In a phone call to the Georgia secretary of state’s office in December, then-President Donald Trump urged a top investigator to find fraud in the 2020 presidential election, telling her that she would be “praised” for overturning results that were in favor of Joe Biden, according to audio of the call obtained by CNN.
The report is the latest example of Trump’s extraordinary efforts to influence Georgia election officials as they certified the results, even though there is no evidence of widespread fraud in the election. Trump’s actions have drawn the attention of Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, as well as a Fulton County prosecutor who has launched a criminal investigation.
“When the right answer comes out, you’ll be praised,” Trump tells Frances Watson, the chief investigator at the Georgia secretary of state’s office, in a six-minute conversation on December 23, according to the Journal.
“I won everything but Georgia. And I won Georgia, I know that. By a lot. And the people know it. And something happened there. Something bad happened,” Trump reportedly told Watson during the phone call.
At the time, Watson was investigating the secretary of state’s office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s audit of more than 15,000 signatures in Cobb County, outside Atlanta. Results of the audit found no evidence of fraudulent mail-in ballots and Biden was declared winner of Georgia in the election.
“I hope you are going back two years as opposed to checking one against the other,” Trump can be heard saying on the call. “Because that would just be a signature check that didn’t mean anything.”
Trump went on to tell Watson to also look at Fulton County, the most populous county in the state and the one that houses most of Atlanta.
“But if you go back two years, and if you can get to Fulton, you are going to find things that are going to be unbelievable,” the then-President said. “The dishonesty that we’ve heard from. But Fulton is the mother lode.”
Watson responded: “I can assure you that our team and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, that we are only interested in the truth and finding the information that is based on the facts.”
Ari Schaffer, spokesperson for Raffensperger’s office, told CNN, “This phone call is just one more example of how Secretary Raffensperger’s office’s public comments also reflect what was said in one-on-one conversations: We would follow the law, count every legal vote and investigate any allegations of fraud. That’s exactly what we did, and how we arrived at the accurate final vote tally.”
A spokesman for Trump did not respond to a CNN request for comment regarding the call between Trump and Watson.
Raffensperger’s office is also investigating Trump for his attempts to overturn the state’s election results. A separate, criminal investigation into Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia is currently underway by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.
Investigators in both probes are interested in Trump’s call to Watson, according to sources familiar with the probes.
Willis made her investigative intentions clear with a round of letters to Georgia state officials in February, asking them to preserve documents relevant to election interference as she investigated potential state crimes including the solicitation of election fraud, conspiracy and racketeering.
A source familiar with the Georgia secretary of state’s investigation confirmed officials are looking at two phone calls made by Trump to their office. One is the January phone call where Trump pushed Raffensperger to “find” votes to overturn the election results after his loss to Biden. The other involves the call Trump made on December 23 to Watson.
In a previous statement to CNN, on February 9, Trump’s senior adviser Jason Miller said there was nothing “improper or untoward” about the call between Trump and Raffensperger.
“If Mr. Raffensperger didn’t want to receive calls about the election, he shouldn’t have run for secretary of state,” Miller said in the statement.