Correction: On March 11, 2021, the Washington Post issued a correction to a story that Rolling Stone quoted in this article. The Post’s original story, based on an anonymous source, misquoted the president during a December call with Georgia’s top election investigator. The Post originally reported President Trump as instructing her to “find the fraud,” saying she would be a “national hero” for doing so, but he did not say those words. An audio recording of the call recently released by Georgia’s secretary of state revealed instead that Trump told her to look at ballots in Fulton County, Ga., and said she would find “dishonesty” there. Trump also told her she had “the most important job in the country right now.”
President Trump urged a chief investigator in Georgia to find “dishonesty” in the presidential election, according to a recording of the call released by the secretary of state obtained by the Washington Post.
“When the right answer comes out, you’ll be praised,” Trump told the investigator, adding later, “You have the most important job in the country right now.”
Trump, who lost the state by almost 12,000 votes, placed the call just before Christmas, while Georgia was auditing signature matches on absentee ballots in Cobb County. Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs confirmed the call took place to ABC News: “The secretary and the secretary of state’s office can confirm that the call did happen.”
Trump’s call to the investigator preceded his call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on January 2nd, audio of which was first reported by the Post. In that call, Trump can be heard instructing Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes.” That call is cited in a draft article of impeachment House Democrats plan to introduce this coming week.
In another call to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp in early December, Trump pleaded for Kemp to convene a special session of the Georgia legislature to overturn the state’s election results.
According to ABC, Trump called the Georgia investigator the day after White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows traveled to Cobb County on December 22nd, where he tried to observe the signature matching process. Fuchs said that Meadows was not allowed to be in the room with investigators while the audit took place, and he was only able to stand in the doorway. She also said that she answered Meadows’s “basic questions about the process.”
But to Trump’s dismay, the investigation did not turn up any voter fraud and only found two ballots of the more than 15,000 audited that should have gone through the curing process to verify a voter’s identity. But both of those voters were able to confirm they completed their ballots on their own. “During the course of the audit, there were no fraudulent absentee ballots identified in the process,” Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds said after the audit was completed.
Trump’s December call with the investigator was recorded, the New York Times reported, but unlike the January call, audio of the conversation has not yet been released to the public.
Many legal scholars have said that Trump may have broken state and federal laws against election interference, and former prosecutors currently serving in Congress wrote a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray asking him to “open an immediate criminal investigation into the president.” Fulton County prosecutor Fani Willis also said of the call, “Anyone who commits a felony violation of Georgia law in my jurisdiction will be held accountable.”
But whether Trump will ever face consequences for his actions with Georgia — either through impeachment or the state or federal criminal system — remains to be seen.