Adjectives like “stunning” were commonplace on Sunday afternoon, when America discovered that Donald Trump instructed Georgia’s Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to change the state’s election outcome.
I’m not sure there’s much that’s actually “stunning” about it. As I put it on Saturday, “Nothing should surprise you anymore.”
“There’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, that you’ve recalculated,” Trump told secretary of state Raffensperger, in a Saturday phone call.
Unfortunately for the president, the call was leaked to the Washington Post which released it — in its entirety. The nearly five minute clip (below) captures the most egregious moments, but the full call lasted around an hour.
Also on the call: Mark Meadows, along with attorney Cleta Mitchell. The Post noted that her participation in Trump’s post-election legal maneuvering was not previously known.
Over the course of the call, Trump repeatedly insisted to Raffensperger that “there’s no way we lost Georgia.” The president claimed to have won the state by “hundreds of thousands of votes.”
Nothing could be further from the truth, and Raffensperger made as much clear to the president. “The data you have is wrong,” he said.
Joe Biden won the state by 11,779 votes. Trump explicitly asked Raffensperger to “find” that many votes — plus one. “So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes,” Trump said. “Because we won the state.”
Trump, in a tweet, accused Raffensperger of being “unwilling, or unable, to answer questions” about a so-called “‘ballots under table’ scam.” The president also repeated claims that dead people voted against him. Raffensperger, Trump digitally shouted, “has no clue!”
In a tweet of his own, Raffensperger was blunt. “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true.” “The truth will come out,” he added. Just hours later, the tape was released.
Last month, Gabriel Sterling, one of Raffensperger’s top lieutenants, pleaded with Trump to cease and desist from maligning the secretary of state, whose wife has reportedly received what Sterling described as “sexualized threats” to her personal cell phone.
In the Saturday call, Trump delivered threats of his own, telling the secretary of state as well as Ryan Germany, Raffensperger’s legal counsel, that they are taking “a big risk” by not “finding” the votes Trump wants.
This might fairly be described as the most brazen attempt yet by Trump to overturn the election results. The president has tried every maneuver imaginable to overturn the vote, up to and including pressuring state legislators, both from Michigan and Pennsylvania.
The leaked call comes just days before Ted Cruz is poised to lead a group of GOP senators in objecting to the certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory. Dozens of House Republicans are participating in a parallel effort.
It goes without saying (or at least it should) that were this any other president, the recording released on Sunday would cause a firestorm on Capitol Hill and likely prompt a national backlash among voters.
Just to reiterate: There is now an audio recording of Trump asking a state official to “find” the exact number of votes needed to flip that state.
Because irony is dead in our post-truth world, Trump insisted that, in fact, it was Raffensperger who may be committing a crime. “That’s a criminal offense,” Trump said, alluding to unfounded allegations of ballot destruction. “You can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer,” Trump added, suggesting Republican officials and their attorneys are engaged in a conspiracy against him.
Trump also alluded to the notion that were Raffensperger to reverse the results of the presidential ballot by Tuesday, he could help influence the Senate runoffs.
“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,” Trump said. “You would be respected, really respected, if this can be straightened out before the election.”
It doesn’t get any clearer than this. There is no ambiguity. Donald Trump instructed state officials to “find” votes, doctor a presidential election, and to interfere with two Senate races. He said as much on tape and on Sunday evening, Americans listened to that tape.
This should be the end of Trump in American politics. But it won’t be. Because nothing matters anymore.