The Washinton Post’s Sunday release of clips from a Saturday phone call between President Donald Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Trump claimed he won the Peach State and asked Raffensperger to “find the votes” to prove it — at one point telling Raffensperger, “you can say you ‘recalculated'” — dominated cable news and social media platforms late into the night. The arguments were predictable.
On one hand, the Trump-hating camp —Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame among them — rushed to declare Trump’s call an impeachable offense — Bernstein called it “worse than Watergate,” of course — and solid proof that Trump was trying to strong-arm Raffensperger into manipulating the vote total in his favor.
No one was more faux melodramatic in his condemnation of Trump than
crazy old socialist bastard Bernie Sanders (I-TDS), who called the call “the most consequential attack on American democracy in the history of our country.” Oh Bernie, please. Sit down and shut up for a change.
“It is unprecedented. It is the most consequential attack on American democracy in the history of our country … This is what mafia does,” Sen. Sanders on Pres. Trump’s call with Georgia secretary of state.
“This is not only impeachable. It is certainly a criminal offense.” pic.twitter.com/iXSTkQlGxi
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 4, 2021
On the other hand, many in the pro-Trump camp summarily dismissed the hour-long call as much ado about nothing, and just another example of the media trying to “frame” Trump with “fake news.”
— Jason Miller (@JasonMillerinDC) January 4, 2021
Trump: “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. Flipping the state is a great testament to our country; it’s a testament that they can admit to a mistake. A lot of people think it wasn’t a mistake, it was much more criminal than that. But it’s a big problem in Georgia and it’s not a problem that’s going away.”
Raffensperger: “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong. We have to stand by our numbers; we believe our numbers are right.”
Trump: “So, tell me, Brad. What are we going to do? We won the election and it’s not fair to take it away from us like this. And it’s going to be very costly in many ways.”
So Raffensperger on Monday morning ran straight into the outstretched arms of ABC’s “Good Morning America” host, super-empathetic George “Stephy” Stephanopoulos, who led off the segment as predisposed to bias as one might imagine.
“Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us again, this morning. If I hadn’t heard that tape with my own ears, I couldn’t believe that a president of the United States would be doing that to a top election official in your state. What were you thinking and feeling during that hour?”
Yeah, Brad! How awful was that?!
A sitting president wanting to make sure that all possible steps have been taken to determine whether or not election shenanigans occurred in your state — as have been widely alleged from the outset?! Why I never!
“George, for the last two months, we’ve been fighting a rumor whack-a-mole, and it was pretty obvious pretty early on.
“We’ve debunked every one of those theories that have been out there, but President Trump continues to believe them.
“We debunked the one against State Farm Arena; we debunked […] Ware County, they reported 26 percent difference; it was actually 0.26 percent. So we’ve continued to debunk.
“We believe that truth matters. We continue to fight to get our message out but we’re fighting the rumor whack-a-mole, daily.”
Stephanopoulos asked Raffensperger if he felt pressured when Trump kept telling him to “find the votes.”
“No, we have to follow the process, follow the law. Everything we’ve done for the last two months follows the Constitution of the state of Georgia, follows the United States Constitution, follows state law.”
What about mail-in balloting in Georgia?
Raffensperger told Stephanopoulos that Democrats jumped on the absentee ballot program, but Republicans did not — but that no state laws were changed in advance.
“We didn’t have to change any state laws to do that — they just grasped onto the existing state law, which is no-excuse absentee voting.”
“The data that he has,” Raffensperger said, in reference to Trump, “is just plain wrong,” adding: “He had hundreds and hundreds of people he said were dead that voted. We found two. He has bad data.”
After Stephanopoulos twice attempted to goad Raffensperger into saying whether he would, as a Republican, vote for Trump again — “knowing what you know now” —the Georgia secretary of state finally said, “I vote Republican.”
As if the post-election mess had already not hit critical mass, events developed quickly and accusations began to fly after WaPo released the call.
Chairman of the Georgia Republican, Party David Shafer on Sunday tweeted that Trump has filed two lawsuits — federal and state — against Raffensperger. Shafer said the “secretly recorded” call was a “confidential settlement discussion” of that litigation, which is still pending.
“The audio published by The Washington Post is heavily edited and omits the stipulation that all discussions were for the purpose of settling litigation and [therefore] confidential under federal and state law,” Shafer said.
President @realDonaldTrump has filed two lawsuits – federal and state – against @GaSecofState. The telephone conference call @GaSecofState secretly recorded was a “confidential settlement discussion” of that litigation, which is still pending.
— David Shafer (@DavidShafer) January 3, 2021
The audio published by @TheWashingtonPost is heavily edited and omits the stipulation that all discussions were for the purpose of settling litigation and confidential under federal and state law.
— David Shafer (@DavidShafer) January 3, 2021
Meanwhile, as reported by NBC News, Democrat Reps. Ted Lieu and Kathleen Rice have asked FBI Director Christopher Wray to open a criminal probe into Trump after “a leaked phone call showed him pleading with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to overturn his state’s election.”
“As members of Congress and former prosecutors, we believe Donald Trump engaged in solicitation of, or conspiracy to commit, a number of election crimes,” Lieu and Rice wrote in a letter to Wray on Monday. “We ask you to open an immediate criminal investigation into the president.”
NEW: A pair of House Democrats are asking FBI Director Wray to open a criminal investigation into President Trump after a leaked phone call showed him pleading with Georgia Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger to overturn his state’s election. https://t.co/VxcPYKeqKE
— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 4, 2021
And the band plays on. Less than 48 hours from the beginning of a very “interesting” day on Capitol Hill — inside the Capitol Building and out — and two weeks and two days until Inauguration Day.
I will not be among those who “expertly” pontificate about where the fallout from the Trump-Raffensperger call will lead, let alone the goings-on on Wednesday — just as I refused to “expertly” pontificate about who would win the election.
But I will say this: I often feel like we ain’t seen nothin’, yet.