President Donald Trump on Saturday morning called Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to pressure him to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state, and hours later at a rally in support of GOP lawmakers Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue—who are campaigning ahead of January 5 runoffs that will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate—slammed Kemp for refusing to support his authoritarian scheme to retain power.
Two unnamed sources familiar with the conversation told the Washington Post that Trump urged Kemp “to call a special session of the state legislature for lawmakers to override the results and appoint electors who would back the president at the Electoral College.”
“Trump also asked the governor to demand an audit of signatures on mail ballots, something Kemp has previously noted he has no power to do,” the Post reported. “Kemp declined the president’s entreaty.”
Also on Saturday, Mike Lindell, the right-wing CEO of My Pillow who helped bail out Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse, “brazenly [laid] out Trump’s last-ditch plan to steal the election,” as relayed by Aaron Rupar.
In response to the news that Trump asked Kemp to persuade the state legislature to reverse the results of the 2020 election, journalist Seth Abramson asked for “lawyers who specialize in little-used federal criminal statutes like Sedition to explain to me why a federal official openly seeking to conspire with another federal official to overthrow a democratically elected government isn’t a crime.”
What I need is for lawyers who specialize in little-used federal criminal statutes like Sedition to explain to me why a federal official openly seeking to conspire with another federal official to overthrow a democratically elected government isn’t a crime https://t.co/4x0jaSagvb
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) December 5, 2020
Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, told the Post that “if Trump invoked his federal authority in his conversation Saturday with Kemp, or made the call from the Oval Office, he could have violated criminal provisions of the Hatch Act, which prohibits government officials from political activity in their official roles.”
During Saturday night’s rally, the crowd applauded when Trump said, “Your governor should be ashamed of himself,” in an attempt to malign Kemp for not going along with his coup attempt.
“Your governor should be ashamed of himself,” Trump says in Georgia about Brian Kemp, to cheers pic.twitter.com/F8BbI9375Z
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 6, 2020
The Post reported that “as the large crowd chanted ‘Stop the Steal’—what’s become a rallying cry for Republicans unwilling to accept Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in last month’s presidential election—Trump responded that ‘Your governor could stop it very easily if he knew what the hell he was doing.'”
Post reporter Amber Phillips argued that some of Trump’s rhetoric about being the victim of a rigged election could paradoxically dampen GOP participation in Georgia’s upcoming runoff races, the outcomes of which will have significant implications for the future of U.S. politics.
“Trump’s voter-fraud claims,” she said, “are threatening to depress turnout among some Republican voters” who may feel less inclined to go to the polls if they believe the results are predetermined.
The Post’s Dave Weigel shared on social media an image from the lie-filled rally, during which the GOP screened “a compilation of OAN and Newsmax videos making election fraud claims.”
Trump still implored the audience to vote next month, however, saying it is possible to be upset about and challenge the results of the presidential election while supporting Loeffler and Perdue at the same time. “At stake in this election is control of the U.S. Senate, and that really means control of this country,” Trump said.
Weigel, who is on-the-ground in Georgia this weekend, noted on Twitter that he and “every reporter [he] talked to has found” that most Trump voters believe not only that the president won but that “he’ll still win the challenges and get a second term.”
Moreover, according to Weigel, “none of these voters plan to skip the Jan. 5 runoff.”