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Trump spoke to Georgia election officials on Jan. 2, 2021, and recycled debunked falsehoods about voter fraud. Trump said, "I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state."
Politicians promptly criticized Trump’s phone call including Kamala Harris, then the vice president-elect, and Georgia’s then-Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a Republican.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis called the phone call "disturbing" and then in February announced she would investigate.
Lashing out about investigations targeting him, former President Donald Trump said a district attorney in Georgia wants to indict him over a "perfect phone call."
It was one of many grievances Trump raised April 4 at his Mar-a-Lago press conference hours after his first court appearance in the New York hush money case.
"They’ve got a local racist Democrat district attorney in Atlanta who is doing everything in her power to indict me over an absolutely perfect phone call, even more perfect than the one I made with the president of Ukraine," Trump said. "Remember, I kept saying, ‘That's a perfect call.’ This one was more perfect. Nobody said, ‘Sir, you shouldn’t say that.’"
Trump said, "Many people on the phone, including lots of lawyers, nobody found anything wrong with that perfect call until a book promotion tour many months later. All of a sudden, they say, ‘I remember Trump making a call. Let’s look at that.’ This fake case was brought only to interfere with the upcoming 2024 election and it should be dropped immediately. Immediately."
Trump’s reference to his phone call with the president of Ukraine was what led to his first impeachment.
Trump is wrong to state that no one found anything wrong with his Jan. 2, 2021, phone call to Georgia election officials until months later. Numerous politicians raised concerns in the days after his phone call.
It’s possible Trump’s comment about a book tour referred to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s fall 2021 book, "Integrity Counts." The book, which described the 2020 presidential election, included details about Trump’s phone call.
Gabriel Sterling with the Georgia secretary of state's office speaks on Dec. 2, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP)
Trump narrowly lost Georgia in November 2020. He refused to accept the outcome.
On Jan. 2, 2021, Trump was part of an hourlong phone with Georgia election officials including Raffensperger. Media outlets including The Washington Post, The New York Times and CNN published audio and transcript of the call.
"We won Georgia easily," Trump was heard telling the state officials. "We won it by hundreds of thousands of votes." We rated his statement Pants on Fire.
Trump recycled debunked claims about dead voters, shredded ballots and corrupted machines.
Raffensperger, a Republican, disputed Trump’s allegations.
"We believe that we do have an accurate election," Raffensperger told Trump.
During the call, Trump said, "So, look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state." (Trump lost the state by 11,779 votes)
"At the end of the day, what (Trump) said was not factually correct," Raffensperger told NBC News after the press conference. "And I want to make sure that people understand the facts. That’s why I had Gabriel Sterling out there, one by one, knocking down all these rumors."
Politicians promptly criticized Trump’s phone call.
Kamala Harris, then the vice president-elect, said Jan. 3, 2021, that Trump's conversation was a "bald-faced, bold abuse of power by the president of the United States."
Georgia’s State Election Board member David Worley, a Democrat, wrote an email to Raffensperger Jan. 3, 2021, asking him to investigate. But Raffensperger said on ABC’s "Good Morning America" that he would likely defer to local prosecutors.
"I understand the Fulton County district attorney wants to look at it," Raffensperger said. "Maybe that's the appropriate venue for it to go,"
Georgia’s then-Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a Republican, said at the time he was "disappointed" in Trump’s phone call. Duncan said the call was "inappropriate" and distracted from the Jan. 5, 2021, runoffs for two U.S. Senate seats.
U.S. Reps. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., made a Jan. 4 criminal referral to FBI Director Christopher Wray, stating, "We believe Donald Trump engaged in solicitation of, or conspiracy to commit, a number of election crimes."
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, right, talks May 2, 2022, with a member of her team during proceedings to seat a special purpose grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia. (AP)
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis on Jan. 4, 2021, called Trump’s phone call "disturbing."
She acknowledged Worley’s request for a state investigation, and said the state could then refer the case to her office and the state attorney general.
Willis vowed to hold anyone who commits a felony accountable. "Once the investigation is complete, this matter, like all matters, will be handled by our office based on facts and law," she said.
Willis on Feb. 10, 2021, wrote a letter to state officials to alert them that she had "opened an investigation into attempts to influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia General Election."
Willis did not name Trump in the letter, but it was clear the president’s communications with state officials were part of her investigation. She wrote that potential violations included "the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election’s administration."
A special grand jury in Fulton County that heard evidence about Trump and his allies concluded its work in December. The grand jury foreperson spoke to CNN in February 2023 and declined to state whether criminal charges had been recommended for Trump but said "there may be some names on that list that you wouldn’t expect. But the big name that everyone keeps asking me about — I don’t think you will be shocked."
Special grand juries in Georgia make recommendations, but then it is up to prosecutors to decide whether to bring the case to a regular grand jury for an indictment. The case may be presented to a regular grand jury in May, leading to a charging decision later this year.
We sent a Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung a list of examples of politicians who commented on the Georgia phone call in January and February 2021 including Harris, Willis, Worley and the U.S representatives, and he replied: "The people you list weren't on the call." (Raffensperger was on the call and on our list.)
While speaking about his Jan. 2, 2021, telephone call with Georgia election officials, Trump said, "Nobody found anything wrong with that perfect call until a book promotion tour many months later."
"Nobody" is a ridiculous overstatement. Many politicians criticized Trump’s phone call in the days after the transcript and audio was published. Willis, the Fulton County prosecutor, on Jan. 4, 2021, denounced the phone call as disturbing and said some government office would investigate. On Feb. 10, 2021, Willis informed state officials that she was investigating.
If Trump was referring to the fall 2021 publication of Raffensperger’s book as the moment scrutiny of the call started, he’s also off base. By then, the Fulton County investigation was well underway and loads of officials had found a lot wrong with Trump’s phone call.
That phone call may be "perfect" in Trump’s eyes, but we call his take on it something else: Pants on Fire!
Rev.com, Transcript of Trump at Mar-a-Lago, April 4, 2023
Book by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Integrity Counts, Nov. 2, 2021
Washington Post, Here’s the full transcript and audio of the call between Trump and Raffensperger, Jan. 5 2021
New York Times, Transcript: President Trump’s Phone Call With Georgia Election Officials, Jan. 3, 2021
New York Times, Email by David Worley to state officials, Jan. 3, 2021
U.S. representatives Ted Lieu of California and Kathleen Rice of New York, Letter to FBI, Jan. 4, 2021
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, Statement to media, Jan. 4, 2021
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, Letter, Feb. 10, 2021
PolitiFact, Lie of the Year 2019: Donald Trump’s claim whistleblower got Ukraine call 'almost completely wrong' Dec. 16, 2019
PolitiFact, "What Trump told Georgia election officials," March 16, 2021
PolitiFact, "Here’s why Georgia’s Republican officials are confident in their presidential election results," Jan. 5, 2021
Email interview, Steven Cheung, Donald Trump campaign spokesperson, April 5, 2023
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