Fact checking Trump's call with Georgia's secretary of state
Published Tuesday, January 5, 2021 11:25AM EST
In the now-notorious phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump, Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and staff, the president repeated multiple false claims in an effort to claim victory in Georgia, a state he lost to President-elect Joe Biden.
Trump has been tossing out debunked conspiracy theories over the election in Georgia -- a state that flipped from Trump in 2016 to Biden -- since just days after he lost. The state has certified its election results three times under Raffensperger's leadership and found no mass voter fraud.
In one of the most striking moments of the call, which was obtained by CNN and first reported by The Washington Post, Trump said, "I just want to find 11,780 votes" -- one more than he lost by -- and proposed several areas where Biden's total might be reduced.
Here's a look at the facts.
DEAD PEOPLE VOTING?
Trump alleged in the call that 5,000 dead people had voted in Georgia.
"The other thing, dead people," Trump said. "So dead people voted, and I think the number is close to 5,000 people. And they went to obituaries. They went to all sorts of methods to come up with an accurate number, and a minimum is close to about 5,000 voters."
Facts First: There is no evidence of any large number of dead people in Georgia having ballots cast in their name. Raffensperger responded to Trump on the call that they'd found two votes cast in the name of dead people, not 5,000.
CNN has previously debunked three specific Trump campaign false claims of dead people supposedly voting in Georgia, which turned out to have benign explanations like a living voter sharing a name with a dead voter. We have also debunked similar claims in Michigan and Pennsylvania touted by the Trump campaign and his allies.
MYSTERY BALLOT DROPS?
Trump claimed that there were hundreds, or hundreds of thousands, of ballots "dropped" in Georgia.
"We have at least 2 or 3 — anywhere from 250 to 300,000 ballots were dropped mysteriously into the rolls," Trump said.
Facts First: False. There was no giant mystery ballot drop in Georgia.
What Trump is potentially referring to when he complains about big ballot drops or dumps in various swing states are votes counted and reported after midnight on Election Day, which is completely legal. This year in particular, many states expected delays reporting votes given the large increase in mail-in ballots and different states' rules about the timeline for counting them.
To support his claim, Trump pointed to one alleged example of poll workers in Georgia pulling out votes from under a table with no poll watchers or law enforcement present. However, state and county officials determined the poll workers' actions were part of the normal process, not fraud, after reviewing footage of the polling station in question. You can read a longer fact-check here.
FRAUD WITH DOMINION VOTING MACHINES?
In the call, Trump touted a rumor that there were shredded ballots in Fulton County, which includes most of Atlanta, and that voting machines were nefariously removed from there.
Trump asked if it was possible "that Dominion took out machines. That Dominion is really moving fast to get rid of their machinery" and asked if the company "moved the inner parts of the machines and replaced them with other parts."
He also said "we think we found tremendous corruption with the Dominion voting machines."
The questions from Trump represent a long line of wild conspiracy theories -- which CNN has debunked -- around Dominion Voting Systems from the president's allies, some even involving false suggestions of secret, communist plots and deleted votes.
Facts First: Trump's claims on the Dominion voting machines are false.
On the call, Raffensperger's general counsel, Ryan Germany, told Trump there was no evidence that Dominion voting machines were being removed or parts were being replaced.
Germany told Trump that "No, Dominion has not moved any machinery out of Fulton County."
Germany also said parts of the machines had not been replaced.
"Are you sure, Ryan?" Trump asked.
"I'm sure. I'm sure, Mr. President."
Furthermore, the Trump administration's own election security arm issued a statement on November 12 saying "there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised."
Trump has repeatedly claimed a signature audit of the absentee ballot envelopes in Georgia would uncover "massive voter fraud."
On the call, he directed his attention to one Georgia county in particular: Democratic stronghold Fulton County.
Trump said, "We think that if you check the signatures — a real check of the signatures going back in Fulton County — you'll find at least a couple of hundred thousand of forged signatures of people who have been forged."
Facts First: It's false to suggest that a "real check" of the signatures hasn't already been done. Signature matching has already been done -- twice, in many cases. Further, Trump is wrong to suggest that "a couple hundred thousand" ballots, forged or otherwise, could be found in the county as fewer than 150,000 mail ballots were even cast there.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation audited more than 15,000 signatures in Cobb County and found no fraudulent ballots.