Politics & Policy

Another ‘Perfect’ Phone Call

President Trump approaches reporters as he departs the White House in Washington, D.C., September 30, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
Trump’s attempt to bully the Georgia secretary of state into giving him a win in the state is beyond the pale.

President Donald Trump simply asked the government of Georgia to retroactively give him 11,780 votes or more, and send up a different slate of electors as a consequence.

At one point in the now-infamous phone call between Trump (and his lawyers), and Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger (and his lawyers), Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows jumped in to plead to Raffensperger. “In the spirit of cooperation and compromise,” he asked, “is there something that we can at least have a discussion to look at some of these allegations to find a path forward that’s less litigious?”

This is a sophistic way of asking the government of Georgia to treat allegations that Trump’s lawyers cannot or will not make in court as proven and to declare Trump the winner by fiat. Less litigious means: without scrutiny and testing of claims.

“What’s the difference between winning the election by two votes and winning it by half a million votes?” asked the president. “I think I probably did win it by half a million,” he said about the presidential election in Georgia, which he lost by nearly 12,000 votes. Votes that have been re-tallied by hand. “And I could tell you by our rallies,” he explained.

Trump cited numbers. Lots of them. 300,000 fake votes here. Unchecked malfeasance of some sort — details to come later — in Fulton County. Lots of dead people voting. Trump cajoled, flattered, and then vaguely threatened Raffensperger. People would be angry with Raffensperger. Maybe what Raffensperger was doing was illegal somehow. “They’re going around playing you and laughing at you behind your back, Brad,” the president explained. “Whether you know it or not, they’re laughing at you.”

Raffensperger remained unfazed, informing the president in lapidary fashion that “the data you have is wrong.” He gave an example that the Trump team had made allegations that upwards of 5,000 dead people had voted in Georgia. After an investigation, Georgia found just two.

Much of the call consisted of lawyers bickering over what information can be shared or examined. And yet Trump interjected, “So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes.” Because he only needs to win by a few, even though he believes he won by nearly half a million.

What has to be understood very clearly is that Team Trump can no longer press its case in the courts. It has been squeezed by the facts and the hurdles that the American justice system places in front of frivolous and baseless lawsuits. This led Lou Dobbs, the most fraud-pilled cable-television host in America, to wonder aloud why “we have had a devil of a time finding actual proof” of the election-fraud theory he believes anyway.

Unable to turn up witnesses who would sit in a box, documents to substantiate their claims, or suspected perps to put in the stands, the Trump team turned toward strange legal theories. Maybe civil-rights law could be used to invalidate tens of thousands of ballots because certain forms of scrutiny were used on mail-in ballots and other forms of scrutiny were used on day-of ballots. Isn’t that like segregation somehow? It’s discrimination, maybe. Right?

As the legal theories have run out of steam, Team Trump turned to find gaps and holes in the Constitution. If ultimately state legislatures could decide how their states’ electoral votes are awarded, could they go back and annul their own lawful elections that awarded those votes and do something else? If the results of the Electoral College are mailed to the vice president, acting as president of the Senate, can he do something about it? And as part of this effort, we now have the bullying of Georgia’s secretary of state.

And yet, the Trump diehards will tell you with all sincerity that this was “another perfect phone call.” The innocent and ignorant souls who say this do so because they are so detached from the institutions and practices of America’s political governance. They simply don’t know the hurdles to voter fraud, and don’t trust them. The more refined — the intellectual diehards — will simply hold that there is no reason to believe in the fraud, but they join in the delusion anyway because they believe lack of faith in the integrity of our system is justified on other grounds; namely, because the system has, in their eyes, stopped honestly serving a huge segment of the American people.

But that is one of the perils of democracy: that 81 million people can vote for a government that is abominated by 74 million people. Donald Trump is dedicating real energy to something over which he has no control: the results of the Georgia election.

It’s a reminder of all the cajoling, bullying, and commanding calls he hasn’t made. In a little over two weeks, Trump will leave office. America’s trade difficulties with China will persist, because Trump didn’t have the energy or courage to take his trade war into an election year. The troops will still be in Syria and Afghanistan. He said he wanted them out, but didn’t make the phone calls to get them home.

Hang up, Donny.


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