In a lengthy phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Saturday, President Donald Trump implored that state’s top elections official to “find” the votes necessary to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in that traditionally red state. The tape was given to The Washington Post, which published the full audio and a transcript on its website. Trump lost to Biden by a margin of 11,799 votes in Georgia. On Wednesday, a joint session of the U.S. House and Senate will convene to formally accept and count the Electoral College votes of the states and the District of Columbia. Some Republican members of Congress say they will object to Congress' acceptance of the certified results from certain battleground states.
In his phone call Saturday to Georgia’s secretary of state, Trump starkly revealed the lengths to which he’s going — and wants others to go — to overturn the certified presidential election results.
We found the phone call to be mind-boggling — and akin to a debt collection call, which shouldn’t surprise us, because this president is nothing if not transactional. It appears that Trump’s outrageous request that Georgia officials “recalculate” the election results in his favor also may have been illegal.
Kim Wehle, law professor at the University of Baltimore and author of “How to Read the Constitution — and Why,” told NPR that it’s “a crime to request, solicit or ask someone else” to “falsify returns or falsify reports of votes, and arguably that’s what we heard on the call.”
Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania’s junior senator, said the call “represents a new low in this whole futile and sorry episode.”
Toomey was referring to the stated intention of at least a dozen GOP senators and scores of House members to contest on Wednesday the certified results of the November presidential election.
Lancaster County Congressman Lloyd Smucker is among those who will challenge Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes for Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Smucker’s press secretary said in an email to an LNP | LancasterOnline news reporter Monday that “unlawful actions” by Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration and “partisan rulings” from the state Supreme Court “exceeded and circumvented the state legislature’s constitutional authority.”
Toomey, to his great credit, isn’t buying the nonsense some of his fellow Republicans are selling. He said Monday that “the evidence is overwhelming that Joe Biden won this election.”
We’re left wondering how Smucker feels about Trump’s potentially unlawful phone call with Georgia officials, and the commander in chief’s attempt to circumvent the “constitutional authority” of those officials.
In case the congressman from West Lampeter Township didn’t listen to the audio or read the transcript, we’re printing some key excerpts here. The president’s claims were disputed repeatedly by Raffensperger, a stalwart Republican.
There is zero evidence to support Trump’s claims about widespread election fraud in Georgia — or in any other state, for that matter. His campaign’s claims have been rejected repeatedly by the courts, former U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Trump’s own former election cybersecurity chief. Georgia conducted a hand recount and an electronic recount, as well as an audit. A top Georgia elections official affirmed Monday that Trump’s claims of voter fraud are “all easily, provably false.”
In his own words
Here are the words of this nation’s highest elected official, pleading for the subversion of our democracy:
“I mean, you know, and I didn’t lose the state, Brad. People have been saying that it was the highest vote ever. There was no way. ... I mean, we have other states that I believe will be flipping to us very shortly. ... In Pennsylvania, they had well over 200,000 more votes than they had people voting. And that doesn’t play too well, and the legislature there is, which is Republican, is extremely activist and angry.”
It is true that the Pennsylvania Legislature is controlled by Republicans — and, yes, too many of those Republicans want to erase the votes of Democrats so Trump can claim the commonwealth’s electoral votes.
But Trump’s claim that Pennsylvania recorded 200,000 more votes than people who actually voted was based on incomplete data.
Republican state Rep. Frank Ryan of Lebanon County didn’t seem to realize that some counties were slower than others to upload voter data to the commonwealth’s system. He cried foul and was backed by Lancaster County Reps. Dave Zimmerman, Jim Cox and Brett Miller.
This falsehood was debunked and described as “obvious misinformation” by the Pennsylvania Department of State.
Trump continued: “In Georgia, we set a record with a massive amount of votes. And they say it’s not possible to have lost Georgia. And I could tell you by our rallies. ... It’s just not possible to have lost Georgia.”
Rally turnout, of course, does not equal voter turnout. Nevertheless, Trump went on: “The people of Georgia are angry, the people of the country are angry. And there’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you’ve recalculated.”
Trump went on to suggest that Raffensperger’s refusal to act on baseless claims — his refusal to accuse others of criminal activity that didn’t take place — was somehow illegal.
“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 (Germany), your lawyer. ... I’m notifying you that you’re letting it happen. 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 continued: “Look, Brad. ... . I have to find 12,000 votes, and I have them times a lot. And therefore, I won the state. ... When you talk about no criminality, I think it’s very dangerous for you to say that.”
He later said this: “So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break. You know, we have that in spades already.” (They do not.)
Trump then kicked his bullying into high gear: “So tell me, Brad, what are we going to do? We won the election, and it’s not fair to take it away from us like this. And it’s going to be very costly in many ways. And I think you have to say that you’re going to reexamine it, and you can reexamine it, but reexamine it with people that want to find answers, not people that don’t want to find answers.”
To this, Raffensperger calmly responded: “Mr. President, you have people that submit information, and we have our people that submit information. And then it comes before the court, and the court then has to make a determination. We have to stand by our numbers. We believe our numbers are right.”
Questions for Smucker
So, Congressman Smucker, how do you feel now about your plan to object to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes?
A fellow Republican, U.S. Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, objected Sunday evening to the seating of you and 66 other Republicans representing the six states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — whose electoral votes may be contested Wednesday.
Those “representatives were elected through the very same systems — with the same ballot procedures, with the same signature validations, with the same broadly applied decisions of executive and judicial branch officials — as were the electors chosen for the President of the United States under the laws of those states,” Roy noted in a statement.
So “it would confound basic human reason,” Roy continued, “if the presidential results were to face objection while the congressional results of the same process escaped without public scrutiny.”
Roy’s objection forced a procedural vote in which the members of the House were asked to vote whether the oath of office should be administered to all members.
You, Rep. Smucker, voted “yea.” So you believe your election was legitimate, but Biden’s was not. Can you explain this illogical conclusion?
Finally, you swore an oath Sunday to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
Rep. Liz Cheney, the U.S. House Republican conference chair, wrote in a memo that the objections planned for Wednesday “set an exceptionally dangerous precedent,” and are “directly at odds with the Constitution’s clear text.”
We believe Cheney is correct. Do you think she’s wrong?