Trump recorded pleading with election official in Georgia to ‘find’ him votes

President Trump Returns To The White House From Florida

US President Donald Trump is heard on tape pleading with Georgia's election chief to overturn Joe Biden's win in the state, suggesting in a telephone call that the official "find" enough votes to hand Mr Trump the victory.

The phone call with secretary of state Brad Raffensperger on Saturday was the latest step in an unprecedented effort by a sitting American president to reverse the outcome of a free and fair election that he lost.

The president, who has refused to accept his loss to President-elect Mr Biden, repeatedly argued that Mr Raffensperger could change the certified results.

"All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have," Mr Trump said. "Because we won the state."

Georgia counted its votes three times before certifying Mr Biden's win by an 11,779 margin. Mr Raffensperger noted: "President Trump, we've had several lawsuits, and we've had to respond in court to the lawsuits and the contentions. We don't agree that you have won."

Audio snippets of the conversation were first posted online by The Washington Post. The Associated Press obtained the full audio of Mr Trump's conversation with Georgia officials from a person on the call.

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Donald Trump in the days since his election loss
President Donald Trump is tossed a golf ball as he golfs at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
President Donald Trump, second from the left, plays golf at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Surrounded by Army cadets, President Donald Trump watches the first half of the 121st Army-Navy Football Game in Michie Stadium at the United States Military Academy, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
El presidente Donald Trump camina por el jardín sur de la Casa Blanca, el 12 de diciembre de 2020. (AP Foto/Patrick Semansky, File)
President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at in Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, to travel to Michie Stadium at the United States Military Academy to attend the 121st Army-Navy Football Game at West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump speaks during an "Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit" on the White House complex, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
El presidente Donald Trump escucha la pregunta de un reportero durante la ceremonia de entrega de la Medalla Presidencial de la Libertad, el máximo honor civil, al exentrenador de lucha y campeón olímpico Dan Gable, en la Oficina Oval de la Casa Blanca, el lunes 7 de diciembre de 2020, en Washington. (AP Foto/Patrick Semansky)
President Donald Trump prepares to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, to Olympic gold medalist and former University of Iowa wrestling coach Dan Gable in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, Dec. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally for Senate Republican candidates, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., at Valdosta Regional Airport, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Valdosta, Ga. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a news conference in the briefing room at the White House in Washington, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Donald Trump leaves after speaking at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a news conference in the briefing room at the White House in Washington, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 20: President Donald J. Trump departs after delivering remarks on delivering lower prescription drug prices for all Americans in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Friday, Nov 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 20: President Donald Trump stands by after speaking to reporters about prescription drug prices in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on Friday, Nov 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 20: U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to speak to the press in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on November 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Donald Trump held his first press conference in over a week to make an announcement on prescription drug prices as he continues to challenge the results of the 2020 Presidential election. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump watches from the motorcade as he returns to the White House in Washington, DC, after playing golf on November 7, 2020. - Joyous celebrations erupted in Washington on Saturday after Joe Biden was declared winner of the US presidency, as several people poured into the streets of the US capital -- some of them chanting, cheering and singing in front of the White House. (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN / AFP) (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
President Donald Trump plays a round of Golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling Va., Sunday Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump plays a round of Golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling Va., Sunday Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump gives two thumbs up to supporters as he departs after playing golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling Va., Sunday Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump gives two thumbs up to supporters as he departs after playing golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling Va., Sunday Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump returns to the White House after playing a round of golf, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump returns to the White House after playing a round of golf, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump arrives at the White House after golfing Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump talks on the phone as he arrives at the White House after golfing Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump arrives at the White House after golfing Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump participates in a round of golf at the Trump National Golf Course on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Sterling, Va. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
US President Donald Trump watches from the motorcade as he returns to the White House in Washington, DC, after playing golf on November 7, 2020. - Joyous celebrations erupted in Washington on Saturday after Joe Biden was declared winner of the US presidency, as several people poured into the streets of the US capital -- some of them chanting, cheering and singing in front of the White House. (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN / AFP) (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
President Donald Trump returns to the White House from playing golf in Washington, DC on November 7, 2020, after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election. - Joyous celebrations erupted in Washington on Saturday after Joe Biden was declared winner of the US presidency, as several people poured into the streets of the US capital -- some of them chanting, cheering and singing in front of the White House. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump arrives to speak in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC on November 5, 2020. - Democrat Joe Biden is leading President Donald Trump in the race for the 270 electoral votes that will put one of them over the top, with the Democrat's campaign asserting they believe he has enough votes to win in key battleground states that remain undecided, like Pennsylvania. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Washington, as White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany listens. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 05: U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to speak in the briefing room at the White House on November 5, 2020 in Washington, DC. Votes are still being counted two days after the presidential election as incumbent Trump is in a close race against challenger Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, which remains too close to call. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
El presidente Donald Trump habla en la Casa Blanca, Washington, 5 de noviembre de 2020. (AP Foto/Evan Vucci)
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Mr Trump's renewed intervention and the persistent and unfounded claims of fraud come nearly two weeks before he leaves office and two days before twin run-off elections in Georgia that will determine political control of the US Senate.

The president used the hour=long conversation to tick through a list of claims about the election in Georgia, including that hundreds of thousands of ballots mysteriously appeared in Fulton County, which includes Atlanta. Officials have said there is no evidence of that happening.

The Georgia officials on the call are heard repeatedly pushing back against the president's assertions, telling him that he's relying on debunked theories and, in one case, selectively edited video.

At another point in the conversation, Mr Trump appeared to threaten Mr Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the secretary of state's legal counsel, by suggesting both could be criminally liable if they failed to find that thousands of ballots in Fulton County had been illegally destroyed. There is no evidence to support Mr Trump's claim.

"That's a criminal offense," Mr Trump says. "And you can't let that happen."

Others on the call included Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and lawyers assisting Mr Trump, including Washington lawyer Cleta Mitchell.

Democrats and a few Republicans condemned Mr Trump's actions, while at least one Democrat urged a criminal investigation. Legal experts said Mr Trump's behaviour raised questions about possible election law violations.

Biden senior adviser Bob Bauer called the recording "irrefutable proof" of Mr Trump pressuring and threatening an official in his own party to "rescind a state's lawful, certified vote count and fabricate another in its place".

"It captures the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump's assault on American democracy," Mr Bauer said.

Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the number two Democrat in that chamber, said Mr Trump's conduct "merits nothing less than a criminal investigation".

Mr Trump confirmed in a tweet on Sunday that he had spoken with Mr Raffensperger. The White House referred questions to Mr Trump's re-election campaign, which did not respond on Sunday to an emailed request for comment. Mr Raffensperger's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr Trump has repeatedly attacked how Mr Raffensperger conducted Georgia's elections, claiming without evidence that the state's 16 electoral votes were wrongly given to Mr Biden.

"He has no clue!" Mr Trump tweeted of Mr Raffensperger, saying the state official "was unwilling, or unable" to answer questions.

Mr Raffensperger's Twitter response: "Respectfully, President Trump: What you're saying is not true. The truth will come out."

Various election officials across the country and Mr Trump's former attorney general, William Barr, have said there was no widespread fraud in the election. Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, key battleground states crucial to Mr Biden's victory, have also vouched for the integrity of their state elections.

Nearly all the legal challenges from Mr Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two thrown out the Supreme Court, which includes three Trump-nominated justices.

YE Election 2020 Voting Changes
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (Brynn Anderson/AP)

In Georgia, the ballots were counted three times, including a mandatory hand count and a Trump-requested recount.

Still, Mr Trump has publicly disparaged the election, worrying Republicans that may discourage party voters from participating in Tuesday's run-offs pitting Senator Kelly Loeffler against Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican David Perdue against Democrat Jon Ossoff.

Rebecca Green, who helps direct the election law programme at William and Mary Law School, said that while it is appropriate for a candidate to question the outcome of an election, the processes for doing so for the presidential election have run their course. States have certified their votes.

Ms Green said Mr Trump had raised "lots of questions" about whether he violated any election laws.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, said Mr Trump is guilty of "reprehensible and, possibly illegal, conduct".

Mr Trump noted on the call that he intended to repeat his claims about fraud at a Monday night rally in Dalton, a heavily Republican area in north Georgia.

"The people of Georgia are angry, the people of the country are angry," he says on the recording.

Vice president-elect Kamala Harris criticised Mr Trump for the call.

"It was a bald, bald-faced, bold abuse of power by the president of the United States," she said.

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