Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger leaked the tape of his hour-long conversation with President Donald Trump after the president attacked him on Twitter and claimed he had ‘no clue’ following his refusal to bow to pressure and threats, it emerged Monday.
The two men spoke Saturday in an explosive call that also included Raffensperger’s counsel Brian Germany, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and at least two Trump legal advisors.
The release of the tape – where Trump demands Raffensperger ‘find’ 11,780 votes and make immediate statements that he won the election – followed Trump’s public attacks on the elected Republican official.
Raffensperger himself appeared on GMA Monday to say that he believed Trump could face a criminal investigation in Georgia, and to call Trump’s claims of fraud ‘plain wrong.’
He revealed that the Fulton County District attorney Fani Willis was ready to launch an investigation, which she confirmed. The prosecutor said Monday she was waiting for a referral from the Georgia Board of Elections and said: ‘Anyone who commits a felony violation of Georgia law in my jurisdiction will be held accountable.’
A source said that the call came after 18 separate attempts by the White House to get Raffensperger to speak to Trump, which he had turned down. When the Georgia official did speak, he had his general counsel, Ryan Germany, with him and recorded the call.
The tape’s release has created a metastasizing crisis for Republicans. On Tuesday voters in Georgia decide whether Republicans hold its two Senate seats and control of the upper chamber or hand them to Democrats, giving Joe Biden’s party control of the White House and all of Congress.
As the scandal reverberated, the fact that Raffensperger had recorded the tape and leaked it emerged in a Politico report which revealed that he only acted after Trump disclosed the existence of the call and attacked the Georgia Secretary of State on Twitter.
‘I spoke to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger yesterday about Fulton County and voter fraud in Georgia,’ Trump tweeted Sunday morning from Washington, on a day when area golf courses were soggy from the rain.
‘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!’ Trump wrote.
Trump’s tweet referenced some of the allegations and conspiracy theories he raised in the hour-long call with Raffensperger, where the official and his counsel repeatedly resisted or sought to counter Trump’s repeated claims.
‘Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out,’ Raffensperger replied Sunday at about 10:30 AM from his official account.
Later Sunday, the Washington Post reported on the stunning phone call, having obtained a copy of the complete conversation.
The call came on a day 11 Republican senators joined Trump ally Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) in saying they would challenge the electoral vote count Wednesday in multiple states Trump lost.
The phone call has the potential to impact the critical Georgia Senate runoff elections on Tuesday – and could even put Trump on the wrong side of criminal statutes barring interference in elections.
‘All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,’ Trump says on the call. ‘There’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, that you’ve recalculated.’
Raffensperger previously accused South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally and golf partner, of calling him and asking him to toss out ballots. Graham acknowledged the call but denied the pressure, which appears to have prompted Raffensperger’s team to record his conversation with Trump.
The call that finally took place Saturday, following state certification and a recount, came after the White House sought to contact Raffensperger’s office 18 times, CNN reported.
When it finally did happen, Raffensperger and his team had evidence of the president’s pressure.
‘This is a man who has a history of reinventing history as it occurs,’ a Raffensperger advisor told Politico.
‘So if he’s going to try to dispute anything on the call, it’s nice to have something like this, hard evidence, to dispute whatever he’s claiming about the secretary. So yeah, after that call, we decided maybe we should do this,’ the person said.
Raffensperger told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ Monday he has ‘been fighting a rumor whack-a-mole’ and attacked Trump as ‘just plain wrong.’
‘Did you consider it a lawful request when the president asked you to find the votes?’ Stephanopoulos asked.
‘I’m not a lawyer. All I know is that we’re gonna follow the law, follow the process. Truth matters, and we’ve been fighting these rumors for the last two months,’ Raffensperger said.
‘It was pretty obvious very early on that we debunked every one of those theories that had been out there, but President Trump continues to believe them,’ he said.
‘He did most of the talking. We did most of the listening but I did want to make my points that the data that he has is just plain wrong,’ he said.
‘He did most of the talking,’ Raffensperger told ABC host George Stephanopoulos. ‘We did most of the listening, but I did want to make my points that the data that he has is just plain wrong.’
‘He had hundreds and hundreds of people he said that were dead that voted. We found two, that’s an example of just – he has bad data,’ he continued.
Trump on the call claimed the ballots were ‘corrupt’ and that failing to say so and make him the winner was a ‘criminal offense.’
‘And you are going to find that they are — which is totally illegal — it is more illegal for you than it is for them because, you know, what they did and you’re not reporting it. That’s a criminal, that’s a criminal offense. And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer. And that’s a big risk,’ Trump said on the call.
‘Did you feel the pressure when he said ‘find’ the votes?’ Stephanopoulos pressed of the Georgia Republican.
‘No,’ Raffensperger said. ‘We have to follow the process, follow the law. Everything we’ve done for the last 12 months follows the constitution of the State of Georgia, follows the United States Constitution, follows state law.’
But a pair of Democratic House members urged FBI Director Christopher Wray to open an investigation into President Donald Trump’s extraordinary phone call with Georgia’s secretary of state.
‘As members of Congress and former prosecutors, we believe Donald Trump engaged in the solicitation of, or conspiracy to commit, a number of election crimes,’ Representatives Ted Lieu of California and Kathleen Rice of New York wrote in a letter to Wray on Monday.
‘We ask you to open an immediate criminal investigation into the president,’ they demanded.
The letter claims Trump made ‘a number of other statements soliciting election fraud.’
Lieu and Rice claim that Trump is now guilty of committing voter fraud himself by attempting to persuade Georgia officials – through threats, flattery, and otherwise – to conjure votes for him that are not there.
‘The evidence of election fraud by Mr. Trump is now in broad daylight,’ the two said now that audio of the full call is widely published. ‘Given the more than ample factual predicate, we are making a criminal to you to open an investigation into Mr. Trump.’
News of Lieu and Rice’s letter to the head of the FBI comes as Georgia State Election Board member David Worley sent an email over the weekend demanding the state open a probe into Trump’s hour-long call with Raffensperger.
The sole Democrat on the five-person panel, David Worley, wrote in an email to Raffensperger – who, as Georgia’s secretary of state, serves as the State Election Board chairman – claiming an investigation is required.