US Politics

Donald Trump Georgia phone call: fact check

What falsehoods did president Donald Trump spout in his incriminating phone call Saturday over the election with Georgia's SoS Brad Raffensperger?

Donald Trump Georgia phone call: fact check
SAUL LOEB AFP

There’s rarely a dull day in Washington at the moment. Since the audio of a conference call was leaked to the press in which lame-duck president Donald Trump pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to ‘find votes’ to help him overturn Joe Biden’s victory, it is being reported that the outgoing president is now looking to sue.

The recorded call, which was initially published by The Washington Post,  shows attempts by Trump to persuade Raffensperger of the merits of his unfounded claims through circular ramblings of arguments that have already been dismissed by the courts. A continued reference to 'just needing to find 11,780 votes' (Biden’s winning margin), rather than the 'hundreds of thousands' of votes that Trump says he definitely won by, was notable.

You’d be right to be confused as to why on Saturday 2 January at 3pm, nearly two full months after the vote, the president was asking Georgia’s top election official to “find” votes. Every vote in the peach state has now been counted three times and the result has been certified by the election board. It’s certainly last-ditch desperation, if not potentially criminal.

Here are key phrases from the hour-long call fact checked against the truth.

Claim 1

Trump: "We won very substantially in Georgia. You even see it by rally size, frankly. We'd be getting 25-30,000 people a rally and the competition would get less than 100 people."

The Truth

Trump has long misunderstood the relationship between high rally turnout and votes in the ballot box. He’s more interested in appearances than facts.

Firstly, we know very well that throughout 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic wore on, Democrats were far more likely to believe in the virus than Trump supporters in general, therefore avoid unnecessary associated risks; eg. large gatherings of crowds closely packed not wearing masks. This also explained the overrepresentation of Democrats in mail-in voting in 2020’s November election in particular.

Secondly, Trump needs to go back to third grade math. Even if Trump had 30,000 people at a rally, that's roughly 0.6% of the 4.9 million votes cast in Georgia in the fall election. By his own twisted metric Trump would have to hold 83.3 rallies, with 30,000 different attendees at each one to count as 50% of the vote.

Claim 2

Trump: "We think that if you check the signatures - a real check of the signatures going back in Fulton County you'll find at least a couple of hundred thousand of forged signatures of people who have been forged."

The Truth

AP has confirmed that there is not one scrap of evidence to support this claim and that furthermore it’s impossible because there were only about 147,000 mail-in ballots cast in total in Fulton County, with about 116,000 of them going to Biden.

Claim 3

Trump: “So dead people voted. And I think the number is close to 5,000 people [in Georgia].'

The Truth

This claim is nothing new from Trump and his supporters, which makes a foolish assumption instead of relying on hard facts. During the call Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger – also a Republican - rejected the president's assertion, saying there were just two confirmed cases of votes attributed to dead people.

The BBC investigated a list of "10,000 dead voters" in Michigan and promptly concluded that the method of cross-referencing lists of deaths across the US and voters in a particular state produces thousands of matches - with the same name and birth year - both dead and alive. The BBC investigation found a large number of matches even when the month of birth was included, they went on to contact a sample of the “dead voters” and found them alive and well.

What’s for certain is that if Trump and his team of aggressive lawyers - who thus far have brought more than 60 legal cases across the country and lost all of them – had even a scrap of specific evidence of widespread practice where dead people were “voting”, we would have known about it two months ago and never heard the end of it.

Claim 4

Trump: “It doesn’t pass the smell test, because we hear they’re shredding thousands and thousands of ballots and now what they’re saying (is) ‘Oh, we’re just cleaning up the office.’”

The Truth

The shredding in question was taking place in suburban Cobb County, not in Fulton County as Trump claimed. Cobb County elections officials said on 24 November that none of the items shredded by a contractor were “relevant to the election or the re-tally” and instead were things like old mailing labels, other papers with voter information, old emails and duplicates of absentee ballot applications.

Claim 5

Trump: “[There] were thousands and thousands of ballots in a box that was not an official or a sealed box.”

The Truth

This is another claim that has been frequently parroted by Trump’s team and OANN’s entertainment network. It refers to a video selectively edited to exclude context, taken from CCTV at the State Farm Arena in Fulton County on Election Day. The video shows an official election ballot box being removed from under a table and processed during a quiet time in the early hours of the morning.

Analysis of the video by the Washington Post found that Trump’s team have never produced evidence that the ballots in the video were in any way irregular or improperly handled and the video shows no irregularities, illegal behaviour or evidence of malpractice. In addition, the containers that the Trump campaign refers to as “suitcases” have been repeatedly identified as standard boxes used to transport and store ballots in Fulton County, by election officials.

Fulton County elections director Richard Barron that the full surveillance feed shows workers handling ballots that were stored and processed in full view of the media and partisan monitors earlier in the evening.

Claim 6

Trump: "We have not gone through your Dominion [voting machines], so we can't give them blessing. I mean, in other states, we think we found tremendous corruption with Dominion machines..."

The Truth

Yet another classic broken Trump campaign record over the past two months. As we reported back in November, Sidney Powell filed a lawsuit in Georgia addressing claims that the Dominion Voting Systems software and voting machines used in Georgia and other states were “created and run by domestic and foreign actors” to render ballot stuffing practices invisible. The far-fetched Dominion theory has been propugated by extreme conspiracist group QAnon.

Dominion released a statement at the time saying, in part:

“Every vote from a Dominion device in Georgia is documented on an auditable paper trail and creates a verifiable paper ballot available for hand-counting. In fact, the Georgia hand counts, independent audits, and machine tests have all repeatedly affirmed that the machine counts were accurate.”

Curiously Trump hasn’t been whining that the Dominion voting systems machines were making heinous errors in any of the states which he won. In total, at least 24 states used Dominion voting machines to tabulate their votes during the 2020 United States presidential election, including most of the swing states, Trump actually won several states such as Louisiana, Iowa, Missouri and Ohio, that used exactly the same technology, yet he didn’t complain about fraud there.