Welcome to 2021. We start the year off with a doozy, President Trump and his team calling up Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger and spending an hour whining, cajoling, and fuming that he won’t just “find 11,780 votes.”
No, Mr. President, Georgia Can’t Just ‘Recalculate’ the Vote So That You Win
Perhaps it was inevitable, from the moment Trump descended that escalator to begin his presidential campaign, that he would end up in an ugly, pathetic, desperate situation like the one Saturday.
On the phone with Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, joined on the call by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and lawyer Cleta Mitchell, Trump declared to Raffensperger, “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.”
The full transcript and audio can be found here. One of the lamer knee-jerk excuses from Trump defenders was that the president’s comments were somehow being taken out of context. There really isn’t a good context for a losing presidential candidate to tell a state elections official to “find” the exact amount of votes he would need to win the state. If a Democratic official had done this, Republicans would explode from righteous outrage.
One point lost in the volcanic reaction to Trump’s call Sunday evening was that at this point, Brad Raffensperger cannot legally do much to alter the results of Georgia’s presidential election. The vote has been counted and recounted, the state has certified the results, Georgia’s Electoral College slate is selected, the Electoral College has voted. There are not “competing” or “alternate” slates of electors from Georgia or any other state. A bunch of Trump electors decided to declare themselves the winners, a decision that has as much legal weight as me declaring myself the new head coach of the New York Jets.
The congressional counting of the electoral votes Wednesday is a formality. As the NR editors lay out, the current push to object to the electors is to make Congress the ones who pick the president, overruling the election results and certification of each state government: “The Cruz eleven propose to call into doubt the sole slate of state-appointed electors in each state anyway, and to essentially attempt to usurp what is supposed to be the state function of appointing electors.” What is the point of holding a presidential election if, a few months later, Congress can decide it thinks the other guy won, and ignore all available evidence and all judicial rulings?
The 2020 presidential election is over. It’s been over for a long time. Biden won.
Trump began his call with Raffensperger by insisting, “we think that if you check the signatures — a real check of the signatures going back in Fulton County — you’ll find at least a couple of hundred thousand of forged signatures of people who have been forged.”
Fulton County had 524,659 votes cast in the presidential election. The president of the United States is insisting that, at minimum, two out of every five votes in the largest county in Georgia are fraudulent.
In the aftermath of the election, Georgia election officials did check the signatures on about 15,000 randomly selected absentee ballots:
Investigators double checked the signatures on 15,118 randomly chosen ballot envelopes. It’s a good warning to anybody contemplating shenanigans in Georgia’s Senate runoffs next week.
About 150,000 people in Cobb County voted by mail, so the sample was nearly 10 percent of the total. Most of the accepted signatures were clearly valid. Investigators ended up with 10 suspect envelopes. On eight of them, the signature “did not appear to be consistent with documents on record.” But once the voters were contacted, they confirmed the signatures were theirs. Handwriting can change, especially as people age.
Trump continued his pattern of promising compelling evidence will be revealed sometime later. He and his lawyers have had dozens of opportunities in local courts, state courts, state supreme courts, and federal courts to showcase the evidence of these hundreds of thousands of fraudulent votes, and they haven’t persuaded a single judge, including judges the president appointed himself.
Trump turned to his usual bellowing and bullying:
Look, ultimately, I win, okay? Because you guys are so wrong. And you treated this – you treated the population of Georgia so badly. You, between you and your governor, who is down at 21, he was down 21 points. And like a schmuck, I endorsed him, and he got elected, but I will tell you, he is a disaster. The people are so angry in Georgia, I can’t imagine he’s ever getting elected again, I’ll tell you that much right now. But why wouldn’t you want to find the right answer, Brad, instead of keep saying that the numbers are right? ’Cause those numbers are so wrong?
The president insists the Georgia secretary of state can alter the election results — in January 2021, after a count, recount, and certification — by simply telling the world he has “recalculated” the totals: “And the people of Georgia are angry, the people of the country are angry. And there’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you’ve recalculated.” (As if the entire state forgot to carry the one or something.)
The president continues to insist that a vast conspiracy of election officials and voting machines worked together to destroy votes for him and to change votes for him to votes for Biden. He is certain this is the case because “Trump media” has reported this.
Trump: Do you think it’s possible that they shredded ballots in Fulton County? Because that’s what the rumor is. And also that Dominion took out machines. That Dominion is really moving fast to get rid of their, uh, machinery. Do you know anything about that? Because that’s illegal, right?
Germany: This is [Georgia secretary of state Raffensperger’s general counsel] Ryan Germany. No, Dominion has not moved any machinery out of Fulton County.
Trump: But have they moved the inner parts of the machines and replaced them with other parts?
Trump: Are you sure, Ryan?
Germany: I’m sure. I’m sure, Mr. President.
Trump: What about, what about the ballots. The shredding of the ballots. Have they been shredding ballots?
Germany: The only investigation that we have into that — they have not been shredding any ballots. There was an issue in Cobb County where they were doing normal office shredding, getting rid of old stuff, and we investigated that. But this stuff from, you know, from you know past elections.
Trump: It doesn’t pass the smell test because we hear they’re shredding thousands and thousands of ballots, and now what they’re saying, “Oh, we’re just cleaning up the office.” You know.
Raffensperger: Mr. President, the problem you have with social media, they — people can say anything.
Trump: Oh this isn’t social media. This is Trump media. It’s not social media. It’s really not; it’s not social media. I don’t care about social media. I couldn’t care less. Social media is Big Tech. Big Tech is on your side, you know. I don’t even know why you have a side because you should want to have an accurate election. And you’re a Republican.
Note the perfect irony in those last two statements: Trump insists that because Raffensperger won’t do as he wishes, he’s taking a side, and then, in the next sentence, insists that Raffensperger should do as he wishes because he’s a Republican.
I wrote above that perhaps this was inevitable because in the end, Donald Trump doesn’t really know or care about how the presidential-election process works, what is a reliable and trustworthy source of information and what isn’t, the separation of powers under the Constitution, what the law is, why all those judges keep rejecting the arguments of his legal team, or much of anything else. Donald Trump simply wants what he wants and cannot understand anything outside of that context. (At this point, it’s not clear if Donald Trump knows whether or not Brad Raffensperger has a brother.) This mess is the culmination of Trump’s thoroughly defective character and judgement, obvious from the beginning, denied by many who thought they could ride him to greater fame and fortune, and enabled by bootlicking sycophants for far too long.
Tomorrow, no matter how many Republicans join shameless opportunists Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz in objecting to the Electoral College results, the House and Senate will count the electoral votes, recognize only the official slates of electors, and declare Joe Biden the winner. Biden will take the oath of office on January 20. And the Trump presidency will end in entirely unnecessary self-inflicted humiliation and disgrace.
ADDENDUM: Yes, the worst coach in NFL history is gone. 2021 is looking better already.