(The Hill) – Former President Trump demonstrated virtually no knowledge of the conduct of modern elections procedures in a long and rambling phone call with Georgia’s top elections administrator as he ticked off a host of debunked and fanciful conspiracy theories he blamed for his electoral defeat.
The man on the other end of that call in early January, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), details months of mistruths and disinformation perpetrated by the Trump campaign that led up to their conversation in a new book out Tuesday, “Integrity Counts.”
The book includes a roughly 40-page transcript of the call itself, which shows an increasingly agitated Trump grasping at allegations that Raffensperger and his top deputy systematically refute as then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows pleaded with the Georgia officials to investigate further and Trump urged Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to deliver the state’s electoral votes.
“Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break,” Trump told Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the general counsel to the secretary of state, according to the transcript.
“This repeated request for votes showed me that President Trump really had no idea how elections work. The secretary of state’s office doesn’t allocate any votes,” Raffensperger writes in an annotation of the call.
“At the time of the call in January, I didn’t know if he believed what he was saying. I didn’t know if he was trying to push a narrative, or was he just believing stuff that was fed to him?” Raffensperger told The Hill in an interview. “As a conservative-with-a-capital-C Republican, I’m disappointed like everyone else is. But the cold hard facts are that President Trump did come up short in the state of Georgia.”
Trump said he had been told that ballots had been cast in the names of as many as 5,000 dead people; Raffensperger’s post-election audit found two people had voted in the names of dead relatives. Trump alleged 4,925 voters who lived in other states had cast ballots in Georgia; Raffensperger found 300 out-of-state voters. Trump accused Fulton County officials of shredding thousands of ballots; Raffensperger counters that officials in Cobb County shredded blank envelopes, and no ballots.
“I wanted to respond to him respectfully, but also let him know in no uncertain terms that what he just said was not supported by the facts,” Raffensperger said. “Every single allegation that he made in that call and every allegation that his surrogates made, we ran those down and they were not supported by the facts.”
The months after November’s election shone an uncomfortable, and at times dangerous, spotlight on Raffensperger and on others swept up in the cauldron of misinformation perpetuated by Trump backers. An anonymous person sent Raffensperger’s wife a threatening text message. An election worker, whom Raffensperger does not name to protect what little privacy she has left, was harassed by Trump backers who incorrectly believed she had committed wrongdoing.
Another man, Ron Raffensperger, was harassed by some who thought he was the secretary’s brother; Brad Raffensperger does not have a brother.
“We are a nation of laws; we believe in the rule of law. We have a constitution. We have state laws, we have federal laws,” Raffensperger said. “For people to threaten my wife, my daughter-in-law, our family, election workers, poll workers in 75, 80 percent Trump counties in Georgia is absolutely atrocious behavior. If these people’s parents and grandparents saw what they were doing and saying, I think they would take them all out to the woodshed because that’s not how your mom raised you.”
Raffensperger has supported some of the election law changes that took place in Georgia following November’s elections, measures Republicans say are meant to increase security and cut down on fraud but which Democrats counter are designed to restrict access to the polls.
Asked if widespread voter fraud exists in the United States, Raffensperger said: “No, it does not.”
Raffensperger, who is up for reelection next year, has remained a target for Trump and his acolytes. He faces a challenge from Rep. Jody Hice (R), who has maintained election denialism and won an endorsement from Trump in response.
“I think what I’ve shown is that when you have more courage and integrity to do what is right to stand in the gap — people know that I fought hard to make sure that we have honest and fair elections and making sure we keep those guardrails of accessibility and security in place,” Raffensperger said. “What I work on managing myself every day. So I can look in the mirror, I can look at my wife, look at my kids, my grandchildren, and know that I did what was right. I did what was true. I did what was noble. And that keeps me pretty busy.”
Raffensperger declined to say whether he believes Trump is morally fit to be president. Instead, he said, he is happy he was the one responsible for running Georgia’s elections.
“I guess you could say God put me in this time that he knew that I would have the courage and the conviction to do the right thing. And I’m very thankful that I did,” he said. “Because it was the right thing to do because it was based on the facts, it was based on the law, it was based on the Constitution.”