TOP STORIES Georgia officials fact-check Trump's infamous phone call in real...

Georgia officials fact-check Trump’s infamous phone call in real time

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Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Georgia Election Commissioner Gabriel Sterling testify during a hearing held by a special commission investigating the January 6 Capitol attack Tuesday in Washington.

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Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Georgia Election Commissioner Gabriel Sterling testify during a hearing held by a special commission investigating the January 6 Capitol attack Tuesday in Washington.

Michael Reynolds/Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump famously pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, his fellow Republican, to overturn the state’s presidential election results in a January 2021 phone call that lasted more than an hour.

At Thursday’s hearing, Rep. Adam Schiff played excerpts from the tape in front of Raffensperger and Georgia election chief Gabriel Sterling, pausing to ask them questions and verify the former president’s false claims in real time.

He also started with some important context about what preceded the Jan. 2 call. The White House aggressively tried to contact Raffensperger, and his staff, including former chief of staff Mark Meadows, called and wrote to his office 18 times in an attempt to negotiate with the president.

Meadows personally visited the signature verification center in Georgia to meet with the chief investigator who led the process there. The next day, Trump was on the phone with this investigator, Frances Watson, continuing to make false claims and telling her that “when the right answer comes up, you will be commended.”

Notably, senior Justice Department officials have repeatedly told Trump that his allegations of widespread electoral fraud in Georgia — claims he would make in a 67-minute phone call with Raffensperger — are completely false. And Georgia has already investigated these statements, found nothing and confirmed the results of its elections.

“I’ve been traveling in the state of Georgia for a year now, and in short, what happened in the fall of 2020 was that 28,000 Georgians missed the presidential race, and yet they voted against in other races,” Raffensperger said on Tuesday. “And the Republican congressman ended up getting 33,000 more votes than President Trump, and that’s why President Trump lost.”

Here are some of the highlights of their exchange:

Trump made a completely debunked claim that the ballots were being carried in suitcases and that, based on the video footage, they contained at least 18,000 ballots, all for Joe Biden.

Raffensperger confirmed that the U.S. Department of Justice and the Attorney General, as well as the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and his own office, found the claims to be false.

More importantly, he added, Trump-appointed Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, Bobby Kristin, rejected these claims at an early stage.

Sterling said the objects caught on video were not suitcases or chests, but standard ballot papers that could be stamped to prevent falsification.

And, according to him, “Physically, Trump or anyone else could not know who these ballots were for.” The Fulton County Supervisor (who the state had to attend due to election difficulties during COVID) noted that from the time he left until the time he returned around 1 a.m., about 8,900 ballots were scanned — far fewer than the 18,000, about that Trump spoke.

Trump told Raffensperger that “they lost a lot of votes late at night.”

Raffensperger countered this notion, saying that he believed Trump was referring to the time when the various counties would upload their results.

“But all the ballots were accepted… they had to be accepted by state law by 7:00 pm,” he said. “It means that after 19:00 no additional ballots were accepted”

A transcript of a telephone conversation between former US President Donald Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger appears on a video screen during the January 6 investigation hearing Tuesday in Washington.

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A transcript of a telephone conversation between former US President Donald Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger appears on a video screen during the January 6 investigation hearing Tuesday in Washington.

Kevin Ditch/Getty Images

Trump said about 5,000 dead voted in Georgia.

The Trump administration has claimed in its lawsuits that more than 10,000 dead people voted in Georgia, Raffensperger said, adding that none of those numbers are accurate.

At the time Raffensperger wrote his letter to Congress on January 6, the state found evidence that only two dead people had voted. Subsequently, they found two more.

“That’s one, two, three, four people, not 4,000,” he said. “But only four, not 10,000, not 5,000.”

Trump said, “There’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, you’ve counted … even if you cut them in half, cut them in half and cut them in half again, that’s more votes than we need.”

Schiff asked if Raffensperger could legally change the outcome of the vote in Georgia in any way, explaining this by “recount”.

“No,” said Raffensperger. “Numbers are numbers, numbers don’t lie.”

He added that his office investigated every allegation it received, going through several rabbit holes to make sure his numbers were accurate.

Raffensperger’s office investigated the claims of 66,000 underage voters and found none. They examined the statements of 2,423 unregistered voters and found none. They investigated claims of 2,056 perpetrators voting and identified fewer than 74.

When Raffensperger told Trump by phone that his investigators found no evidence to support his claims, the former president said “they are either dishonest or incompetent.”

Trump asked Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won this state.”

“I knew we didn’t have the votes to find,” Raffensperger said. “It was an accurate count that was certified.”

Trump suggested that Raffensperger could be prosecuted for his role in the case.

Schiff pointed to a tweet by pro-Trump lawyer Lyn Wood weeks before the phone call that Trump had given Ruffensperger and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp “every chance to make things right.”

“They refused. Soon they will be sent to prison,” wrote Wood. Trump retweeted this tweet.

In a telephone conversation with Raffensperger, Trump said giving shredded and unsigned ballots would be “more illegal for you than for [the people doing so]because you know what they did and don’t report it.”

He further called it a criminal offense and a great risk.

Later, after Raffensperger denied the fraud allegations, Trump said he thought it was “dangerous of you to say that.”

Trump repeated these claims in his Jan. 6 speech at Ellipse Hall.

Despite evidence to the contrary, Trump repeated allegations of widespread electoral fraud in Georgia during his January 6 public appearance, putting Raffensperger and his family in even greater danger.

Raffensperger described how his office was inundated with calls, his personal information circulated online, and his wife received text messages, many of which were “sexual in nature”, as a way to put pressure on him. People broke into the house of his daughter-in-law, a widow with two children.

So, Schiff asked, why didn’t Raffensperger give in to the pressure and resign?

“Because I knew we were following the law, we were following the Constitution, and I think sometimes moments call for you to stand up and just take a picture. You are doing your job and that is all we have done,” he said. “In the end, President Trump failed, but I had to be true to the Constitution. And that’s what I swore to do.”

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