Mark Sumner / Daily Kos (01/09/2021)
Just a week ago, news broke that Donald Trump had called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and attempted to threaten him into “finding” enough votes to “recalculate” the results of the 2020 election. That blatant attempt at election interference was enough to generate calls for Trump to be impeached, again—days before he went out and incited his followers into conducting a violent attempt to overthrow the government. But almost from the moment the attempt to extract votes from Raffensperger hit the news, people began wondering what other calls were out there. Because of course there were other calls.
Now it turns out that it’s not even necessary to move to another state to find one of those calls. The Washington Post is reporting that Trump called Georgia’s lead investigator for voter fraud a week earlier, and told him he could be a “national hero” if only he just happened to find some fraud that favored Trump. The call came in the middle of an audit of mail-in ballot signatures in Cobb County, which had been instigated at the request of Trump’s campaign.
The investigation in Cobb County was announced by Raffensperger on Dec. 14. The reason for the investigation: allegations of fraudulent signature matches in that county. The source of those allegations: lawsuits filed by Donald Trump’s campaign. To conduct the investigation, the Georgia secretary of state’s office partnered with investigators from the Georgia Bureau of Investigations.
Trump made his call to the lead investigator on Dec. 23. The call appears to have been arranged by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who also arranged the later, recorded call in which Trump both cajoled and threatened Raffensperger. Within days of the call, Meadows also paid a personal visit to Cobb County, but it’s not clear if he spoke to the investigator while on the ground.
The Dec. 23 call from Trump to the GBI investigator was described as a “lengthy” and as “meandering from flattery to frustration and back again.” It was also described as being similar in tone to the recorded call to Raffensperger. It’s not clear if there is recorded audio between Trump and the lead investigator. All of this came after Trump attempted to threaten Gov. Brian Kemp to keep him from certifying election results.
However the call is characterized, it cannot be described as effective. On Dec. 29, the GBI and secretary of state’s office closed the investigation having found only two mismatched signatures in roughly 15,000 votes. Then, on Jan. 3, Trump called Raffensperger and asked him to “find” 11,780 votes.
And again … this is just one state. It’s unclear if Trump was mounting similar efforts in Pennsylvania, Arizona, or the other states disputed by his legal team.
What is clear is that, despite widespread analysis that handing himself a pardon would both amount to an admission of guilt and lead to immediate legal challenges … Trump might do it anyway. Because it seems increasingly clear that he’s not going to avoid charges in any case.