“So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, ” Donald Trump told Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, during an astonishing hour-long conversation on Saturday. It was the latest gambit in the president’s effort to overturn the free and fair election in that state, which President-elect Joe Biden won by 11,799 votes.
The Washington Post, which obtained a recording of the conversation, described it this way: “Trump alternately berated Raffensperger, tried to flatter him, begged him to act and threatened him with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue his false claims, at one point warning that Raffensperger was taking ‘a big risk.’” (To his great credit, Raffensperger didn’t break or bend.) Legal scholars told the Post that what the president did was a “flagrant abuse of power and a potential criminal act.” The president sounded like a mob boss.
This was the latest link in a nine-week chain of malicious conspiracy theories and outright lies, of misinformation and disinformation, that began almost immediately after the president was defeated by Biden on November 3. Trump led the effort, but much of his party has backed him, as it did throughout his first campaign and during his presidency, no matter what he did—from soliciting Russian interference in the 2016 election and obstructing justice to pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on his opponent and trying to undermine a lawful and legitimate election. In a fittingly corrupt capstone, later this week a majority of Republicans in the House and at least 10 Republicans in the Senate will likely join an effort to subvert democracy by opposing the certification of Biden’s election, a scheme Vice President Mike Pence has voiced support for.