President Donald Trump appeared zeroed-in on the vice president’s role in certifying the 2020 presidential election results as a potential Hail Mary during a rally meant for a pair of Georgia GOP Senate candidates on Monday night, saying that he hoped Mike Pence would “come through for us.”
Pence holds a largely ceremonial role when Congress affirms the Electoral College vote electing Joe Biden on Wednesday.
“I hope Mike Pence comes through for us, I have to tell you,” Trump admitted. “I hope that our great vice president – our great vice president, comes through for us. He’s a great guy. Of course, if he doesn’t come through, I won’t like him as much.”
But Trump, who was seen in the Oval Office with the vice president shortly before departing for Georgia, wouldn’t say exactly what he wants Pence to do, given that his role in certifying electors is largely ceremonial.
Trump laughed it off and added: “Nah, Mike is a great guy he’s a wonderful man and a smart man and a man that I like a lot.”
“But he’s gonna have a lot to say about it,” the President added. “And he you know one thing with him, you’re gonna get straight shots – he’s gonna call it straight.”
Though the rally was for Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, Trump focused heavily on the 2020 presidential election, alleging once again, without basis, that it was rigged.
There no evidence of widespread voter fraud and Trump’s legal team has repeatedly been unable to back up his outlandish claims in court.
Trump used relatively little time actually touting the two Republican Senate candidates, but called Perdue “a great gentleman” and Loeffler a “fantastic champion.”
“Kelly is a staunch defender of our incredible military. I’m so proud of our military. She supports the wall, and she always stands with the heroes of law enforcement, ICE and Border Patrol,” he said.
Trump also briefly brought Republican House Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon promoter, to the stage. And in noting that Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who is expected to put out a statement and may argue against Congress overturning the results, was in the audience, the President said: “Mike Lee is here too, but I’m a little angry at him today.”
The President’s presence at the Dalton, Georgia, rally would normally be a welcome sight for Republicans just one day before the runoffs – races that will determine which party controls the Senate. A big crowd for the President is expected and there is evidence that Trump’s presence will help turn out GOP voters.
But ahead of the rally, some Republicans were rightly convinced the President, who unsuccessfully pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” votes that would tilt the balance in Trump’s favor in a call publicized on Sunday, would spend far more time focused on his baseless electoral fraud claims as opposed to rallying his supporters to vote for Loeffler and Perdue.
Amid the flurry of baseless claims made at the rally, Trump railed against Raffensperger and Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, saying they weren’t real Republicans and that he would campaign against their reelection.
Public statements and private observations by sources familiar with the situation suggest that Trump is fixated with the issues he laid out on the Raffensperger call.
Trump repeatedly pushed for the call with the Georgia secretary of state, two sources familiar said. And between Election Day and Saturday’s phone call, there were 18 attempted calls from the White House to Raffensperger’s office, a source with knowledge and a Georgia state official confirmed to CNN.
The existence of the phone call and the number of attempted calls were first reported by The Washington Post.
On Monday, Raffensperger told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that this was his first call on the matter with Trump personally, and several senior White House officials were unaware the call happened until Trump tweeted about it.
“The President’s ability to exceed expectations when it comes to how unhelpful he’ll be remains undefeated,” one GOP operative working on the runoff told CNN.
It is a worry shared on the ground in Georgia. Local Republican leaders have quarreled with Trump over the administration of the election in November but share the President’s desire to see Loeffler and Perdue elected.
“That phone call did absolutely nothing to help, you know, drive turnout for Republicans here in Georgia, for Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue,” Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who will not join Trump’s rally Monday night, told CNN. “I was disappointed and quite honestly, I can’t imagine anyone on that staff encouraging that call or not giving him the advice to hang up and move on to the next subject.”
After the call was publicized, many Georgia Republicans had given up all hope that Trump’s visit on Monday night will be a positive contribution to that effort.
“No one has any rational reason to believe it will go well,” said one Georgia Republican. “The likelihood of a total, complete, absolute sh*t show is off the charts. If disaster is avoided, it will be sheer dumb luck.”
On the phone call with Raffensperger, Trump cited the anticipated crowd for the rally Monday night in Dalton as evidence that he actually won the election in November. He warned the secretary of state that he planned on bringing up his grievances at the event.
“The people of Georgia are angry, and these numbers are gonna be repeated on Monday night along with others that we’re gonna have by that time, which are much more substantial even, and the people of Georgia are angry,” Trump said.
Trump’s last visit to Georgia was less than ideal – he spent most of the rally airing grievances about the November vote. That included playing lengthy video segments from conservative outlets such as Newsmax, which peddled completely false stories about alleged fraud. When Perdue and Loeffler were brought on stage they were drowned out by calls of “stop the steal’ and “stand up for Trump”.
Similarly, at one point, the crowd at Monday night’s rally loudly and repeatedly chanted “fight for Trump” toward the top of the President’s remarks.
The Trump campaign promised the President’s visit Monday would be a help to the GOP ticket.
“Keeping a Republican majority in the Senate has been a priority for the President from the beginning,” said Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign communications director.
The universal opinion of Republicans is that the frenzy over the call Trump made to Raffensperger guarantees that any hope of Trump delivering a simple, get-out-the-vote message directed at his passionate supporters without the added distractions of election fraud are gone.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Kristen Holmes and Jim Acosta contributed to this report.