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
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4:16 p.m. ET, January 4, 2021

Georgia GOP representative: "Our elections should be decertified"

From CNN's Manu Raju 

US Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene wears a "Stop the Steal" mask while speaking with fellow first-term Republican Congress members on the steps of the US Capitol on Monday.
US Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene wears a "Stop the Steal" mask while speaking with fellow first-term Republican Congress members on the steps of the US Capitol on Monday. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the staunchly conservative freshman from Northwest Georgia, told CNN that she is traveling with President Trump today to the state. Asked if she had any concerns about Trump's call to the Georgia secretary of state, Greene attacked Brad Raffensperger.

"I think our secretary of state has failed Georgia," Greene said. "I believe our elections should be decertified."

Asked if doing so would then impact her and other Georgia Republicans — all of whom were elected on the same ballot — Greene said: "We're just talking about the President's race."

5:10 p.m. ET, January 4, 2021

Georgia election official slams Trump's fraud claims ahead of Senate runoff elections 

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch and Jason Morris

Gabriel Sterling speaks at Monday's news conference at the Georgia State Capitol.
Gabriel Sterling speaks at Monday's news conference at the Georgia State Capitol. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Georgia Voting System Implementation Manager Gabriel Sterling urged Georgians to get out and vote in tomorrow's key Senate runoff election, and debunked President Trump's multiple baseless claims of election fraud in the state. 

Sterling adamantly said that everybody’s vote counts and was counted in the November general election despite assertions made by President Trump and others.

“If you care about the value and direction of the nation you want to see, it is your obligation to turn out and vote tomorrow,” Sterling said in a news conference in Atlanta.

Sterling said he is telling those who believe their votes were stolen or that there was voter fraud, “If you believe in your heart of hearts that there was, the best thing for you to do is to turn out and vote and make it harder for them to steal,” he said.

His comments come after audio from a Jan. 2 phone call between President Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger regarding the results of the 2020 election was released. In the call, Trump is heard attempting to pressure the official to "find" votes necessary to alter the election result in the state, which President-elect Joe Biden won.

Sterling stood next to a sign that said “Claim vs Fact” and refuted several claims that President Trump said during the released phone call.

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

Trump's call could put the President in jeopardy, legal experts say

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz and Christina Carrega

Al Drago/Getty Images
Al Drago/Getty Images

Experienced prosecutors, election lawyers and some public officials have piled on calling for criminal investigations into whether President Trump broke election fraud when he pressured Georgia officials on a phone call Saturday to "find" 11,870 votes that would reverse his loss in the state.

While the path to a federal criminal case against the outgoing President isn't an easy one to make, Georgia officials said the state could be considering a serious inquiry and the matter has already been referred to the FBI.

"If you look at the statutes, both the federal statutes and the Georgia state statutes, if you engage in some effort to solicit or procure election fraud, and you knowingly do that, that's potentially a federal or state crime," Preet Bharara, the former US attorney in Manhattan, said on CNN on Sunday. 

Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor and CNN contributor, was urging criminal investigation into Trump on Monday, arguing that at some point, prosecutors couldn't keep looking past such shocking statements. The prominent elections law expert Rick Hasen also wrote on Monday Trump should be prosecuted or at least investigated. 

Proving the President intended to commit a crime is another matter. Trump would likely face a jury if he were charged, and prosecutors would need to prove what he meant on the call. 

Prosecutions of former presidents in the US are unheard of in modern times, and the presidency has immense power that lends protection to Trump. The Justice Department previously shied away from coming close to charging Trump for obstruction in former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and after his call asking Ukraine for political help, which led to the President's impeachment.

President-elect Joe Biden, who defeated Trump with 306 electoral votes, has indicated he would want the country to move on rather than dwell on scandals from the Trump presidency and would leave decisions up to the Justice Department.

CNN has previously reported Trump has explored the possibility of granting himself a self-pardon, though that could only provide him immunity from federal crimes. The Justice Department previously reasoned a president couldn't pardon himself, but could temporarily give power to his vice president to do so — but there has been no indication that would happen.

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

Republican senator calls Trump's Georgia call a "new low"

From CNN's Ted Barrett and Manu Raju

US Sen. Pat Toomey attends a Capitol Hill hearing on December 10.
US Sen. Pat Toomey attends a Capitol Hill hearing on December 10. Sarah Silbiger/Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, released a new statement calling President Trump's call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger a "new low."

Here's what the statement said:

“President Trump’s call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger represents a new low in this whole futile and sorry episode. I commend Republican election officials across the country who have discharged their duties with integrity over the past two months while weathering relentless pressure, disinformation, and attacks from the president and his campaign.”
2:50 p.m. ET, January 4, 2021

Pentagon and military officials continue to privately worry over what Trump could do in his remaining days

From CNN's Barbara Starr

President Donald Trump walks to the Oval Office after returning from Florida on Thursday.
President Donald Trump walks to the Oval Office after returning from Florida on Thursday. Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post/Getty Images

While Pentagon and military officials continue to privately express concern that President Trump still could try to draw the military into his efforts to overturn the election, there is no evidence of that happening at least for now, according to several defense officials.

CNN has previously reported that there has been growing anxiety in the ranks about what Trump might do in these remaining days. Will the President order some unexpected military action, such as a strike on Iran, or will he somehow draw the military into his efforts to overthrow the election results?

One of the signatories of an op-ed by all the living former defense secretaries tells CNN that the real message in their open letter is the words about possible criminal penalties for military and especially civilians if they carry out an illegal order. This former Secretary of Defense said current officials should all remember it’s a crime to give an illegal order. 

“Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic,” the former officials wrote in the Washington Post.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other military leaders continue to get briefed of any potential domestic unrest and monitor the capabilities of civilian law enforcement and state activated National Guard to handle those situations.  

Defense officials refused to discuss the briefing in detail citing the extraordinary sensitivity as Trump continues to try to overturn election results.

In November, Milley made his position clear about what the US military does and does not do in this country. "We are unique among militaries," he said in remarks at the opening of the Army's museum.

"We do not take an oath to a king or a queen, a tyrant or a dictator. We do not take an oath to an individual. No, we do not take an oath to a country, a tribe or religion. We take an oath to the Constitution," he said. A Constitution that Milley likes to call his "North Star." It's a commitment that top commanders have long vowed not to violate.

2:35 p.m. ET, January 4, 2021

House majority leader says they're expecting up to 6 states' electoral votes to be challenged

From CNN's Kristin Wilson and Daniella Diaz

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer walks to the House Chamber on Monday.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer walks to the House Chamber on Monday. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that they are expecting up to six states’ electoral college votes to be challenged on Wednesday, but that “it depends on how quickly they get tired of playing this game” and the number could drop as the hours grow. 

“This a very unique unprecedented action to undermine our Democracy,” he said. “I don't know how many there will be. And I don't know how tired members will get of having these challenges.”

Here's what we know about the process:

  • Each House challenge that is supported by a member of the Senate automatically sets up to two hours of debate in each chamber, followed by a vote on the challenge.
  • Both chambers would have to agree to invalidate a state’s electoral college count, and with the Democratic majority in the House, and a number of Republicans in the Senate saying they will not support a challenge, the votes will fail.  

Hoyer said that House is working to maintain more safety protocols for Wednesday’s joint session to certify the Electoral College, but acknowledges that keeping what could be 535 members in compliance will not be easy.  

“It is tough, but we're going to admonish them again. And all of us break the rule, unfortunately .. because that's the normal way we respond,” he said. “We also think we're wearing masks, we might be safe." 

Hoyer added: “But what we will do is admonish members to stay apart, don't get close to one another.”

Contrary to the rules that governed the Opening Session in the House – which limited the number of members on the floor to 72, but was rendered moot when a majority of the House gathered en masse on the floor following a call for a recorded vote by Rep. Chip Roy — there won’t be a limit on the number of people in the chamber on Wednesday, according to a senior Democratic aide.  

The House will deploy the same mitigation measures that have been in place — mandated mask wearing while on the floor, marking off seats to maintain social distancing, and opening the gallery for members to spread out. And, according to the rules governing the certification, members are not required to be in the chamber, and are encouraged to watch the proceedings from their offices. However, the aide said, few members are expected to want to miss the debate, and leadership is expecting a very full chamber.

Voting, when it occurs, will happen in the same seven blocks that were used during Sunday’s roll call vote.

5:26 p.m. ET, January 4, 2021

Federal judge sets quick deadlines in Trump's latest election challenge

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

Federal Judge Mark Cohen is addressing a five-day-old lawsuit from President Trump seeking to decertify Georgia's election results quickly, amid fallout from Trump's call to pressure the state officials to "find" votes. 

The judge has set a deadline for the state officials to respond in court tonight to Trump's lawsuit against them and request for emergency help, and the judge has set a hearing for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

None of the dozens of lawsuits from Trump and his supporters seeking to overturn election results after Joe Biden won in early November have been successful.

Some background: Trump, in a months-long futile pursuit to overturn his loss, sued Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, claiming they allowed unqualified people to vote and taking issue with how the state administered its election in November.

There's no proof of allegations of widespread voter fraud, and Georgia conducted recounts of its election and has certified that Biden's win is sound. Several lawsuits from Trump supporters challenging the results in the state have failed and been tossed out of court quickly and resoundingly, including by judges appointed by Trump.

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

Georgia Election Board member calls for investigation into Trump's call with secretary of state

From CNN’s Jason Morris

David Worley, the most senior Georgia State Election Board member, has confirmed to CNN that he requested that Georgia's secretary of state to open an investigation into his Jan. 2 phone call with President Trump, to determine whether violations of election fraud occurred.  

In a letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Georgia election officials, Worley wrote that he was troubled by Trump’s “attempt to manipulate the votes of Georgians,” but commended Raffensperger and lawyer Ryan Germany “for sticking to the state’s position and the plain facts.”  

“Our job as members of the State Election Board is to enforce the Georgia Election Code. Among our responsibilities is to determine whether probably cause exists to refer potential civil and criminal violations of the Code to the Georgia Attorney General and local District Attorneys,” Worley wrote in the letter. “It will be the Board’s duty to determine whether probable cause exists to refer this matter to Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr and Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis for criminal prosecution or civil remedies,” Worley wrote.   

CNN has reached out to Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr for comment, but has not heard back yet.  

The Fulton County district attorney said she will “enforce the law without fear,” and hold anyone that commits a felony will be “held accountable,” but her office has yet to receive anything from the secretary of state office regarding the call that Trump made to the Georgia secretary of state this weekend.  

1:59 p.m. ET, January 4, 2021

Pence encourages Georgians to vote as Trump propagates baseless election fraud theories

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Vice President Mike Pence spoke in support of Georgia Republican Senate candidates David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler on the eve of the crucial Senate runoff election.

Though he did not address President Trump's call pressuring the state’s secretary of state to change the state’s 2020 presidential results, Pence encouraged Georgians to vote to protect what he described as a “last line of defense,” speaking out against concerns about Georgia election integrity, and referencing Wednesday’s joint session of Congress certifying Electoral College results.

Pence warned that Perdue and Loeffler’s election was critical “because the Republican Senate majority could be the last line of defense to preserve all that we’ve done.”

He acknowledged his role in certifying electoral college results for President-elect Joe Biden Wednesday, reiterating “concerns” about voting irregularity, but sought to steer the focus back to the runoff race, saying, “I know we’ve all got our doubts about the last election. I want to assure you, I share the concerns of the millions of Americans about voting irregularity. I promise you, come this Wednesday, we’ll have our day in Congress, we’ll hear the objections, we’ll hear the evidence. But tomorrow is Georgia’s day,” going on to encourage the crowd to vote.

Pence also addressed concerns about voting irregularity in Georgia amid the President’s ongoing efforts to cast doubt on election integrity and propagate baseless claims of voter fraud, which local officials have described as counterproductive to the forthcoming election.

“I’ve actually heard some people say, ‘Just don’t vote.’ Men and women of Georgia, if you don’t vote, they win,” he said. “If you don’t vote, there could be nothing stopping Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi from cutting our military, raising taxes, and passing the agenda of the radical left,” he said.

The vice president sought to instill confidence in the process: “I can tell you, our great Republican chairman of the state and senators will tell you, we literally have thousands of people all across this state that are watching this time. We're on ‘em. We're gonna secure the polls, we’re gonna secure the dropboxes, you get out and vote tomorrow and you vote for David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, and be confident.”