Over the next month, the president would conduct a sweeping campaign to personally cajole Republican Party leaders across the country to reject the will of the voters and hand him the election. In his appeals, he used specious and false claims of widespread voter fraud, leaning on baseless allegations that corrupt Democrats had conspired at every level to steal a presidential election.
In total, the president talked to at least 31 Republicans, encompassing mostly local and state officials from four critical battleground states he lost — Michigan, Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania. The contacts included at least 12 personal phone calls to 11 individuals, and at least four White House meetings with 20 Republican state lawmakers, party leaders and attorneys general, all people he hoped to win over to his side. Trump also spoke by phone about his efforts with numerous House Republicans and at least three current or incoming Senate Republicans.
And it all occurred in parallel to his campaign’s quixotic efforts to launch recounts and file lawsuits demanding ballots be tossed.
Trump’s efforts to cling to power are unprecedented in American history. While political parties have fought over the results of presidential elections before, no incumbent president has ever made such expansive and individualized pleas to the officials who oversee certification of the election results. Trump even used his presidential perch to compel officials to talk with him, summoning state officials to the White House on a few-hours notice and insisting that his outreach was simply part of his presidential duties.
This recounting of that pressure campaign is based on interviews with 22 Trump aides, local and states officials, Republicans and elections experts. POLITICO also reached out to the Republicans Trump contacted, but all requests for comment except one went unanswered. The White House referred questions to the Trump campaign, which declined to comment or make an attorney available for an interview.