Graphic: Quino Al via Unsplash (mod by Rayne)

‘I Just Want to Find 11,780 Votes’

We’re waiting for the state of Georgia to finish counting ballots for the Ossoff vs. Loeffler and the Warnock vs. Perdue U.S. Senate races. I’m sure The New York Times’ needle monitor has been bombarded with traffic. A number of pollsters are calling the races but I’m not going to pay them heed yet.

I’m too afraid of getting my hopes up too high given how many attempts Team Trump and the GOP have made to subvert U.S. elections.

While waiting for the final tallies, I want to look at the transcript from the audio recording of the teleconference between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger, particularly this excerpt:

TRUMP: … And why can’t we have professionals do it instead of rank amateurs who will never find anything and don’t want to find anything? They don’t want to find, you know they don’t want to find anything. Someday you’ll tell me the reason why, because I don’t understand your reasoning, but someday you’ll tell me the reason why. But why don’t you want to find?

I don’t know about you but it sounds like Trump is implying with the right persons permitted access to the ballots, the votes Trump needs to win Georgia would be “found.”

He’s implied he wants a fixer team to resolve his “missing votes” problem since Raffensperger can’t or won’t — how mobster-like, how corrupt.

There’s just so much raw, naked criminality in this one phone call, beyond numerous lies Trump made.

There’s solicitation of a crime — he clearly says he wants to “find” 11,780 votes, a number representing at least one more than the margin by which Joe Biden won Georgia. Trump’s insistent on this point, using the word “find” 23 times over the course of the conversation compared to his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows who says “find” twice but in context of an agreement, and attorney Cleta Mitchell who says “find” once while asking about FBI and Georgia Bureau of Investigation findings.

There’s extortion —  a threat of prosecution and other less specific injury implied against Raffensperger and GA SOS counsel Ryan Germany if the desired votes aren’t “found.”

I’m not the lawyer here at emptywheel, but it looks to me like Trump may have violated federal voting and election law 52 U.S. Code 20511 with his interference in a federal election, depriving or defrauding the residents of a State of a fair and impartially conducted election process.

Trump may have violated Georgia election law 21-2-604, Criminal solicitation to commit election fraud; a presidential pardon won’t weasel him out of this one if GA attorney general Chris Carr or Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis find there’s adequate reason to investigate and prosecute Trump.

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti and Moms Demand Action activist Patti Vasquez discussed the tape with MSNBC Legal Analyst Joyce White Vance, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama in their On Topic podcast. Vance pointed out there was an effort to put “lipstick on the pig,” dressing up the phone call as if there was a legitimate lawsuit about which Trump and his campaign were seeking a settlement with the state of Georgia. But Vance had found no active suit.

Why this effort, including the appearance of an attorney — Cleta Mitchell of lawfirm Foley & Lardner — who wasn’t really Trump’s attorney nor his campaign’s attorney, but compromised enough by her presence during the phone call that her employment was terminated on Monday by Foley & Lardner? This looks deceptive as heck.

Why was White House Chief of Staff Meadows involved at all, discussing an implied agreement in the offing? Yet another Hatch Act violation by a Trump staffer we’re supposed to swallow like a TicTac?

What really bothers me is the practiced ease with which Trump just rolled through this call. We know he tried to pressure Ukraine’s president into investigating Hunter Biden to produce evidence of malfeasance by both Hunter and his father Joe Biden while Biden was VP during the Obama administration. The approach was similar though Trump used bait in the form of aid rather than a threat of prosecution as he did with Raffensperger and Germany. We have yet to see a word-for-word transcript of the 2019 Ukraine call, having instead a memo providing most of the context. Would the full transcript buried in a classified file system sound more like the Trump-Raffensperger call?

How many other calls like this past Saturday’s has Trump made? How many in-person visits making similar solicitation and extortive attempts as well?

Did he use the same technique during that one golf game with Lindsey Graham after which Graham suddenly did an about-face toward Trump, becoming his lap dog?

Let’s not forget that same lap dog also called Raffensperger about finding votes for Trump. Did his call sound like Trump’s except Graham didn’t tweet about it afterward?

I hope we’re going to hear from other states soon whether they, too, were pressured to “find” votes.

And I hope each state pursues an investigation and prosecution where appropriate.

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45 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    Please, please, let this be so. Long overdue.

    • Rayne says:

      Heh.

    • AndTheSlithyToves says:

      lolol… I’m wondering if Mitch regrets not letting Trump get impeached.

      Ossoff’s win is truly a miracle. I’m on a couple of listserv’s where there were quite a few Georgians and they were biting their nails the last few days. So, I guess Stacey Abrams can have any appointment she would like now. Maybe she wants to be AG. ; ^ )

      • e.a.f. says:

        Ms. Abrams built an organization which helped the Democrats win elections. Appointing her to a Cabinet position would not be smart. there are any number of people who can take up the position of A.G. but there haven’t been people who could do what Ms. Abrams has been able to do.

        To hold on to the advances the Dems. have made they need Ms. Abrams where she is and a whole lot more of her. the Dems. may have focused on federal elections but a lot of the processes are determined by State governments. if you don’t control State governments you might never get to hold the majority in other positions. Best to Leave Ms. Abrams where she is until she decides to move on. Her work is some of the most important work in the American politics.

        • Raven Eye says:

          Yep. I think that Ms Abrams needs to stand in front of a lot of senior Dems, look them straight in the eyes, and tell them what they aren’t quite getting yet. And give them a rap on the knuckles with a ruler if it looks like their attention is drifting. She shouldn’t be buried in the day-to-day bullshit that is involved in running a department. (Take a look at a competent cabinet secretary’s daily calendar.)

          The Dems need to value her worth, and also look around for a few other smart folks out there who aren’t in the Pelosi generation.

          • dude says:

            That’s what I told my wife last night. Dump Perez. Of course, she would be one helleva addition to The Squad too.

            • Ruthie says:

              I heard an interview of her after her 2018 run for governor of Georgia. She wasn’t particularly interested in running for the senate because she thinks her strengths lie in executive positions. That would seem to rule out a run for the house.

          • dude says:

            This election will energize Republican state and local governments to increase efforts to suppress minority voting. There is no better expert on how to fight this before the next election cycle than Abrams. I think she understands how to do this in all the practical ways DNC predecessors seemed to know only conceptually. And she is not beholden to the rigidly centrist in the Democratic party from what I can see.

  2. bmaz says:

    Ossoff is the bigger concern. And he looks to be so close that all of the Trump nonsense will be able to challenge it.

    • madwand says:

      Yeah but what’s still out is mostly D absentee ballots so according to Kornaki at MSNBC both Warnock’s and Ossoff’s lead will only increase. Perdue vowing to fight to the death like Trump and Loeffler silent.

      • Old Antarctic Explorer says:

        Loeffler wasn’t silent. A Republican interviewed last night called it “the best non-concession concession speech he had ever heard”

  3. Rwood says:

    “I just want you to find me 11,780 votes” is the new “I want you to do us a favor.”

    Just repackaged for the new year.

    The sad part is that it seems to have had zero affect on the voters in Georgia. The results are razor thin as I write this. We’re going to have to suffer through another recount fiasco.

  4. Stacey says:

    Rayne, you asked “Would the full transcript (of Trump’s Ukraine call) buried in a classified file system sound more like the Trump-Raffensperger call?”

    YES! Exactly! That was one of the points I’ve always made about that ‘memo’ of that Ukraine call, is that it was so obviously edited heavily in that, a) the speech attributed to Trump was hardly his standard monopolization of the talk time, b) coherent, so there’s that, and c) not full of the spaghetti against the wall argumentation he engages in when he’s either met with resistance or silence.

    Not only do I expect that call transcript to much more resemble this one than that memo, but you’ve got to know there are dozens of similar calls to other states regarding the election, for sure, but what, 4 years of international calls where he wanted this, that, or the next thing from everyone he bothered to speak to?

    I hope the line begins forming at 12:01, 01/20/21, with all of the whistleblowers who have information to bring forward about the various escapades of the Trump Crime Family! And if they are not pursued/prosecuted where appropriate, we won’t have much of a defense when we get to repeat all of this next time.

    • Raven Eye says:

      Not exactly a “Deep State”, but career federal employees (and even some contractors) who give a damn about their country and the Constitution have a habit of stashing away little tidbits with innocuous file names. You never know when they’ll be needed. Less likely with TS and TS/SCI material due to the controls and logs, but not difficult at all with SECRET information.

  5. quebecois says:

    Ossoff has a lead of 9527. He needs 2253 to hit the magic 11780.

    Sorry, It’s the opioids talking, I have a couple of very painful vertebras.

    • Nehoa says:

      As of the time of this comment, Ossoff leads by 12,806 votes with nearly all votes counted. Looks like the good guys won tonight. Thank you Stacey Abrams and thank you to all the others that made it possible.

    • PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

      Don’t stay on them longer than a week from one who knows! The warm fuzzy feeling and positive energy is NOT worth withdrawals and years of maintenance.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      (updated 3:18 am – 1/6/21)
      “Georgia Runoff Elections: Live Updates and Results”

      “What questions remain?
      ED KILGORE: After a flurry of late results, vote-counting in Georgia has slowed to a crawl, with significant votes still out in five counties: Chatham, Coffee, Dekalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett. Over half of the expected remaining vote is in heavily Democratic Dekalb and Fulton, and only Coffee is a Republican stronghold.

      With Warnock’s victory clear and Ossoff expected to win when the counties have all reported their votes by midday Wednesday, even then there will be uncertainty, since the deadline for military (expected to tilt Republican) and overseas (expected to tilt Democratic) ballots isn’t until Friday. But Perdue’s path to victory is now choked with obstacles and Loeffler’s is blocked entirely.”

      https://nymag.com/intelligencer/amp/2021/01/georgia-senate-runoff-election-live-updates.html

  6. punaise says:

    I certainly disregarded the polling this time, after yet another across-the-board fail (no matter how the pollsters try to spin it) in November’s Senate elections in particular.
    “Susan Collins is going down!
    Lindsay Graham is in trouble!
    Iowa is in play!”

    So tonight was about skepticism slowly evolving into cautious optimism. When Osoff finally took the lead – apparently for good – it was OK to breathe. Maybe our hundred of handwritten postcards actually helped make a difference this time.

    But can someone please get Steve Kornacki a decent haircut?

  7. Spencer Dawkins says:

    Rayne, this will be the last post I read before going to bed on special election night. Thank you for helping me sleep more soundly!

  8. Matthew Harris says:

    It should also be noted: the US Attorney for Northern Georgia, Byung Pak, was fired/quit the day after the call, with the timing suggesting it was because he refused Trump on something. I imagine that Byung Pak has done the smart thing and hired a good lawyer.

    I can’t imagine that after four years of clumsily trying to manipulate those around him, Trump hasn’t been dumb enough to make many clumsy requests, and that there haven’t been people who have been smart enough to keep a record. Just how effective that paper trail will be at making Trump face some sort of consequences, I don’t know, but I know it is there, somewhere.

  9. Mitch Neher says:

    “. . . using the word “find” 23 times . . . ”

    Trump “thinks” he’s jawboning the ref. Trump also “thinks” he’s using the word “find” the way a jury foreperson would in the sentence, “[w]e, the jury, ‘find’ for the plaintiff.”

    Which is also to say that Trump “thinks” he’s jawboning the “jury” as well as the “ref” who will “find” the “election” for Trump.

    There’s some indeterminate business on the tape where Trump may have told Raffensperger and Germany either that “. . . that would be a criminal ‘find’,” or “a criminal ‘fine’.” Both of which are more or less equally incoherent, thereby leaving no clear basis for deciding between them.

    • Mitch Neher says:

      What Trump “fantasizes,” Trump “thinks” and vice versa.

      Fantasy IS Trump’s thought process.

  10. PeterS says:

    The phone call was truly awful, impeachable at another time, but I’d be surprised if there are charges; looking at the entirety of the call I think the defence is too obvious. 

    P.S. Go Georgia!

  11. PeterS says:

    On the question of a lawsuit, I think Sterling mentioned one, saying they were constrained by a legal challenge in what and how information could be shared with the Trump campaign.

  12. Peterr says:

    “Rev Dr Senator Warnock” has a nice ring to it.

    Almost as good a ring as “Minority Leader McConnell.”

  13. skua says:

    Billy Bush on Maher’s TV show.

    Maher noted that Trump had exaggerated the ratings of his program “The Apprentice,” prompting Bush:
    Well, he’s been saying No. 1 forever, right. Finally I’d had enough. I said, “Wait, Donald. Hold it. Wait a minute. You haven’t been No. 1 for five years, four years — whatever it is. Not in any category, not in any demo.” He goes, “Well, did you see last Thursday? Last Thursday, 18-49 … last five minutes.” I said, “No. I don’t know that stat.” So he was like, “I told you.” And then later, when the cameras were off … he says, “Billy, look, look, you just tell them and they believe it. That’s it, you just tell them and they believe it. They just do.” And I said, “Ah, okay.”

    Many of Trump’s statements in that call make good sense if Trump was doing, “you just tell them and they believe it. That’s it, you just tell them and they believe it. They just do.”

      • dude says:

        What I want to see all over the US on inauguration day over every city: biplanes trailing a banner reading “Trump is a Loser”.

    • madwand says:

      You can also find this related in Brian Stelter’s book “hoax”. Trump believes he can keep talking and saying the same thing and people will believe him. He reinforces this with tweets and with rallies where he repeats the same nonsense.

      Over time nonsense becomes truth when it is repeated not just by Trump but by people expanding the message repeatedly on social media, Fox News, Newsmax, One American News and other venues. In watching interviews of Trump voters in Ga where the question was asked “is the voting rigged?” they all mostly replied yes with certainty, with stock answers generated from those propaganda sources. They believe it for the most part. Only a few of the more thinking ones had answers which implied they had thought about it. One answered that vote cheating had been going on for a long time, with no evidence, and another thought voters should wake up and smell the roses, Biden had won. But they were few.

      At this time Ossoff has a 17000 vote lead and outstanding votes are mostly mail-ins waiting to be counted and mostly from Dem counties. Leads for both Warnock and Ossoff would only increase.

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        “And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

        ― George Orwell, 1984

  14. Zinsky says:

    Two quick observations on Trump’s extended phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger:

    1) I think Trump sounds like an abusive husband in an abusive relationship – shaming Raffensperger and “flipping” the moral accountability to him instead of Trump. He implies Raffensperger’s omission is more heinous than his commission. In other words, Trump is asserting that Raffensperger is the criminal for not allowing Trump to commit his crimes. Moral jiujitsu.
    2) You can bet your life there have been other calls exactly like this one. Trump has called the governors and secretaries of several states to verbally harangue them in the same abusive manner. If any of them had any sense, they recorded those calls.

    As I said on Marcy’s thread this morning, I am very hopeful this morning, though. I see brighter days ahead, once these dead-enders have a chance to act out like petulant children and the adults are back in charge on January 20th.

  15. harpie says:

    Rayne: We have yet to see a word-for-word transcript of the 2019 Ukraine call, having instead a memo providing most of the context. Would the full transcript buried in a classified file system sound more like the Trump-Raffensperger call?

    That’s the reason I wanted to see what Col. Alexander Vindman
    might have to say about THIS Trump extortion call:
    https://www.emptywheel.net/2021/01/03/lordy-there-are-tapes/#comment-873474

    >>> https://twitter.com/AVindman/status/1345817489981247488
    2:41 PM · Jan 3, 2021

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. @realDonaldTrump is corrupt and this call fits a pattern of corruption. In time investigators will uncover a series of “perfect” calls. Priority 1 will be uncovering corruption and protecting democracy.

    • Manwen says:

      In January 2017, the first two individuals Trump invited for dinner at the White House were first Ted Cruz (and Heidi) and, second, Marco Rubio (and his spouse). You could look at that and say he is making peace with his Republican opponents, but that would have been done between the convention and the general election in normal times. I have often wondered about those meetings and what was said there. I could only imagine Trump threatening and demanding loyalty from them going forward. That he largely received such loyalty from these two antagonists often makes me wonder what information was shared at that meeting and where any such information may have come from. I recognize these are only questions. I am not saying anything untoward happened, but I have been curious about those dinners for four years. I hope some day, history will reveal those conversations to us. I suspect at a minimum they are of a type not unlike the devil’s call to Georgia.

    • Raven Eye says:

      The fact that Vindman tweeted this tells me that he has a high degree of confidence that there are recordings and/or accurate transcripts filed away. When people see respected colleagues shafted for doing their duty, it is not uncommon for them to make sure that critical evidence is safeguarded.

  16. BobCon says:

    I think you’re right to ask what other calls Trump has made, and a critical question is going to come down to what other people have been doing at his direction.

    He’s not acting in a vacuum, and these things aren’t free. I think a lot of his criminal — and political — risk expands significantly if this one call is seen as just one part of a much larger criminal enterprise, including the funding.

    The GOP strategy is going to be to constrict the focus to one or two phrases. They don’t want the larger network to come under scrutiny. And to be clear, the press doesn’t want to do the spadework of interviewing conspirators and chasing money trails either. But breaking the corruption is going to require hooking this tape into the broader conspiracy.

  17. MB says:

    A few subjective impressions of DJT’s “style” from that tape:

    1) He did this a lot: “You know” [insert lie here] “is true! You know it Brad!”. Whenever he mentioned names “Brad” or “Ryan”, the tone of voice was clearly disparaging.

    2) For someone who generally comes off as incredibly stupid and unable to learn facts, he displayed an uncanny grasp of the minute details of his lies. And when receiving pushback, he did have a tendency to inflate originally-quoted numbers.

    3) His insistence that everything the GA state election officials reported were just simply “wrong”. And that his “facts” were the only “real facts”.

    4) Incredible to me was his strategy that since (as he says) he clearly won Georgia by “hundreds of thousands of votes”, that his ask for 11,780 votes was such an incredibly small ask, so insignificant in the larger scheme of things…so just do it…Brad.

    I know it’s a common trope to say that propaganda works when it’s repeated enough so that some people accept what’s said as “fact” after a while. While that’s true enough, my added spin to that line of thinking is that strategy of lie-repetition ought to be looked at as a form of trance-induction by a charismatic personality, iow it’s a cult-leader technique that strangely communicates 2 things at once: 1) a lull into feeling a false sense of security and 2) an implicit argument to discourage critical thinking: it’s an appeal to safety and comfort over anything else.

  18. John Langston says:

    It’s a real shame that we don’t have professionals running HHS instead of (un)ranked amateurs that are killing us.

    Actually that’s also true for entire Trump admin.

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