Trump Presses Georgia Governor to Call Special Legislative Session

ATLANTA (AP) -
Georgia Republican governor Brian Kemp, left, walks with President Donald Trump as Trump arrives for a rally in Macon, Ga., in Nov., 2018. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

President Donald Trump pressed Georgia’s governor on Saturday to call a special legislative session aimed at altering the presidential election results in that state.

Trump and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp spoke by phone hours before Trump was to appear at a rally in Valdosta, Georgia, where Republicans hoped the president would dedicate his energy to imploring their supporters to vote in two runoff elections Jan. 5.

Hours before the event, Trump asked Kemp in the phone call to order the legislative session; the governor refused.

According to a tweet from the governor, Trump also asked him to order an audit of signatures on absentee ballot envelopes in his state, a step Kemp is not empowered to take because he has no authority to interfere in the electoral process on Trump’s behalf.

Trump vented his frustrations on Twitter after the call.

“Your people are refusing to do what you ask,” he complained, as if speaking with Kemp. “What are they hiding? At least immediately ask for a Special Session of the Legislature. That you can easily, and immediately, do.”

In his tweet, Kemp said: “As I told the President this morning, I’ve publicly called for a signature audit three times (11/20, 11/24, 12/3) to restore confidence in our election process and to ensure that only legal votes are counted in Georgia.”

While the governor does not have the authority to order a signature audit, an audit was initiated by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and it triggered a full hand recount that confirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia. The race has been certified for Biden and affirmed by the state’s Republican election officials as a fairly conducted and counted vote, with none of the systemic errors Trump alleges.

The president’s aides publicly scoffed at the idea that Trump might do anything at the evening Valdosta rally other than encourage Republicans to back Perdue and Loeffler.

“I believe it’s the start of these two senators crossing the finish line,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on the eve of Trump’s visit. McEnany credited Trump with being his party’s biggest turnout driver, noting that Republicans narrowed House Democrats’ majority while several vulnerable Republican senators survived challenges by comfortable margins.

Vice President Mike Pence expressed concerns that the Republican coalition could crack under the force of Trump’s grievances.

“I know we’ve all got our doubts about the last election, and I hear some of you saying, ‘Just don’t vote,'” Pence said Friday while campaigning with Perdue in Savannah. “If you don’t vote, they win.”

Republicans need one more seat for a Senate majority. Democrats need a Georgia sweep to force a 50-50 Senate and position Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tiebreaking majority vote.

Few Republicans in Washington or Georgia believe wide swaths of the electorate in this newfound battleground would opt out of voting.

The risk for the GOP is that it wouldn’t take much of a drop-off to matter if the runoffs are as close as the presidential contest: Biden won Georgia by about 12,500 votes out of 5 million cast. There’s enough noise to explain why Pence felt the need to confront the matter head on.

Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani returned Thursday to the Georgia Capitol for a marathon hearing that featured yet another airing of claims.

A third vote count, this one requested by the president’s reelection campaign, was nearing completion. Raffensperger could certify the election again as soon as Saturday; the result is not expected to change.