Former President Donald Trump has a terrible track record against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Trump couldn’t sway his fellow Republican to “find” enough votes to flip the state to him in 2020. Trump’s preferred primary challenger against Raffensperger flamed out last month. And on Tuesday, Raffensperger is set to testify about Trump’s efforts to turn the election before the Jan. 6 committee, in its fourth public hearing.
The frequent clashes between the two men provide a clear bit of narrative drama to help hammer home the multiple ways that Trump attempted to subvert democracy ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. It’s worth remembering, too, that his efforts to sway state officials into ignoring the will of their voters was widespread — and is still ongoing.
It’s easy to see why the committee chose to highlight Georgia in Tuesday’s hearing. An audio recording of Raffensperger’s Jan. 2, 2021, call with Trump is a key piece of evidence in the case the committee is building. That call is also at the center of a grand jury investigation in Georgia’s Fulton County that may yield criminal charges against the former president. But while those audio tapes have the explosive draw of a private conversation made public, Trump was not shy about trying to publicly bully Republicans into rejecting Joe Biden’s win.
Trump was not shy about trying to publicly bully Republicans into rejecting Joe Biden’s win.
In the days and weeks after the 2020 presidential election, Trump tried to convince state and local officials in swing states he lost that there was widespread fraud committed under their noses. In Michigan, he called the GOP members of Wayne County’s Board of Canvassers soon after they’d reluctantly voted to certify that Biden had won. After the call, they briefly tried to “rescind” their votes, but that’s impossible under state law.
Trump also invited the Republican leaders of Michigan’s state House and Senate to the White House in November 2020, hoping that those legislators from a state Joe Biden won by 160,000 votes would throw their state’s 16 Electoral College votes his way. The Michiganders politely took the meeting and, just as politely, told Trump there was no way for them to do his bidding.
Same in Pennsylvania, where Trump called the speaker of the Pennsylvania House, Republican Bryan Cutler, to discuss his tossing out his state’s results. Here, too, Trump failed to sway the state’s Legislature to follow him in his war on democracy. But members of Trump’s team, including his attorney Rudy Giuliani, still tried to pressure legislatures into refusing to certify Biden’s win in their states.
And it’s worth noting that the efforts to toss out a Biden victory were happening both in public and behind the scenes. In Arizona, Trump tried to call Republican Gov. Doug Ducey as he was signing documents to certify the election results in late November 2020; the governor declined the call. So did the Maricopa County Board of Supervisor’s chair when the White House attempted to reach him hours after the Raffensperger tape leaked to news outlets. And as we recently learned, Republican activist Ginni Thomas was busy emailing Arizona state legislators to convince them to set aside the results of their state’s election and choose their own electors.
Trump’s inability to convince the states to choose Trump-supporting electors is why Giuliani arranged for uncertified slates of electors to submit their votes to the National Archive. Those unofficial votes were to be used as a justification for Vice President Mike Pence to toss out the electoral votes of “contested” states and declare Trump the winner or send the decision back to the states, where legislatures would undergo a new round of pressure to proclaim Trump their state’s winner.
Fortunately, none of those attempts worked, but Republicans in those states have continued to pay lip service to Trump’s lies about fraud. In some states, including Wisconsin, Arizona and Michigan, there have been legislature-ordered investigations into 2020, whose results revealed that fraud had nothing to do with Biden’s wins. But these results have done little quell the outcry from conspiracy theorists and charlatans.
But what the committee needs to emphasize on Tuesday is not the victory over Trump’s lies that Raffensperger’s winning streak represents. It needs to emphasize how narrowly that danger was averted in 2020. There’s no indication that Trump and his supporters intend to stop their attempts to pack state legislatures and secretary of state offices with people who will be willing to listen to them in 2024. Those Trump forces are waging a battle over the next two years to make sure that if Trump is in a position in the future to call state officials and demand that they find more votes, that those votes somehow appear.