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Minggu, 03 Januari 2021

Donald Trump pressured Georgia election official to change results, Washington Post reports - ABC News

US President Donald Trump pressured Georgia's top election official to "find" enough votes to overturn his defeat in the state, according to audio of a Saturday phone call obtained by the Washington Post.

The reported conversation marks Mr Trump's latest effort to push unfounded claims of voter fraud during the presidential election, and comes days before a pair of run-off elections in the same state that will determine which party controls the Senate. 

The Washington Post — which published excerpts on Sunday of the hour-long call between Mr Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican — said Mr Trump alternately flattered, begged and threatened Mr Raffensperger with vague criminal consequences in an attempt to undo his loss in Georgia to Democratic president-elect Joe Biden.

The newspaper said that throughout the call Mr Raffensperger and his office's general counsel rejected Mr Trump's assertions and told the President he was relying on debunked conspiracy theories about what was a fair and accurate election.

The audio excerpts published by the Post confirmed that.

Georgia is one of several crucial swing states where Mr Trump lost the November 3 election to Mr Biden, and where Mr Trump has since made unfounded allegations of election fraud and sought to overturn the results.

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

"The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry," Mr Trump said, according to an excerpt of the recording published online by the Post.

"And there's nothing wrong with saying, you know, 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," Mr Trump said in the recording, insisting that there was "no way" he lost there.

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Writing on Twitter on Sunday local time, Mr Trump confirmed he had spoken with Mr Raffensperger, who tweeted that claims the President made during the call were untrue.

The White House declined to comment.

Mr Raffensperger's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment and Mr Biden's transition office had no immediate comment.

Georgia set to hold a critical run-off election this week

Georgia is one of several crucial swing states where Mr Trump lost the November 3 election to Mr Biden, and where Mr Trump has since made unfounded allegations of election fraud and sought to overturn the results.

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

"He has no clue!" Trump tweeted of Mr Raffensperger, saying the state official "was unwilling, or unable" to answer questions about a series of claims about ballot handling and voters that have been debunked or shot down by judges and election authorities.

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

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

This week, Congress will gather to count and formalise the votes of the electoral college. Several Republican senators plan to challenge the results during what is normally a ceremonial affair but their move will not change the outcome.

Georgia's electoral votes alone were not enough to sway the election for Mr Biden who won 306 votes to Mr Trump's 232.

Even overturning the election result in Georgia, which is extremely unlikely to happen, would still leave Mr Trump 22 votes — at least two states — shy of an election victory.

But the rhetoric coming from Mr Trump and the Republican congressional leaders is resonating with voters in Georgia, who are prepping for a pair of run-off elections on Tuesday local time.

The unusual double run-off pits two sitting Republican senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, against two Democratic challengers, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

The outcome will determine whether the Republicans keep their majority in the Senate by one or two seats, or whether the Democrats will split the chamber's majority 50-50.

Because vice-president-elect Kamala Harris would get the deciding vote in the event of ties, the Democrats would effectively have control over the Senate in addition to the House of Representatives and the presidency.

In other words, the Democratic Party would have two years before the next election to push their agenda unchecked by Republican legislators.

Republican voters grapple with voting in system they do not trust

The races, which have broken records for both fundraising and early turnout, are considered too close to predict by major polling outlets.

Observers say it all comes down to which party turns out more voters on election day.

The question remains whether Mr Trump's rhetoric could have a chilling effect on the party's turnout if those would-be Republican voters believe his unfounded claims and feel the electoral system is not safe.

Tyler Paul Smith, a state representative for Georgia's Carroll County, told the ABC he was worried his constituents "might think their vote won't matter".

The county voted for Mr Trump by a 40-point margin in the general election, but has seen low early turnout in the Senate run-off races compared to other Republican-leaning regions.

"People might just be more secure in their feelings of voting on the day of," Mr Smith said.

"They just don't trust the ballot storage and absentee ballots.

"If there was fraud that occurred, we could overcome the margins with seeing more Republicans show up to vote. People understand that."

Mr Trump will hold a rally for the Senators Perdue and Loeffler on Monday local time, the eve of the election. The party chose a rally site in Whitfield County, another Republican-leaning county with low early turnout.

Tuesday's election will be read as a critical test for whether Mr Trump's doggedness in pushing the fraud claims sends his base to the polls or keeps them home, to the detriment of his own party.

ABC/wires

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2021-01-03 20:43:00Z
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