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Trump presents weird evidence of a ‘perfect’ call in Georgia

To hear Donald Trump tell it, his alleged election interference was permissible because Brad Raffensperger didn't hang up on him. That's ... awfully weird.


The public got its first look today at the findings of Fulton County special grand jury’s findings, following months of investigation into alleged election interference. The partial results showed that the panel found evidence of alleged perjury, but no evidence of widespread election fraud.

It stood to reason that Donald Trump wouldn’t be pleased, though there was some question as to how, exactly, the former president would push back against the findings. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait too long for the Republican’s reaction.

A written response issued by an official campaign spokesperson included a series of familiar claims about Trump’s post-election outreach to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, which the former president continues to characterize as “perfect,” despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. My MSNBC colleague Jordan Rubin did a terrific job highlighting the flaws in Trump’s latest pitch, and his piece is well worth your time.

There was just one other thing in the Republican’s statement that stood out for me:

“Between the two calls, there were many officials and attorneys on the line, including the Secretary of State of Georgia, and no one objected, even slightly protested, or hung up.”

If this argument sounds at all familiar, it’s because Trump has pushed the same line repeatedly. On Jan. 9, for example, the former president argued by way of his social media platform that while he leaned on Raffensperger, “nobody ‘hung up’ or was offended!”

On Jan. 24, Trump reiterated the line, asking, “[H]ow come not one person said, while on the call, that I acted inappropriately, or made a statement of protest at what I said, & then slammed down the phone.” He added that among the people on the line, there was “NO ADMONISHMENT at all.”

Even for Trump, this is awfully weird.

Just to briefly recap, Trump called Raffensperger on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021, and told the Georgian he wanted someone to “find” enough votes to flip the state’s election results, even if that meant overturning the will of the voters. The then-president added, while pressuring Raffensperger, “[T]here’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.”

As we discussed soon after, Raffensperger recorded the call, offering the public the opportunity to hear Trump explore ways to cheat, begging others to participate in his scheme, and even make some subtle threats toward the state’s top elections official.

But Trump keeps trying to convince us that the call was benign — because Raffensperger didn’t “admonish” him or hang up the phone. It’s as if the former president believes he’s found some kind of loophole: Election interference must be seen as legally permissible if the relevant state official doesn’t express immediate outrage.

This isn’t how reality works. Raffensperger was speaking at the time to the sitting president of the United States. Maybe the Georgia Republican stayed on the line as a courtesy. Maybe he waited to see if Trump would apologize. Maybe he was stunned by the scandalous lobbying effort.

Whatever his reasoning at the time, as Trump’s lawyers really should’ve explained to him, the fact that Raffensperger was polite is not exonerating. There is no rule that says illegal election interference is only a problem if the person being pressured hangs up on the person doing the pressuring.