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Tag: georgia senate runoffs

Did Greene Violate Federal Law In Her New SuperPAC Ad?

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

Not long after her election to Congress, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) helped raise money for a super PAC by appearing in a video ad that tests the boundaries of rules limiting fundraising by elected officials.

The ad explicitly asks for money for the Stop Socialism Now PAC, an entity that can accept unlimited donations. But candidates and elected officials are not allowed to solicit contributions greater than $5,000, according to campaign finance experts.

Greene made the ad with Rick Shaftan, a North Carolina-based consultant whose company also handled ads for Greene's campaign and works with a gun activism group that has been closely aligned with the freshman lawmaker. Some Republicans have cut their ties to Shaftan over his history of racist remarks.

In December, Greene appeared in several ads for the super PAC leading up to Georgia's two Senate runoffs. "It's time to fight back now before it's too late," Greene said in one of the videos.

Immediately after she leaves the screen, a voice-over urges viewers to "make a contribution today."

Stop Socialism Now PAC's Ad

Greene recites a script in the super PAC's ad, which ends with a call for donations. (Screenshots from YouTube)

Under federal law, candidates and elected officials cannot "solicit, receive, direct, transfer, or spend funds in connection with an election … unless the funds are subject to the limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements" of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. Super PACs aren't subject to those requirements, as noted in the fine print on the donation webpage referenced in the Greene ad. The statute defines "solicit" as "to ask, request, or recommend, explicitly or implicitly," that a person give money or something of value. The law says messages should be considered in context, including "the conduct of persons involved in the communication."

Legal experts differed in their assessments of whether Greene's appearance follows the law, depending on their views of how strictly campaign finance rules should be interpreted. The Federal Election Commission, which enforces campaign finance rules, is notoriously weak. Although the commission staff looks into complaints about violations of fundraising rules, the six-member commission, which has equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, routinely deadlocks.

Paul S. Ryan, a campaign finance expert with the good-government advocacy group Common Cause, said he believes the Greene ad clearly crosses the line.

"This communication constitutes an illegal solicitation by a member of Congress of unlimited funds," Ryan said. The ban on soliciting unlimited donations, he said, "becomes meaningless if a candidate can do this."

Ryan said he's never before seen a candidate reading a super PAC's script in an ad that explicitly asks for money. That goes further, he said, than other instances where super PACs have repurposed footage of a candidate or hosted candidates at fundraisers that people have already paid to attend.

Political operatives have steadily pushed to blur the lines between candidates and their allied super PACs, which are supposed to be independent. Candidates regularly started showing up at super PAC fundraisers with the FEC's blessing. Campaigns and super PACs are not supposed to share private information, so campaigns started publicly posting video that super PACs could use — in 2015, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's campaign famously posted hours and hours of raw footage.

The Greene ad is different because her appearance was clearly recorded specifically for the super PAC.

"Even if a super PAC can accept, a federal candidate can't solicit — that is clear and indisputable," said Erin Chlopak of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. "The whole basis for these organizations to exist is acting independently and not in coordination with federal candidates. The weaker we make that, or the lack of rules that really require such independence, then the entire premise of why they're allowed to accept unlimited contributions falls apart."

The Greene ad doesn't specify a $5,000 contribution limit, which experts say could have avoided the issue.

"My advice would be to be very clear that a candidate is not soliciting beyond those limits," said William Minor, a campaign finance lawyer at the firm DLA Piper. Minor said the FEC has given detailed guidance about what candidates can and can't do in relation to fundraising events, but the only rule that addresses asking for money in ads is the blanket ban on soliciting outsize donations.

Still, Jan Baran, a prominent Republican campaign finance lawyer, said he believes the ad complies with FEC rules because the solicitation for money flashes up while Greene is not on screen. She also doesn't appear on the super PAC's online donations page, he said.

"The ad and Ms. Greene seem in compliance since there is no solicitation by Ms. Greene and no evidence direct or indirect that impermissible [federal election] funds are being solicited by using Ms. Greene's name or likeness," Baran said in an email.

The Greene campaign and its lawyer, former Trump White House deputy counsel Stefan C. Passantino, didn't respond to requests for comment. Reached by phone, Shaftan hung up. His Twitter bio says, "I no longer talk to the #FakeNewsMedia or care what you write."

Greene voted to overturn the presidential election by objecting to the Electoral College results on January 6, when a violent mob of then-President Donald Trump's supporters attacked the Capitol. Georgia Democrats called for Greene to resign over her inflammatory rhetoric leading up to the insurrection.

In February, the House voted to remove Greene from her committee assignments for conduct such as accosting a school shooting survivor and showing support online for killing Democratic leaders. Greene said in a speech that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could be executed for treason and liked a Facebook comment that suggested removing Pelosi with "a bullet to the head."

Those incidents predate Greene's election to Congress, but while in office she has provoked fresh altercations on Capitol Hill. Freshman Democrat Cori Bush of Missouri moved her office after she said Greene and her staff "berated" and "threatened" her in response to being asked to wear masks. Greene also put up an anti-transgender sign outside her office, across the hall from a lawmaker whose daughter is transgender. Last week, Greene aggressively pursued Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., outside the House chamber, falsely accusing her of supporting terrorists.

It is not clear exactly when and where the super PAC launched the ad featuring Greene. Stop Socialism Now PAC reported spending $12,000 on Dec. 4 for "digital and television advertising" against the Democratic candidates in the Senate runoffs, according to FEC disclosures. The group didn't show up in a search of broadcast airtime by the ad-tracking firm AdImpact.

The super PAC posted the Greene ad that asked for money on its Facebook page on December 3, logging more than 3,500 views. That ad isn't one of the super PAC's paid posts that show up in the social network's voluntary disclosures of political ads.

FEC disclosures don't connect contributions to any particular ad or solicitation. But the super PAC has received several donations above the $5,000 limit that applies to regular (non-super) PACs.

Cynthia B. Howalt, whose family owns a chemical manufacturing company in Greene's district, gave $125,000 on November 13. Her husband, Frederick "Chip" Howalt, told a local reporter in January that the couple wanted to increase support for Greene and oppose Republicans who didn't vote to overturn the 2020 election. The couple didn't respond to requests for comment.

Another large donor to the super PAC was William O. Cooley, a retired land developer in West Palm Beach, who gave $10,000 on December 9. He declined to comment.

Greene's extensive television ads, financed in part with her $1 million loan to her campaign, were key to her victory in the Republican primary last year. Her campaign has paid Shaftan's firm, Neighborhood Research and Media, more than $665,000 for ads, polls, mailers, phone messages and calls, according to FEC disclosures. The super PAC paid the firm another $10,000.

Shaftan's ads for Greene's official campaign included one simulating an explosion at an enormous Confederate monument in Stone Mountain, Georgia, as Greene says, "The socialist left won't stop until America is destroyed." In another ad, Greene brandishes an assault rifle and appears to blow up targets labeled "gun control" and "socialism."

Shaftan also works with a network of pro-gun groups run by brothers in Ohio named Chris, Aaron, and Ben Dorr. They are also prominent allies of Greene's. In an interview with Chris Dorr a week before the 2020 election, Greene said that if Trump lost, his supporters might resort to violence.

"Once it's gone, freedom doesn't come back by itself — the only way you get your freedoms back is it's earned with the price of blood," Greene said in a video of the interview, reported by Mother Jones. "This is it. November 3, freedom is on the ballot."

Greene planned to speak at a May 1 rally in Columbus, Ohio, organized by Chris Dorr, who told followers they could openly carry guns there. On the eve of the rally, the organizers called it off. Greene released a statement claiming state authorities refused to provide security for her.

An Ohio State Highway Patrol spokesman disputed that account, saying the police "had every intention of providing security" and had "all necessary measures in place."

Chris Dorr didn't respond to requests for comment. In 2019, Ohio authorities investigated and decided against prosecuting him for threatening assassinations in response to the Republican governor's proposed gun regulations. "There could be political bodies lying all over the ground," Dorr said in an online video. "We gun owners will pull the trigger and leave the corpse for the buzzards."

Greene also touted the Dorr brothers' American Firearms Association's endorsement of a bill she introduced in Congress to block federal funding for any gun regulations. An article on the far-right website Breitbart said Greene's bill was a response to an abandoned effort late last year by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to restrict equipment that makes it possible to use pistols like assault weapons. This type of weapon was later used in the Boulder, Colorado, mass shooting in March.

In April, Greene's campaign said it would raffle off a version of the weapon. "I'm giving away the gun that triggers the Fake News Media," Greene said in an email to supporters.

Update, May 21, 2021: The good-government advocacy group Common Cause filed a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission citing ProPublica's reporting and alleging that the super PAC ad featuring Greene violated the ban on candidates soliciting unlimited donations. "The United States Supreme Court has been very clear in upholding candidate contribution limits and prohibitions on candidates soliciting funds outside those limits because such contributions lead to corruption and undermine the faith of Americans in the political process," the group's president, Karen Hobert Flynn, said in a statement.

Do you have information that should be public about extremist members of Congress? Contact Isaac at isaac@propublica.org.

Democrats Will Control Senate As Ossoff Wins Georgia Runoff

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

As violent Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to prevent Congress from counting the electoral votes that made Joe Biden the president-elect, Jon Ossoff has been projected to defeat David Perdue, winning his Georgia Senate runoff and giving Democrats the narrowest possible control of the Senate. Ossoff's lead is larger than Biden's win in the state in November, and is expected to grow outside the one-half percent margin under which Perdue could request a recount.

Ossoff joins Senator-elect Raphael Warnock in making history, as Georgia will send to Washington, D.C., its first Black senator and its first Jewish one. Just over a century ago, Georgia was the site of the anti-Semitic lynching of Leo Frank. His win comes on a day when we are reminded of the nation's history of white supremacist violence.

With Ossoff and Warnock, the Senate's partisan split will be 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, in her role as president of the Senate, breaking ties. This makes Biden's job in the early weeks of his presidency much, much easier—rather than a series of protracted confirmation battles, with Mitch McConnell in the majority leader role refusing to even give some nominees a vote, Biden can make the nominations he wants and focus on other things. But, again, the events of the day are a stark reminder of how much damage there is to undo.

What Really Happened In Those Historic Georgia Runoffs -- And Why

Georgia voters are on the verge of sending two new Democratic senators to Washington as the finale of a presidential election season that has historically recast Georgia's political identity and will yield a Democratic Senate majority with a new mandate for Joe Biden's presidency.

Rev. Raphael Warnock was 40,000 votes ahead of Sen. Kelly Loeffler, the Republican incumbent, with more than 98 percent of an estimated 4.5 million ballots counted by early Wednesday. With most of the uncounted ballots in metro Atlanta counties, where 75-to-80 percent of an increasingly diverse electorate voted Democratic, Georgia is sending a Black minister to the U.S. Senate, a major historical achievement.

"We were told we couldn't win this election, but tonight we proved that, with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible," Warnock told his supporters after midnight. "I am so honored by the faith that you have shown in me, and I promise you this: I am going to the Senate to work for Georgia, all of Georgia, no matter who you cast your vote for."

Shortly before 2 AM Wednesday, the other Democrat in a runoff election, Jon Ossoff, pulled ahead of Sen. David Perdue, the Republican incumbent, as returns came in from populous metro Atlanta counties. While some rural counties had yet to finish reporting their counts, election officials said the majority of the remaining votes would favor Democrats.

"Yes, that's correct," Gabriel Sterling, a top state election official and a Republican, told CNN late on Tuesday, discussing the remaining uncounted votes. "It's really an irony because in the '60s and '70s, that [Atlanta region] was the hotbed of the Republican takeover in Georgia."

"We fully expect" to win, the Ossoff campaign said in a statement. "The outstanding vote is squarely in parts of the state where Jon's performance has been dominant."

Warnock's margin of victory exceeded the state's legal threshold for a recount. However, the Perdue-Ossoff race could be headed for a recount if its margin was less than 0.5 percent of the total votes cast. With 98 percent of the votes counted early Wednesday, Ossoff was ahead by nearly 13,000 votes.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told CNN that he estimated that 4.5 million votes were cast in the recount, making the recount trigger about 22,500 votes. The last votes to be counted will be 17,000 overseas and military ballots that can arrive as late as Friday, he said.

Early on Wednesday, Perdue's campaign issued a statement claiming that they won and said it would use "every available resource and exhaust every recourse to ensure all legally cast ballots are properly counted." If no recount were triggered, Perdue would have few options.

A Historic Finale to 2020

Should both Democrats prevail, the impact on the nation's political life and federal governance cannot be underestimated. On virtually every major issue that Democrats care about, the Biden administration would have been met with resistance had the Senate remained a Republican-led body. Once Georgia's senators are seated, the body will have a 50-50 split between parties, but Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be a tie-breaker, giving Democrats control over the Senate agenda, committee assignments and administration's appointees, including judges.

Those ramifications will play out after the Trump administration leaves office on January 20. On Wednesday, the Trump administration and its allies are expected to try to block Congress's certification of the 2020 Electoral College votes. Trump's allies will claim that the 2020 election was stolen, as they have in 63 lawsuits that have been filed in state and federal courts to challenge the results in swing states where Trump lost. Trump and his allies have lost all but one of those lawsuits, often due to lack of vote fraud evidence.

On Tuesday night, Trump and several high-profile supporters—his White House spokeswoman and a Fox News host—tweeted the Georgia runoffs were fraudulent. Their claim was baseless because while there were some election administration problems on Tuesday, no observer or credible source reported any vote-forging chicanery. Every top statewide official in Georgia, including the governor and election director, is a Republican. If anything, the state has been very aggressive in investigating voter fraud in 2020. It has found almost no wrongdoing.

Trump's antics should not detract from the historic achievement seen in Georgia. The state emerged as a national political battleground in November after Biden's surprise victory. The apparent victory of two Democrats in a runoff that set voter turnout records affirmed that its political landscape was undergoing historic change. The heart of that transformation was the result of years of effort by grassroots organizing led by the Black community, but more recently expanding into other communities of color and the state's newest residents.

Some pundits outside Georgia will credit Trump's attacks on the state's election system and top elected officials—for not manipulating the count to ensure that he won—as the top reasonwhy insufficient numbers of Republicans did not vote in the runoffs. But that analysis is not the full story. The runoffs had near-presidential election turnout levels, which showed that Georgians in both parties were engaged. What the Trump-centric analysis omits are the unprecedented efforts by communities of color to unite to turn out voters in November and in the runoffs.

Old-line groups, such as the Georgia county-level NAACP chapters, found themselves working with tech-savvy organizers who had tens of thousands of volunteers from across the country. Frontline groups were supported up with post card, phone bank and texting campaigns. In the state's urban and rural communities, Black sororities, fraternities and community organizations partnered with new groups of younger activists and organizers. While the Senate runoffs set records for spending on political advertising, the grassroots efforts turned out voters across the state. In short, for the first time in many years, Georgians could see their votes mattered.

In coming days, there will be numerous analyses and reports affirming these trends. On CNN early Wednesday morning, campaign data analysts noted that Biden's 12,000-vote victory over Trump was a floor, or a baseline, for Democrats to prevail in a statewide race. With 150,000 or more votes yet to be counted, Warnock's margin was more than three times that size.

Smart analysts like CNN's Harry Enten noted that Warnock didn't just win in Atlanta's suburbs—where many moderate Republicans voted for Biden. Warnock's percentages in rural counties often was equal to, or exceeded Biden's percentages, by several points. Warnock's campaign, like many grassroots groups, targeted and turned out overlooked voters of color. Those rural counties are still mostly run by elected white Republicans, but their political complexion is changing as non-white voters are discovering that they have power.

While the coming days may see partisan Republicans accuse Georgia's election officials of running fraud-ridden Senate runoffs and even file litigation to challenge the results, there's little indication that those efforts will succeed. Trump's allies lost every lawsuit filed before Tuesday's runoffs. State law requires county officials to certify the results by January 15. The state must certify the election by January 22—two days after Biden's inauguration.

In Warnock's speech early Wednesday, he called on all participants in political life to start working together to help ordinary people solve life's problems.

"In this moment in American history, Washington has a choice to make; we all have a choice to make," he said. "Will we continue to divide, distract and dishonor one and other, or will we love our neighbors as we love ourselves? Will we play political games while real people suffer or will we win righteous fights together, standing shoulder to shoulder, for the good of Georgia, for the good of the country?"

With Ossoff Near Victory In Georgia, Democrats Closing On Control Of Senate

With only one percent of votes still outstanding, Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff held a lead of about 16,000 votes over incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue in yesterday's Georgia Senate runoff. The historic surge of Black voters that ensured victory for Rev. Raphael Warnock -- the Democrat who won the other Georgia Senate seat from appointed Sen. Kelly Loefller in the same election -- seemed likely to boost Ossoff, since remaining votes are from Democratic precincts, according to most analysts.

Victories by both Democrats will assure their party's control of the upper chamber in Congress as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take over the White House. Although the Senate would be tied at 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, Harris would be empowered as vice president to cast tie-breaking votes that assured her party's control.

At 33, Ossoff would be the youngest member of the Senate elected in decades and the first Jewish senator from his home state.

Both Georgia Democrats had lagged in the late evening count, but pulled ahead as votes from heavily Democratic DeKalb County came in early this morning. Neither Loeffler nor Perdue have conceded with both insisting that they will ultimately prevail.

Ossoff's campaign manager Ellen Foster issued a statement that stopped just short of claiming victory.

"When all the votes are counted we fully expect that Jon Ossoff will have won this election to represent Georgia in the United States Senate," said Foster. "The outstanding vote is squarely in parts of the state where Jon's performance has been dominant."

Nevertheless, Perdue's campaign issued its own statement: "This is an exceptionally close election that will require time and transparency to be certain the results are fair and accurate and the voices of Georgians are heard. We will mobilize every available resource and exhaust every legal recourse to ensure all legally cast ballots are properly counted. We believe in the end, Senator Perdue will be victorious."

Rev. Raphael Warnock Defeats Kelly Loeffler In Georgia Senate Runoff

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The Rev. Raphael Warnock is now Senator-elect Raphael Warnock. He is projected to defeat Sen. Kelly Loeffler in one of Georgia's two runoff elections.

Warnock, the pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, will become Georgia's first Black senator. He kicked off the runoff campaign with one of the more memorable and effective ads in recent election cycles, and then followed it up with another one using the same themes, just as effective.

Loeffler was appointed to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson when he retired, so she cannot be said to have lost reelection. Rather, she failed ever to be elected—and she failed on the basis of a racist campaign in which she relentlessly pandered to Donald Trump and the worst of his base. In a last-ditch pander, Loeffler promised Monday night to join the Republicans objecting to the counting of electors from battleground states won by President-elect Joe Biden. (And after it became clear she was going to lose, late on Tuesday night she announced she was heading to Washington to follow through on that pledge.)

A Democrat won the presidential race in Georgia. A Black Democrat is going to the Senate from the state. Holy wow, and a big thank you to Stacey Abrams, Nse Ufot, and so many other tireless organizers.

Texas Republican Touts ‘Hot Civil War’ If Democrats Win Georgia Runoffs

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) claimed on Monday that if Democrats win two Georgia Senate races, the country will erupt into another civil war.

"What happens tomorrow in Georgia, if we have a Democratically controlled Senate, we're now at basically full-scale hot conflict in this country, whereas right now we're at a cold civil war," he told Fox News.

"If Georgians don't show up and ensure that we hold the Senate in Republican hands, then that's what's happening. Two additional votes coming out of the Senate in Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico and they lock it down for good," he said.


Roy was referring to Tuesday runoff elections — one between Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and Democrat Raphael Warnock, the other between Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) and Democrat Jon Ossoff — that will determine what party holds a majority in the Senate for the next two years.

His suggestion of civil war comes just weeks after his own state party chair, Allen West, urged "law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution." West denied that this was a call for pro-Trump states to secede from the union.

Republicans have attempted to make the Georgia Senate races a referendum on whether millions of Americans in Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia should be given full representation in Congress — hoping that conservative voters in the state will be motivated to stop other citizens from having the same rights they enjoy. Like Roy, they have suggested that statehood for the citizens of those two territories would make it impossible for Republicans to ever again hold a majority in the Senate.

This argument makes little sense. While Washington, D.C., has been reliably Democratic, Puerto Ricans have elected several Republicans — including their current resident commissioner, a non-voting delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives. And even if Democrats had gained four new Senate seats in the last Congress, Republicans would still have held a 53 to 51 majority.

In just one term in Congress, Roy has already amassed a long record of extreme comments. Last year, he attacked a 20-year-old survivor of the Parkland mass school shooting as "functionally illiterate" for criticizing Donald Trump's family separation policies, likened anti-racism protesters to the white former cop charged with murdering George Floyd, and compared pandemic safety guidelines to "Nazi Germany."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Details Of Trump's Georgia Extortion Scheme Provoke Calls For Criminal Probe

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

President Trump told Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that he "needs" the Georgia Republican to immediately find enough votes for Trump to be declared the state's 2020 election victor. Raffensperger repeatedly refused to do so, telling Trump in an hourlong call on Saturday that he had lost the election and that his claims of illegal voting were ill-informed and based on bad data.

"I have to find 12,000 votes," Trump said, referring to President-elect Joe Biden's 11,779-vote margin that Georgia certified after counting the ballots three times. "What are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break. You know, we have that in spades already."

"Mr. President, you have people that submit information and we have our people that submit information," Raffensperger replied. "And then it comes before the court and the court then has to make a determination. We have to stand by our numbers. We believe our numbers are right."

"Why do you say that?" Trump countered. "I mean, sure, we can play this game with the courts, but why do you say that? … I know this phone call is going nowhere other than, other than ultimately, you know. Look, ultimately, I win, okay? Because you guys are so wrong."

Their conversation was first reported by The Washington Post, which published the audio and a transcript, and may expose Trump to state and federal statutes that bar "criminal solicitation of election fraud," as the Georgia legal code puts it. The immediate impact of Trump's bid to recast 2020's election results will be in political circles. The call came days before runoffs in Georgia that will decide the U.S. Senate majority, and days before Congress will ratify 2020's Electoral College vote.

Trump's interference in Georgia, the state in 2020 with the slimmest margin between him and Biden, immediately revives the charges of election interference that led to his impeachment. Trump was impeached after tying foreign military aid to Ukraine in exchange for the country announcing an investigation in the business activities of Biden's son.

"We now have irrefutable proof of a president pressuring and threatening an official of his own party to get him to rescind a state's lawful, certified vote count and fabricate another in its place," said Bob Bauer, a longtime election lawyer and senior advisor to president-elect Joe Biden, after the call became public.

"Absolutely right," tweeted Laurence Tribe, a Harvard Law School constitutional scholar. "No choice. Failure to open a criminal investigation of this 'perfect' call would be an inexcusable dereliction of duty."

Trump will be holding a rally in northwest Georgia on Monday in a region where Republican voter turn out for the Senate runoffs has lagged behind the Democrat turnout in blue epicenters. On the call with Raffensperger, Trump threatened to release "a new tape" showing ballot box stuffing from a suburban Atlanta county that he called "devastating." How much Trump's attacks on Georgia Republicans will undermine GOP turnout on the runoffs is an open question. Trump's attacks on Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, also a Republican, have not helped the party's two Senate candidates, other Georgia GOP leaders have said.

Trump's extortion-laden phone call also adds an uncertain element to the growing swath of right-wing House and Senate members who planned to challenge the Electoral College slates in battleground states when Congress convenes to ratify the 2020 results. The call with Raffensperger revealed that Trump's post-election team has prepared new analyses to contest the accuracy of the votes in Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The president boasted that these reports were done by accountants, which was a telling admission. It was not likely to be accurate as analyses done by former election officials and election administration experts.

Trump's Bullying

Trump dominated most of the call with Raffensperger. He started by saying that he "won" in Georgia and that "anywhere from 250-300,000 ballots were mysteriously dropped into the rolls." Trump said the center of the alleged illegal activity was in Fulton County, the largest jurisdiction in metro Atlanta. "We're going to have an accurate number over the next two days with certified accountants," Trump said.

Trump said "about 4,502 voters who voted… weren't on the voter registration list." He said, "You had 18,325 vacant address voters. The address was vacant and they're not allowed to be counted." He said that 904 voters had a post office box number, not an address. "You had out-of-state voters," he continued. "They voted in Georgia but they were from out of state." He said that "dead people voted, and I think the number is close to 5,000 people."

Trump said that his team found the dead voters "by going through the obituary columns in newspapers." He said that his team also reviewed U.S. Post Office data—presumably the national change of address database; which lists heads of households and not every resident. These kinds of data sources would not identify every legal voter in the state because they are not definitive.

Raffensperger listened and simply replied that these claims had been brought up in lawsuits and that none of them were found by judges to have a factual basis.

"Well, I listened to what the president has just said," the Georgia Republican said. "President Trump, we've had several lawsuits and we've had to respond in court to the lawsuits and the contentions. Um, we don't agree that you have won. And we don't—I don't agree about the 200,000 number that you mentioned."

After saying that his office has spent hours briefing Georgia legislators, Republican members of Congress, and done three vote counts—including an unprecedented hand count—Raffensperger and his staff rebutted most of Trump's scenarios.

"Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong," he said.

Trump, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and Trump campaign lawyers said that Raffensperger's office was not sharing all of the voter data that it had—and tried to pressure the secretary into providing it. Raffensperger's attorneys said the state was not obligated to share confidential information in its voter files. That data, such as Social Security numbers and other unique identifiers, is used to verify voter's identities and to ensure that no fraudulent ballots are cast.

Trump's attorneys did not like that response. At one point, Trump implied that Raffensperger could face federal charges for not assisting with Trump's review, which Trump kept saying would reveal massive illegal voting.

"You know what they did and you're not reporting it," Trump told Raffensperger. "You know, that's a criminal — that's a criminal offense. And you know, you can't let that happen. That's a big risk to you and to Ryan [Germany], your lawyer. That's a big risk."

Trump also said that Atlanta counties were "shredding" ballots. Raffensperger's staff replied that their office had investigated and that those were ballots from prior elections. Federal law requires all election records be kept for 22 months.

"Mr. President, the problem you have [is] with social media – people can say anything," Raffensperger said, discussing the ballot-shredding charge.

"Oh, this isn't social media," Trump replied. "This is Trump media. It's not social media… Social media is Big Tech. Big Tech is on your side. I don't even know why you have a side, because you should want to have an accurate election. And you're a Republican."

"We believe that we do have an accurate election," Raffensperger responded.

"No, no you don't. No, no you don't. You don't have. Not even close," Trump said. "You're off by hundreds of thousands of votes… I'm notifying you that you're letting it happen. So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is more than we have because we won the state."

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.