The latest on Georgia runoff and Trump's bid to overturn the election

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT) January 5, 2021
6 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
11:01 a.m. ET, January 4, 2021

Trump lashes out at top ally Sen. Cotton ahead of Wednesday's Electoral College vote count

From CNN's Betsy Klein and Paul LeBlanc

 Sen. Tom Cotton questions witnesses during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on September 24.
 Sen. Tom Cotton questions witnesses during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on September 24. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump is lashing out via Twitter at a top ally and 2024 presidential hopeful, Sen. Tom Cotton after Cotton announced in a statement Sunday evening that he will not oppose certification of the electoral votes during a Joint Session of Congress this Wednesday.  

In a warning shot to Cotton, Trump tweeted that Republican supporters “NEVER FORGET!”

Cotton said in his statement that he has concerns about “irregularities” in the 2020 election and supports a commission to study it, but that it was outside Congress’ powers and would “establish unwise precedents.”

There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Trump also tweeted in agreement with Sen. Ted Cruz, who is one of the 12 GOP Senators poised to vote against certification.

More on Wednesday's event: Congress will meet to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election, a process Trump is also still determined to influence.

Usually a ceremonial exercise, the process is poised to be defined by a futile bid from Congressional Republicans to deny Biden's election win.

A dozen GOP senators — a handful of whom were sworn-in today — have announced they will vote against counting electoral votes for Biden. And at least 140 House Republicans are expected to join their Senate colleagues in the effort, according to two GOP House members.

The gambit, though, is doomed to fail and it bears repeating that the allegations driving these objections are not based in reality.

3:43 p.m. ET, January 4, 2021

Key things to know about Trump's stunning call demanding Georgia officials "find" votes to tilt election

From CNN's Jason Morris, Chandelis Duster and Devan Cole

President Trump arrives at the White House on December 31, 2020.
President Trump arrives at the White House on December 31, 2020. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

President Trump pushed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, to "find" votes to overturn the election results after his loss to President-elect Joe Biden, according to an audio recording of a phone call obtained by CNN and first reported by the Washington Post.

Here are key things to know about the call:

  • What Trump said: In excerpts of the stunning one-hour phone call Saturday, Trump lambasted his fellow Republican for refusing to falsely say that he won the election in Georgia and repeatedly touted baseless claims of election fraud. In one part, 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." The President also claimed during the call that votes in the state were scanned three times, an allegation Raffensperger rebuffed.
  • Who recorded the call: Officials in Raffensperger's office recorded the call with Trump on Saturday, according to a source who was on the call and had direct knowledge of the conversation. Raffensperger told his advisers he did not want the recording or a transcript of the call released unless Trump attacked him or misrepresented the call, according to the source. Trump tweeted attacking Raffensperger Sunday morning. The New York Times first reported on who recorded the call and Raffensperger's instructions on releasing the audio. The audio recording was reported by the Post several hours after Trump said on Twitter that he had spoken to Raffensperger on the phone in an attempt to convince him to look into unfounded conspiracy theories about the vote in November. 
  • Raffensperger's stance: Georgia's secretary of state, a Republican and a Trump supporter, has consistently turned back Trump's claims of voter fraud in Georgia. He has overseen three different recounts of the vote and conducted several other reviews of the process. He recently tasked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation with conducting an audit of the signature match system in Cobb County that determined the system was 99.9% accurate and revealed no evidence of fraud.
  • The call's timing: The call represents the latest extraordinary effort by Trump to change the results of the race he lost following weeks of legal and political efforts by the President, his legal team and Republican allies to overturn the free and fair election. The ask comes just days before Congress will meet to certify Biden's victory, a traditionally ceremonial exercise on Capitol Hill that will look dramatically different this year as Republicans in both chambers plan to object to the counting of Electoral College votes.

Listen to the call and read more about the audio here.

3:43 p.m. ET, January 4, 2021

Republicans worry Trump's Georgia rally today will be all about him and not the GOP candidates

From CNN's Ryan Nobles

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Republicans are sounding the alarm bells after President Trump’s phone call with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Across the board, GOP officials directly involved in the race in Georgia and in Washington worry that the call, where Trump unsuccessfully pressured the secretary of state to “find’ votes that would tilt the balance in Trump’s favor, will foreshadow a ruckus rally Monday night.

They are convinced the President will spend far more time focused on his baseless electoral fraud claims as opposed to rallying his supporters to vote for the Republican ticket of David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. He is set to participate in a rally tonight Dalton, Georgia,.

“The president’s ability to exceed expectations when it comes to how unhelpful he’ll be remains undefeated,” said one GOP operative working on the runoff. 

It is a worry shared on the ground in Georgia. Republican leaders in the state have constantly quarreled with Trump over the administration of the election in November but shared with Trump a common desire to see Loeffler and Perdue elected. There is an increasing fear among those working with the GOP candidates that the President’s fixation on a losing campaign continues to drag on the runoff.

“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. Governor Geoff Duncan 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.”

Duncan said he would not join the President for the rally Monday night.

After the revelation of the call, many Georgia Republicans have 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 shit 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.

3:43 p.m. ET, January 4, 2021

Trump repeatedly pushed staff to get him on the phone with Georgia secretary of state

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Ryan Nobles

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference in Atlanta on December 14.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference in Atlanta on December 14. John Bazemore/AP

President Trump had repeatedly pushed his staff to get him on the phone with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and other Georgia officials, according to two people familiar.

This was a weeks long effort, CNN is told.

"He pushed — pushed his staff and called. We're in a litigation mode with the President's team against the state of Georgia. Whenever you say anything, you have to have your advisers there. They had to have their advisers there. I preferred not to talk when we were in litigation. We let the lawyers handle it. We took the call and had a conversation. He did most of the talking. We did most of the listening," Raffensperger said when pressed on Good Morning America about a report that there had been 18 incoming calls from the White House switchboard to his office in recent months.

Raffensperger noted that this was his first call on the matter with Trump personally.

Several senior White House officials were unaware the call happened until Trump tweeted about it.

Some background:  Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger over the weekend and, according to audio obtained by CNN, attempted to pressure the fellow Republican to "find" the votes necessary to alter the November presidential election result in the state, which Joe Biden won.

Raffensperger, a Republican and a Trump supporter, has consistently turned back Trump's claims of voter fraud in Georgia.

8:35 a.m. ET, January 4, 2021

Congress has the next — and final — vote Wednesday in the 2020 election. Here's how it will work.

From CNN's Zachary B. Wolf and Will Mullery

Voters voted. States counted the votes. Challenges were heard and rejected. The Electoral College made President-elect Joe Biden's victory completely official.

The time for President Trump's repeated baseless allegations of fraud is over, but that doesn't mean the drama has ended. Lawmakers follow an archaic timeline set out the Constitution and US law to make Biden president.

Just as then-Vice President Biden oversaw the counting of electoral votes that gave Trump the White House in 2017, now it will be Vice President Mike Pence, Trump's loyal soldier these last four years, who will announce the vote tally that officially makes Biden the winner. Read more about that here.

And Republicans will have to choose how deeply they want to follow Trump into his rabbit hole of conspiracy theories.

Lawmakers will have the ability to raise objections about the vote — just like some Democrats did in 2017. But while those objections were dismissed easily in 2017, Republican senators could, if they choose, drag the process out this year, and force the House and Senate to vote on individual points.

Here's a breakdown of what will take place this Wednesday:

  • Electoral votes are counted in Congress.
  • Members of the House and the Senate will meet in the House chamber. The President of the Senate — that's Pence — will preside over the session and the electoral votes will be read and counted in alphabetical order by two appointees each from the House and Senate.
  • They will then give their tallies to Pence, who will announce the results and listen for objections.
  • If there are objections, the House and Senate consider them separately to decide how to count those votes.
  • There are 538 electoral votes — one for each congressman and senator plus three for Washington, DC. If no candidate gets to a majority — that's 270 — then the 435 members of the House decide the election. Each state gets a vote. So while there are more Democrats in the House, Republicans, as of now, control more state delegations, so it is possible the House could pick Trump even though there is a Democratic majority.
  • The House has until noon on Jan. 20 to pick the President. If they can't, it would be the vice president or the next person eligible in the line of presidential succession.

8:29 a.m. ET, January 4, 2021

Biden and Trump will campaign in Georgia today ahead of crucial Senate runoff elections

From CNN's Sarah Mucha and Arlette Saenz

President-elect Joe Biden is poised to make a final push in Georgia today ahead of the state's high stakes Senate runoff elections tomorrow.

Biden will campaign in Atlanta, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris traveled to Savannah on Sunday. This will be the second visit to the state for both the President-elect and Vice President-elect as they campaign for the Democratic candidates, Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, in hopes that the party will gain control of the Senate.

The President-elect's Monday trip to Georgia will coincide with President Trump traveling to Dalton, Georgia, for a rally to campaign for the state's incumbent Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

Why this election is key: Control of the chamber hinges on next week's match-ups. If Democrats win both races, the Senate makeup would be 50-50, positioning Harris to serve as the tie-breaking vote and setting up an easier path for Biden to advance the agenda he promoted during his campaign.

During Biden's last stop earlier in December, which came on the heels of the Electoral College affirming his victory, he slammed Perdue and Loeffler, arguing that they stood by and "fully embraced nullifying nearly 5 million Georgia votes." He urged Georgians to vote as if their lives depended on it.