Donald Trump encouraged Georgia’s chief elections investigator in a December phone call to uncover “dishonesty” in her probe of absentee ballot signatures in a bid to overturn his defeat against Joe Biden, according to a recording of the call released this week by the Georgia secretary of state’s office.
“The people of Georgia are so angry at what happened to me,” Mr Trump told Frances Watson, the chief investigator for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
“They know I won, won by hundreds of thousands of votes. It wasn’t close.”
He added, “When the right answer comes out, you’ll be praised.” Later in the call, he said: “You have the most important job in the country right now.”
Mr Trump urged the investigator to scrutinise Fulton County, where she would find “dishonesty”.
“Whatever you can do, Frances, it would be – it’s a great thing,” he added.
"It’s an important thing for the country. So important. You’ve no idea. So important. And I very much appreciate it.”
When the Washington Post first reported on the call, state officials said they did not believe a recording existed.
Officials located the recording on a trash folder on Ms Watson’s device while responding to a public records request, according to a person familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the internal process.
At the time Mr Trump called her, Ms Watson was leading an audit of mail ballot signatures in Cobb County in Atlanta. Legal experts have said the president’s call – and another call he placed directly to Mr Raffensperger on January 2 – may have amounted to obstruction of a criminal investigation.
The Fulton County district attorney’s office has launched a probe into the efforts by the former president and his allies to subvert the results in Georgia.
On the call, Mr Watson sounds surprised and flattered to find herself on the telephone with the president but also careful to reveal little about the investigation she was conducting in partnership with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
“Well, Mr President, I appreciate your comments,” she said. "And I can assure you that our team and the GBI, that we’re only interested in the truth and finding, you know, finding the information that’s based on the facts.”
She added: “I know that you’re a very, very busy, very important man. And I’m very honoured that you called.
"Quite, quite frankly, I’m shocked that you that you would take time to do that. But I am very appreciative.”
The president said he called on the suggestion of his chief of staff Mark Meadows who had returned from Georgia the previous day.
Mr Trump had claimed without evidence that thousands of postal ballots with forged signatures had been improperly accepted.
(© The Washington Post)
© Washington Post