. No, thousands of dead people did not vote. No, Dominion did not move voting machines out of Fulton County. No, they did not remove parts from those machines.
“Mr. President, the problem you have with social media, they — people can say anything,” Raffensperger said at one point.
“Oh, this isn’t social media. This is Trump media. It’s not social media,” Trump responded.
The president’s potentially illegal phone call is exceedingly unlikely to change the election results in Georgia. But, it furthers his false narrative that a second term as president was stolen from him while undermining confidence in our electoral system, which his own attorney general said was not impacted by fraud.
That false narrative could damage American democracy long after Trump has left the White House, further cementing a notion that conservatives and liberals live in “alternative world s.” All Americans, particularly those in Congress, should recognize Trump’s call for what it was: a factually and morally bankrupt attempt to shakedown state officials and substitute the desires of a defeated president for the will of the people.