By Daniel Dale, CNN
Washington (CNN) — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has long been a pointed critic of former President Donald Trump’s conduct on a January 2, 2021, phone call in which Trump told numerous lies about supposed election fraud and pressured Raffensperger to somehow “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in Georgia in the 2020 election.
In an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” though, Trump claimed Raffensperger had recently declared Trump’s conduct on the call perfectly acceptable.
“That was a phone call made in front of, I guess seven or eight lawyers. Brad Raffensperger, the head – who, by the way, last week said I didn’t do anything wrong,” Trump said. “He said, ‘That was a negotiation.’ Brad Raffensperger, who I was dealing with, I appreciate that he said that. But he said last week, I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Trump repeated moments later that Raffensperger “last week said I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Trump’s lie-filled efforts to pressure Raffensperger on the call were invoked in both Trump’s indictment in Fulton County, Georgia, over his efforts to subvert the election results in the state and his federal indictment over his broader election subversion efforts around the country. If Raffensperger had suddenly begun defending Trump’s conduct on the call, that would be significant political and legal news.
But Raffensperger didn’t actually do that.
Facts First: Trump’s claim is false. Raffensperger did not say that Trump didn’t do anything wrong on the January 2021 call.
Trump’s claim about Raffensperger, a Republican, was one of more than a dozen false claims he made in the “Meet the Press” interview. Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign did not respond to a request to explain what supposed Raffensperger remark Trump was purporting to refer to.
Raffensperger’s office declined to comment. But a review of Raffensperger’s recent public statements shows that he did not say anything similar to what Trump said he did.
Raffensperger’s recent statements about the call and Trump
It is possible that Trump was mischaracterizing Raffensperger’s testimony from a late-August court hearing on the attempt by former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to get his own Georgia criminal case moved from state court to federal court. Nowhere in Raffensperger’s testimony did he say Trump didn’t do anything wrong or did he defend Trump’s words.
Rather, Raffensperger testified that “I didn’t take it as inappropriate” when Meadows told him on the January 2021 call that he hoped they could reach an agreement to allow the Trump side to look more fully at the election data. (Meadows had asked on the call if, “in the spirit of cooperation and compromise,” they could “at least have a discussion” to seek a “less litigious” path forward.) That Raffensperger remark was in response to a question that was solely about Meadows’ words, not Trump’s.
Raffensperger has made other recent comments about Trump and the call, but none of them defended the former president’s remarks.
Raffensperger published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in early September criticizing efforts to use the 14th Amendment to get Trump disqualified from the 2024 ballot on the grounds that the former president engaged in an insurrection or rebellion against the US. Raffensperger argued that “denying voters the opportunity to choose is fundamentally un-American.” But Raffensperger didn’t even mention the call in that op-ed.
Raffensperger was then asked about the call in a Fox interview focused on the op-ed. He said he had done due diligence before the call and knew that Trump’s various fraud claims were unfounded. Once more, he didn’t defend Trump’s behavior.
In June, Raffensperger challenged Trump to a debate about the legitimacy of the 2020 election in Georgia, telling WRBL News 3 of Columbus, Georgia, that he has the facts on his side and Trump doesn’t.
What Raffensperger has actually said about the call
Raffensperger has criticized Trump’s conduct on the January 2021 call in extensive detail. Most notably, in a book he released in late 2021, “Integrity Counts,” Raffensperger analyzed the entire transcript of the call and rebuked various Trump comments one by one.
Raffensperger wrote that “the president was asking me to do something that I knew was wrong, and I was not going to do that”; that “the facts did not support his statements”; and that Trump’s “repeated request for votes showed me that President Trump really had no idea how elections work.”
Raffensperger wrote that when Trump said on the call that “I think it’s very dangerous for you to say” there wasn’t criminality in the election in Georgia, “I felt then – and still believe today – that this was a threat.”
He also wrote that, when Trump said on the call that it is “a criminal offense” and “a big risk to you and to Ryan (Germany), your lawyer” to not report ballot corruption in Georgia (though Trump’s claims about this supposed ballot corruption were wrong), Trump was doing “nothing but an attempt at manipulation” by “using what he believes is the power of his position to threaten Ryan and me with prosecution if we don’t do what he tells us to do.”
Raffensperger also condemned Trump’s monthslong attempt to undermine public confidence in the election, writing of his mindset at the time of the call, “Beginning long before the election and every day since, President Trump had attacked the foundation of our democracy and undermined Americans’ faith in our electoral institutions.” And he wrote that Trump “was attempting to overturn the will of Georgia’s voters, and my duty was to prevent that from happening.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the television station Raffensperger spoke to in June. It was WRBL News 3 of Columbus, Georgia.
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