Amy Gardner exclusive for WaPo:
President Trump urged fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in an extraordinary one-hour phone call Saturday that legal scholars described as a flagrant abuse of power and a potential criminal act.
The Washington Post obtained a recording of the conversation in which Trump alternately berated Raffensperger, tried to flatter him, begged him to act and threatened him with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue his false claims, at one point warning that Raffensperger was taking “a big risk.”
Throughout the call, Raffensperger and his office’s general counsel rejected Trump’s assertions, explaining that the president is relying on debunked conspiracy theories and that President-elect Joe Biden’s 11,779-vote victory in Georgia was fair and accurate.
Trump dismissed their arguments.
“The people of Georgia are angry, the people of the country are angry,” he said. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, that you’ve recalculated.”Raffensperger responded: “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong.”
At another point, Trump said: “So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.”
He later added: “So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.”
The rambling and at times incoherent conversation offered a remarkable glimpse of how consumed and desperate the president remains about his loss, unwilling or unable to let the matter go and still asserting he can reverse the results in enough battleground states to remain in office.
Remarkable and dangerous.
The call by President Trump on Saturday to Georgia’s secretary of state raised the prospect that Mr. Trump may have violated laws that prohibit interference in federal or state elections, but lawyers said on Sunday that it would be difficult to pursue such a charge.
The recording of the conversation between Mr. Trump and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger of Georgia, first reported by The Washington Post, led a number of election and criminal defense lawyers to conclude that by pressuring Mr. Raffensperger to “find” the votes he would need to reverse the election outcome in the state, Mr. Trump either broke the law or came close to it.
“It seems to me like what he did clearly violates Georgia statutes,” said Leigh Ann Webster, an Atlanta criminal defense lawyer, citing a state law that makes it illegal for anyone who “solicits, requests, commands, importunes or otherwise attempts to cause the other person to engage” in election fraud.
At the federal level, anyone who “knowingly and willfully deprives, defrauds or attempts to deprive or defraud the residents of a state of a fair and impartially conducted election process” is breaking the law.
More from me coming soon.