In a roughly hourlong phone call, President Donald Trump pressured Georgia's top elections official to “find” over 11,000 votes that would overturn the results of the election in the state.
The conversation Saturday was the latest step in an unprecedented effort by a sitting president to pressure a state official to reverse the outcome of a free and fair election that he lost.
The renewed intervention and the persistent and unfounded claims of fraud by the first president to lose reelection in almost 30 years come nearly two weeks before Trump leaves office and two days before twin runoffs in Georgia that will determine control of the Senate.
The call audio was first released by The Washington Post and was also obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. NBC News also obtained the call. A recording of the call was later obtained by The Associated Press from a person who was on the call.
The call featured the president pleading with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to alter the vote total, as well as launching into an onslaught of false claims and debunked conspiracy theories about the election.
Throughout the call, Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, his office's general counsel, pushed back on Trump's claims, maintaining that President-elect Joe Biden won the state.
At one point, Trump said, "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.”
The White House referred questions to Trump’s reelection campaign, which did not respond Sunday to an emailed request for comment from The Associated Press. Raffensperger’s office did not respond to a text message seeking comment from the AP.
Trump went on to ask Raffensperger about a "rumor" that ballots were being "shredded" in Fulton County, as well as whether or not Dominion, a voting machine company that has been a target of conspiracy theories, removed voting machines.
“Fellas, I need 11,000 votes," Trump said. "Give me a break. We have that in spades already."
“The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry,” Trump said. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.”
Raffensperger responded, saying, "Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong.”
There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the November election. Then-Attorney General William Barr said in December that the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, key battleground states crucial to Biden’s victory, have also vouched for the integrity of the elections in their states. Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the Supreme Court, which includes three Trump-nominated justices.
The Washington Post reported that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and attorney Cleta Mitchell were on the call.
Georgia certified election results showing that Biden won the state’s Nov. 3 election by 11,779 votes. The votes were counted three times.
“There’s no way I lost Georgia,” Trump said on the call. "There’s no way. We won by hundreds of thousands of votes."
Trump is set to host a rally on Monday in Dalton, Georgia, for Georgia Republican Senate candidates David Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Trump said that Raffensperger's inaction could doom the Republican candidates.
“You have a big election coming up and because of what you’ve done to the president – you know, the people of Georgia know that this was a scam,” Trump said. “Because of what you’ve done to the president, a lot of people aren’t going out to vote, and a lot of Republicans are going to vote negative, because they hate what you did to the president. Okay? They hate it. And they’re going to vote. And you would be respected, really respected, if this can be straightened out before the election.”
Loeffler said she had not decided whether to join Republican colleagues in challenging the legitimacy of Biden’s victory over Trump.
Loeffler, when asked about siding with the growing group of Senate Republicans seeking to contest the Electoral College count, said she was “looking very closely at it, and I’ve been one of the first to say, everything’s on the table.” She told Fox News on Sunday that ”I’m fighting for this president because he’s fought for us. He’s our president and we’re going to keep making sure that this is a fair election.”
Perdue, who is in quarantine after being exposed to a staff member with the coronavirus and won’t appear with Trump at Monday’s rally, said he would have joined the electoral challenge in the Senate if he had been in Washington. “I’m encouraging my colleagues to object. This is something that the American people demand right now,” he told Fox News on Sunday.
In a statement, senior Biden adviser Bob Bauer wrote, "We now have irrefutable proof of a president pressuring and threatening an official of his own party to get him 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," Bauer added.
A number of prominent Democrats responded to the report. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called out the group of lawmakers planning to object to the election results on Wednesday, saying, "You want to investigate election fraud? Start with this."
Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, wrote, "Trump’s contempt for democracy is laid bare. Once again. On tape."
On Twitter, the newly sworn in Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-GA) wrote, "I will not be silent as the outgoing president attempts to subvert the will of more than 5 million voters in my state. This country is a democracy, not a dictatorship — and I will use every power in my authority to reject Trump's attacks on our election."
At a rally for Georgia's Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock in Savannah, Georgia, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said of the call, "There's some audio of him calling the secretary of state, at times pleading with him to turn over the results of our elections here in Georgia. But we know that's not going to happen."
Earlier Sunday, in response to a Twitter post from the president talking about a discussion involving the two of them, Raffensperger wrote, "Respectfully, President Trump: What you're saying is not true. The truth will come out."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.