Fact-check: Trump’s made-up claims of fake Georgia votes
In an extraordinary phone call with Georgia’s secretary of state on Saturday, President Trump put forth a dizzying array of fuzzy accounting and outright false claims as he sought a reversal of his election defeat, fabricating a slew of votes that he said should’ve been counted in his favor.
The Associated Press obtained the audio of Trump’s hourlong conversation with Georgia officials, including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, from a person on the call. The AP is not publishing the full audio in keeping with its policy of not amplifying disinformation and unproven allegations.
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A look at Trump’s claims on the call and how they compare with reality:
TRUMP: “If we can go over some of the numbers, I think it’s pretty clear we won, we won very substantially in Georgia.”
THE FACTS: No, Trump lost Georgia in an election the state has certified for Democrat Joe Biden. Republican election officials have affirmed the election was conducted and counted fairly.
With ballots counted three times, including once by hand, Georgia’s certified totals show Trump lost to Biden by 11,779 votes out of nearly 5 million cast. Raffensperger certified the totals with officials saying they’ve found no evidence that Trump won.
No credible claims of fraud or systemic errors have been sustained. Judges have turned away legal challenges to the results, although at least one is still pending in state court.
TRUMP: “People should be happy to have an accurate count.... We have other states I believe will be flipping to us shortly.”
THE FACTS: No reversal of the election outcome is in the offing, in Georgia or other states.
Biden defeated Trump by some 7 million popular votes nationwide and by a tally of 306-232 in the electoral college, achieving victory in other key states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arizona.
Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, found no evidence of widespread election fraud. Trump’s allegations of massive voting fraud have been dismissed by a succession of judges and refuted by state election officials and an arm of his own administration’s Homeland Security Department.
A group of Senate Republicans, led by Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas, says it plans to object to the election results when Congress meets on Wednesday to tally Biden’s electoral college victory over Trump.
The objections will force votes in both the House and Senate, but none are expected to prevail.
TRUMP: “We have anywhere from 250 [thousand] to 300,000 ballots were dropped mysteriously into the rolls, much of that had to do with Fulton County, which hasn’t been checked.”
THE FACTS: There’s nothing mysterious or suspect about it. He is describing a legitimate vote counting process, not a sudden surge of malfeasance.
Trump appears to be referring to large numbers of votes that were tabulated in the early hours of Wednesday morning after election day and later. The arrival of those votes was not mysterious, but expected, because many of Georgia’s 159 counties had large stacks of mail-in ballots that had to be tabulated after polls closed and in-person ballots were counted.
Indeed, news organizations and officials had warned in the days leading up to the election that the results would probably come in just as they did: In-person votes, which tend to be counted more quickly, would probably favor the president, who had spent months warning his supporters to avoid mail-in voting and to vote in person either early or on election day.
And mail-in-ballots, which take longer to count since they must be removed from envelopes and verified before they are counted, would favor Biden. States tend to count mail-in ballots at the end of the process.
TRUMP: “We think ... if [there is] a real check of signatures going back in Fulton County, you’ll find at least a couple of hundred thousand of forged signatures.”
THE FACTS: That has no basis in reality.
It would be impossible for anyone to have forged hundreds of thousands of signatures on mail-in ballots in Fulton County because there were only about 147,000 mail-in ballots in Georgia’s most populous county, with about 116,000 of them going to Biden.
TRUMP, referring to investigations into his baseless claims of voter fraud: “You have your never-Trumper U.S. attorney there.”
THE FACTS: The U.S. attorney in Atlanta is a actually a Trump appointee. Byung J. “BJay” Pak is a longtime Republican who also served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2011 until 2017. He was nominated by Trump to become the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia in 2017. In announcing his nomination, the White House said that Pak and five other nominees for U.S. attorney’s posts “share the president’s vision for ‘Making America Safe Again.’” Pak had previously also worked as an assistant U.S. attorney.
TRUMP, citing 18,000 “suspicious” votes: “The tape that’s been shown all over the world ... they said very clearly there was a major water main break. Everybody fled the area and then they came back ... there were no Republican poll watchers ... and there was no law enforcement ... It was stuffed with votes. They weren’t in an official voter box, they were in what looked to be in suitcases or trunks. ... The minimum number it could be ... was 18,000 ballots, all for Biden.”
THE FACTS: That’s a gross distortion of what actually happened.
State and Fulton County election officials say surveillance video that Trump refers shows no improper behavior, but normal ballot processing using not suitcases, but ballot containers on wheels. Officials said that the entire video showed the same workers had earlier packed the ballot containers with valid, uncounted ballots.
Republicans have contended that their observers were told to leave Fulton County’s vote counting center, but election officials said they actually left after confusion that arose because election workers thought they were done for the night.
An independent monitor and an investigator in fact oversaw the vote count, according to state and county officials. Trump also refers to a fake confession attributed by a woman allegedly involved in the incident that was posted on social media.
TRUMP: “In other states we think we found tremendous corruption with Dominion machines, but we’ll have to see.”
THE FACTS: No “tremendous corruption” has been found.
There’s “no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised,” said the federal agency that oversees election security, in a statement joined by state and electoral-industry officials.
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