Did Donald Trump just commit another violation of federal law by threatening the Georgia secretary of state to find votes for him by recalculating the November election results or face vague criminal charges himself?
The Washington Post obtained and published the audiotape of the call; the key excerpts here, the full transcript can be found here. The Post quoted election experts who noted that the call was beyond inappropriate and immoral and verged on violations of state and federal law.
“I just want to find 11,870 votes,” one vote more than the Joe Biden majority in the state election, Trump told Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state who oversaw the election. It’s not even a you-should-look-at it; it was in pursuit of a specific number of votes that Trump wants overturned.
As the Post summarized, Trump “alternately berated Raffensperger, tried to flatter him, begged him to act and threatened him with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue his false claims, at one point warning that Raffensperger was taking “a big risk” for criminality by not reporting fraud. It was a shakedown by any other name.
Trump acknowledged in a tweet that he had spoken to Raffensperger, renewing his attack on the Republican state officials that they have failed to look hard enough for the fraud Trump insists happened despite multiple recounts, audits and court hearings.
Trump did not own up to threatening Raffensperger, but you can hear it yourself in the tape excerpts. There are both state and federal election laws that pertain here as well as blackmail liability.
Trump noted that Georgia faces a close election of two U.S. senators on Tuesday and that angry Trump voters would retaliate by withholding support for Republican candidates – fostering yet another strange link to how legal elections are supposed to work.
Then, just for icing, the word from state Republican officials was that Trump was filing lawsuits against Raffensperger and his agency’s lawyer for taping the shakedown call.
Let’s remember Trump got himself impeached in the aftermath of abusing his office to seek dirt on Biden, though he was saved by the partisan makeup of the Senate. He wants the Republicans to save him again in a losing effort and sees no bar in appropriateness, morality or law to bar him from using threats.
Perhaps, rather than seeking to overturn results to keep Trump in office, we should be talking of removing him.
In the Senate
Meanwhile, there was a barrage of last-minute maneuvering to dramatize Wednesday’s routine acceptance of Electoral College votes.
The political theater was creating weird alliances.
Suddenly Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) were on the same side as Democrats who will vote against any such challenge. Indeed, four Republicans, Susan Collins (Maine), Bill Cassidy (La.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Romney, joined in a public statement with five Democrats and one Independent to trash the challenges and recognize Joe Biden as president-elect.
With no new evidence, Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and several other sitting and incoming senators say they want yet another 10-day audit of selected state elections because their Republican voters want to believe the election was stolen by Democrats, voting machines, mail ballots, dead voters and thousands of people voting multiple times.
On Saturday, Trump used a phone call organized by the group Got Freedom? to urge nearly 300 state legislators from Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all won by Biden, to decertify the results of the election. States are weeks past the deadlines for any such challenges.
In any event, Trump lacks the numbers in a Congressional vote on these issues to win. But then, Trump is so far into his obsession that reality seems unable to enter.
And a new Congress
Amidst all of this, a new Congressional session opened Sunday, with the coronavirus hanging over the proceedings. Incoming House member Luke Letkow (R-La.) died of the disease and two others were missing while quarantining, as was a third who is suffering from cancer. In the Senate, Georgia’s David Perdue, running tomorrow for re-election, could not be seated because his term had run out.
Despite the vacancies and a slimmer Democratic majority, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won what likely will be her last term in that job.
We’ve got a nice bunch of coconuts.
Trump strong-arms Georgia’s top election official The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Salon.