US President Donald Trump pressured Georgia's top election official to "find" enough votes to overturn his defeat in the southern state, according to excerpts of a recording of the hour-long call released by the Washington Post on Sunday.
The call on Saturday was the latest move in Trump's two-month effort to claim that his loss to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 election was the result of widespread voter fraud, a claim that has been widely rejected by state and federal election officials as well as multiple courts.
Trump's call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, came as some of Trump's allies in the US Congress said they plan to object to the formal certification on Wednesday of Biden's victory. The former vice president won by a margin of 306-232 in the state-by-state Electoral College, and by more than 7 million votes overall.
The Washington Post said that during the call Trump alternately flattered, begged and threatened Raffensperger with vague criminal consequences in an attempt to undo his loss.
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Raffensperger and his office's general counsel rejected Trump's assertions throughout, and told the president that he was relying on debunked conspiracy theories spread on social media about what was a fair and accurate election, according to the audio excerpts and the newspaper's account.
"The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry," Trump said, according to one audio excerpt published online by the Post. "And there's nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you've recalculated."
"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 said in the recording, insisting that there was "no way" he lost the state.
The White House declined to comment. Raffensperger's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Biden's transition office had no immediate comment.
The call came days before US Senator Ted Cruz is set to lead several of Trump's allies in Congress in a long-shot bid to disrupt the formal recognition of Biden's win.
Biden's narrow victory in Georgia was the first by a Democratic presidential candidate in a generation and has raised hopes among Democrats that they could win a pair of US Senate runoffs in the state on Tuesday, giving their party control of Congress.
Even if Trump had won Georgia's 16 Electoral College votes, he would still have lost the White House to Biden, who will be sworn into office on Jan. 20.
Before the Washington Post published its report of the call, Trump said on Twitter on Sunday that he had spoken by phone with Raffensperger about voter fraud in Georgia.
"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 tweeted.
Raffensperger responded on Twitter: "Respectfully, President Trump: What you're saying is not true. The truth will come out."
News of Saturday's call drew immediate criticism from congressional Democrats including Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence committee.
"Trump's contempt for democracy is laid bare. Once again. On tape," Schiff wrote on Twitter. "Pressuring an election official to 'find' the votes so he can win is potentially criminal, and another flagrant abuse of power by a corrupt man who would be a despot, if we allowed him. We will not."