US president Donald Trump repeatedly pressed Georgia’s top election official to change the presidential vote tally in the state to ensure his victory over Joe Biden, in one of his most brazen attempts yet to cling to power.
In an hour-long call with Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, on Saturday, Mr Trump urged him to “find” the 11,780 votes he would need to win the state, insisting that there was “no way” that he was defeated.
“The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry,” Mr Trump said, according to clips of the conversation posted on the Washington Post’s website. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.”
Since the general election on November 3, Mr Trump has refused to concede the White House to Mr Biden. He has made a series of unfounded allegations of voter fraud in the swing states that determined the result, and orchestrated a barrage of unsuccessful legal challenges to the vote tallies.
With less than three weeks to go before Mr Trump is due to hand over the White House to Mr Biden, the incumbent president is also backing an effort by some of his staunchest Republican allies to block the certification of his opponent’s victory in a congressional vote in Washington on Wednesday.
Mr Trump’s pressure was forcefully rejected by Mr Raffensperger, a Republican official who has stood by Georgia’s vote count showing Mr Biden as the winner.
“Mr President, the challenge that you have is that the data you have is wrong,” Mr Raffensperger said on the call.
At one point in the call, Mr Trump asked Mr Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, one of his top aides, if it was “possible” that ballots had been “shredded” in Fulton county and if Dominion, the ballot processor, had removed some of their machines to escape scrutiny. Mr Germany said he was “sure” that Dominion had not removed any machines.
After Mr Raffensperger said that Georgia believed it had ensured “an accurate election”, Mr Trump escalated his attack on him, saying it was “not even close” and the state was off by “hundreds of thousands of votes”.
“You know what you did and you’re not reporting it. That’s a criminal offence. You can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer. That’s a big risk,” Mr Trump added menacingly. “I’m notifying you that you let it happen”.