It turned out that the phone call characterized by the Washington Post as an effort by President Trump to “find” votes in Georgia was part of a lawsuit the president’s campaign quietly filed on New Year’s Eve asking the state to decertify the results and allow the Republican-led legislature to declare Trump the winner.
A hearing is set for Tuesday morning in the case, which is one day before the joint session of Congress to certify the Electoral College results, Bloomberg reported.
A recording of the call Saturday between President Trump, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensparger, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and others was leaked to the Washington Post, which reported Trump told Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 votes to overcome the margin of 11,779.
However, Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller argued that only four and a half minutes of a 62-minute call was published.
“The transcript of the call shows Trump demanding an honest accounting of the ballots, which he says would give him more than 11,000 votes.”
A transcript later was published by CNN.
Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue defended Trump.
“I didn’t hear anything in that tape that the president hasn’t already said for weeks now since the November election calling for some sort of investigation, some sort of resolution to the improprieties and the irregularities that we now see happened in November here in Georgia,” Perdue told Fox News.
“What he is saying, a lot of people in Georgia and 75 million Americans, I think, align with him right now that something untoward happened here in Georgia and we have not gotten to the bottom of it,” said the senator, who is in one of the two runoff elections Tuesday that will decide control of the Senate.
Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer said the call, “secretly recorded,” was part of a “confidential settlement discussion” regarding a pending lawsuit.
He charged on Twitter that the audio published by the Washington Post is “heavily edited and omits the stipulation that all discussions were for the purpose of settling litigation and confidential under federal and state law.”
Trump lawyer Kurt Hilbert told Fox News the campaign is “disappointed that the secretary of state and his staff secretly recorded and released a confidential settlement discussion to settle the two pending lawsuits.”
“While they may think that behavior is appropriate, we do not,” he added. “Consequently, we will not be commenting on settlement discussions.”
‘A grudge between you and the president?’
On Monday, Fox News host Martha MacCallum pressed Raffensperger over who leaked the call.
“Did you say OK, let’s release the audio of the phone call?” MacCallum asked.
“The information is out there,” the elections official said. “It is what it is.”
MacCallum pressed further: “That’s not an answer to my question. Are you going to answer my question? Were you aware of the decision and were you in favor of the decision the release the phone call, sir?”
Raffensperger again dodged the question.
“I think we had to respond to the president’s Twitter, and we responded with the facts that were in the call,” he said. “So that’s how it got out there. The world can make up their own decisions, listen to the both sides. Both sides of the aisle, down the middle. Make their own decisions.”
MacCallum asked Raffensperger to respond to Sen. Perdue calling the leak “disgusting.”
“Senator Perdue owes my wife an apology after the death threats after he asked for my resignation,” Raffensperger retorted. “I have not heard a peep from that man. If he wants to call me, I’ll talk to him off the record. But he hasn’t done that.”
MacCallum replied: “It feels like this is very much about a grudge between you and the president and … Purdue.”
Raffensperger cut her off.
“It’s about getting the facts out,” he said. “President Trump probably had eight to 10 points. Every one of [Trump’s] numbers were wrong. We have a poster board of the actual numbers that we have versus what they have. Our numbers will be supported in a court of law. Their numbers will not be.”
Bernie Sanders: Phone call ‘impeachable’
Earlier Monday, the sole Democrat on the Georgia State Board of Elections demanded Raffensperger launch a civil and criminal investigation of the president.
In an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Raffensperger said he could not investigate because of “a conflict of interest.”
But he said the Fulton County District Attorney “wants to look at it.”
“Maybe that’s the appropriate venue for it to go,” he said.
On Monday, Democratic Reps. Ted Lieu of California and Kathleen Rice of New York sent a criminal referral to the FBI regarding the phone call, claiming Trump solicited election fraud during the call, Fox News reported.
The FBI confirmed it received the letter but declined to comment.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., charged Monday on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” that the phone call amounted to an impeachable offense.
“It is unprecedented. It is the most consequential attack on American democracy in the history of our country,” he said.
“This is what mafia does. What Trump was essentially saying to Raffensperger, the secretary of state in Georgia, is, ‘Hey, get me 12,000 votes so I can win. And if not, by the way, you know, there may be criminal action against you and your attorney.’ This is beyond outrageous. This is not only impeachable. It is certainly a criminal offense. When you run for office, you can’t threaten public officials about manipulating the vote for you to win. That is not what democracy is about.”
Trump: Raffensperger ‘has no clue’
On Sunday, Trump referred to the phone call in a tweet, charging Raffensperger “has no clue” regarding the allegations of fraud.
“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,” Trump tweeted. “He has no clue!”
I spoke to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger yesterday about Fulton County and voter fraud in Georgia. 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. He has no clue!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2021
Raffensperger shot back Sunday on Twitter: “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out.”
Respectfully, President Trump: What you're saying is not true. The truth will come out https://t.co/ViYjTSeRcC
— GA Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (@GaSecofState) January 3, 2021
“They published 4 minutes and 31 seconds – where is the other 35 minutes? @GaSecofState Raffensperger is a political hack who doesn’t care about election integrity, nor does he care about telling the entire story. Release the full tape!” – Jason Miller, Trump 2020 Senior Advisor
— Jason Miller (@JasonMillerinDC) January 3, 2021