Tag Archives: Georgia

Jim Crow 2.0 or no big deal: Here’s what’s in that hotly debated Georgia voting law

It seems the one basic fact everyone can agree on with respect to Georgia’s controversial new voting law is that an outrageous injustice has been committed.

What that outrage is depends on who you talk to.

Opponents of the just-passed bill call it a modern-day version of racist old laws that enforced segregation in the U.S. for decades. “Jim Crow 2.0,” is how Park Cannon, a state lawmaker arrested while protesting the bill, described it to CBC News.

Its defenders call that a fact-free calumny not based on anything in the actual law. “It’s unfairly criticized,” says Gabriel Sterling, a Republican Georgia state official who made international news a few months ago for publicly reprimanding Donald Trump.

“What it definitely isn’t is Jim Crow 2.0.”

Georgia thus finds itself at the epicentre of a national battle over voting rights, with racial overtones. 

Republican lawmakers in dozens of states have rushed to introduce hundreds of bills with voting restrictions following last year’s election loss.

The early attention has gone to Georgia because it’s the first major state to pass such a law, it’s a swing state and it will host a key U.S. Senate race next year.

State lawmaker Park Cannon is seen here being arrested after trying to knock on the governor’s office door to protest the law last month. She calls it a throwback to the racist Jim Crow era. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

What the law does

Headlines have been dominated by reaction to Georgia’s law: President Joe Biden has called it “Jim Crow on steroids,” there was a corporate outcry, lawsuits, the removal of baseball’s all-star game, and now conservative boycotts against corporations criticizing it.

One academic who studies election administration has watched with incredulity as a cascade of negative attention crashes into his state.

In Trey Hood’s view, this criticism is way over the top. He blames the press for doing a poor job explaining the law, which in his view has allowed people to distort and exaggerate it.

“I don’t think this is going to impede anyone’s access to the ballot box,” said Hood, a University of Georgia researcher and contributor to MIT’s Election Lab network.

The law’s defenders include non-Trump-style Republicans, such as Gabriel Sterling, an official in the Georgia Secretary of State’s office seen here, and Sen. Mitt Romney. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

In its most controversial provision so far, the law makes it a crime to hand someone food or water in a voting line — punishable by a maximum $ 1,000 fine or year in prison. Local poll officials can provide water.

Democrats have focused on that part in fundraising messaging: “[That’s] one thing in particular that gets my blood boiling,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in a party fundraising message this week.

But defenders of the bill say this merely reinforces existing Georgia laws — which already made it illegal to give voters presents, or to campaign within 25 feet of a voting line. For example, Starbucks was forced to cancel a national promotion in 2008 where it offered voters coffee, after an uproar in Georgia and elsewhere.

Sterling said people have been using food and refreshments to approach voters in line and to campaign there, which he called illegal.  

Other provisions:

  • ID will be required for voting by mail. Previously, officials checked signatures against the one on file, and rejected ballots in the event of a mismatch. Now voters can use a driver’s licence — or other common state-issued ID, or a social-security number, or utility bill. Hood said this is hardly restrictive, and is in fact fairer than leaving it up to election workers to analyze signatures.
  • There will be fewer drop-box locations where absentee voters can deposit ballots. Before last year, these boxes were not used in Georgia but were temporarily allowed during the pandemic. The new law confirms drop-box locations can be used in the future — though at a reduced number per county compared to 2020.
  • Mobile voting centres are banned. Last year, thousands of people in Atlanta voted in polling stations on wheels. 
  • It will be harder to extend voting hours in polling locations that encounter service interruptions.
  • Absentee ballot applications can no longer be mass-mailed; if someone wants to vote by mail, they have to download their own application.
  • It guarantees between 17 and 19 days of early in-person voting. 
  • It gives the state legislature, controlled by Republicans, far more power in election administration. 

On that last point, some observers fear this is the true time bomb ticking in this bill — a threat to fair elections that risks detonating when American democracy is already vulnerable.

You might recall how Sterling’s boss, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, stood up to Trump in a tense phone call, defending his state’s certification of the 2020 election.

Raffensperger is now stripped of his role as chair of the state elections board. A majority of the board will now be appointed by the Republican-controlled legislature. 

In addition to that, the board has been given power to suspend local election officials if they violate election procedure. 

This raises the prospect of power struggles between Democratic officials in Atlanta and Republican state-level officials.

Bill critics say the context is part of what makes these bills dangerous. They fear a loss of non-partisan guardrails, after an election so many Republican voters tried to overturn, leading to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol seen here. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

“I think it’s important to remember the context here,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. 

“The Georgia legislation is built on a lie [that the election was stolen].… What we’re seeing here is, for politicians who didn’t like the outcome, they’re not changing their policies to win more votes; they’re changing the rules to exclude more voters.”

WATCH | Critics say Georgia’s new voting law targets voters of colour:

Critics say Georgia’s new voting law, put in place after former president Donald Trump’s false claims of voter fraud, is aimed at voters suppression. 2:02 

Could this law have changed the 2020 election?

Recall the post-election aftermath last year.

State officials came under sweltering pressure from angry Republican voters who demanded the results be overturned. Animated by a steady diet of conspiracy theories, these voters wanted Trump declared the winner.

There were even death threats against officials in control of state institutions.

It took individual acts from independent-minded officials to ensure the results got certified. And now some of these bills, including Georgia’s, take aim at such officials.

Georgia has some big races next year for the U.S. Senate and for state governor. Stacey Abrams, seen speaking at last year’s Democratic convention, is expected to run for governor after nearly winning in 2018. She is a leading critic of the new law. (Gabriela Bhaskar/Reuters)

Michigan is another example. A single Republican there bucked his own party to certify the results in a crucial county that encompasses Detroit, a Democratic stronghold where 78 per cent of the population is Black.

Now, the Republicans who control Michigan’s legislature are moving to make sure that can’t happen again. They want to make it harder for canvassing boards in larger counties — meaning Detroit — to certify an election unless multiple members of each party agree.

The change is in one of dozens of bills being proposed in that state alone, and, once any such bills are inevitably vetoed by the state’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, Republicans hope to override her veto by collecting the required 340,000 signatures in a petition.

Arizona and Florida are other large states with bills in the works.

Andrea Young, the daughter of civil-rights leader and politician Andrew Young, said she can’t believe these battles are taking place now, 56 years after she and her family attended the bloody voting-rights march at Selma, Alabama in 1965.

“We’ve never seen anything like this. This sort of tsunami of bills,” said Young, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.

The reason it’s happening now is obvious, she says: Voters of colour have new demographic power, and white conservatives want to halt that by changing the rules.

“These [efforts are an] attempt to prevent majority rule in Georgia,” she said at a recent press conference.

Atlanta’s history of corporate activism

The bill’s opponents don’t have the numbers to fight back in the legislature. So they’re turning to other avenues: economic pressure, and courtrooms.

Activists interviewed in recent weeks said they intended to pressure companies to speak out and said there’s a strong history of corporate activism in Atlanta.

Several mentioned the most famous example: when Martin Luther King won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize and city leaders initially resisted holding a celebratory event for him.

King’s prize had been disparaged by former president Harry Truman, who called the civil-rights leader a troublemaker; one Alabama hotel even refused to serve guests from Norway, home of the Nobel Prize.

But the head of Coca-Cola, Paul Austin, had worked in apartheid South Africa and saw the damage that racism could do to a place’s reputation. He told local business leaders it would be an embarrassment for Coca-Cola to continue being headquartered in a city, Atlanta, that refused to honour a Nobel Prize winner.

Atlanta has a history of corporate activism, which opponents of this bill are aware of. Coca-Cola, headquartered in the city, demanded that local officials throw a celebration for Martin Luther King winning the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. Here he receives the prize in Norway. (Getty Images)

The celebration dinner went ahead; tickets became a hot commodity.

In the modern-day struggle, a number of companies have spoken out against the law, including Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines; Major League Baseball has moved its all-star game to Colorado, which votes almost entirely by mail.

Now Trump and others are calling for boycotts of all those companies.

Quelling the Republican base

Ultimately, this struggle will likely play out in court. Several groups are suing, claiming the bill targets Black voters, including the NAACP, which says the voting methods under attack are disproportionately used by people of colour.

Sterling, for his part, dismisses some of the complaints as a political marketing slogan, being used by Georgia Democrats to raise money and galvanize voters.

So, he was asked: why was this bill necessary? If Sterling, and other officials, said the last election was fair, and the fraud concerns ill-founded, why make all these changes?

He cited a few reasons — the need to update old administrative procedures, and the need for permanent standards for mail-in voting which was previously rare in Georgia.

He appeared to acknowledge, however, that it was partly about the internal politics of the Republican Party, and about quelling a backlash from the base if something hadn’t been done.

“There would have been millions of Georgians screaming their ever-loving heads off, ‘Y’all didn’t do anything when we told you you had to do something,'” Sterling told CBC News.

“So when a lot of these representatives get … hundreds and thousands of phone calls and emails and stuff, guess what? They tend to respond to that, whether it comes off of the basis of reality or not.”

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CBC | World News

MLB didn’t want to join Georgia legislature in turning back the clock on racial progress

This is a column by Morgan Campbell, who writes opinion for CBC Sports. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

Texas governor Greg Abbott had been slated to throw the ceremonial first pitch Monday afternoon in Arlington, before the Toronto Blue Jays faced the Texas Rangers in a game whose original claim to fame was crowd size.

Four weeks ago, after Abbott announced the end of all mandatory COVID-19 restrictions for every business in the state, the Rangers announced they planned to make every seat at GlobeLife Park available for their home opener against the Jays. The decision made that game the first major sports event in the U.S. with unrestricted attendance since the pandemic was declared last year.

That Texas added nearly 5,000 new COVID-19 cases statewide on Monday wasn’t the issue. The sellout crowd would serve as an assertion of freedom and fearlessness, and every American’s right to spread a deadly disease.

In the end 38,238 spectators showed up to watch the Jays’ 6-2 win.

Missing from that number: Abbott, who cancelled his appearance to signal his disgust at Major League Baseball’s recent decision to move its annual all-star game out of Atlanta.

That move, of course, was MLB’s response to a series of new voting laws in Georgia that are neutral on paper, but in practice will disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters. One provision outlaws providing food and water to people waiting in line to vote, even though recent elections have featured hours-long lineups at polling stations, with bottlenecks most common in black neighbourhoods.

WATCH | Georgia passes controversial voting law: 

The southeastern U.S. state legislature passed a bill introducing voter ID requirements, reducing ballot drop box locations and outlawing providing food and water to voters in lineups. Activists say the rules target Black and other racialized people. 6:02

You don’t have to read too far between the lines of the new election law to figure out that conflicts over voting rights will fall along racial lines. A New York Times analysis points out that new regulations would mean that Fulton County, where nearly 45 per cent of residents are Black, would go from 94 ballot drop boxes last year to just 23 for future elections. If you can foresee these new regulations teaming up to drag Black voters back to the 1950s, you’re not alone. Several critics, including U.S. president Joe Biden, have compared Georgia’s new law to the “Jim Crow” system of segregation that ruled the south for nearly a century.

Major League Baseball, which has its own well-documented history of segregation, decided it didn’t want to join Georgia legislature in turning back the clock on racial progress, and opted to move this summer’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta, triggering threats of retribution from a long list of conservative politicians.

The backlash is helpful, in that it highlights the hypocrisy undergirding the relationship between sports, business and politics. Abbott was happy to play ball, until MLB took a stand against a law tilting the electoral playing field in Republicans’ favour. Then, suddenly, the Rangers and Blue Jays weren’t worth his time.

‘Stay out of politics’

Sen. Mitch McConnell sent a stern message to MLB and other companies using their platforms and PR muscle to weigh in against the new voting law. “My warning to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” said McConnell, whose donor list includes UPS, FedEx, and General Electric, to reporters Monday.

But, he added, “I’m not talking about donations.”

Watching the backlash — Sen. Ted Cruz and other Republican lawmakers now want to strip MLB of its antitrust exemption — becomes even more fascinating when you keep in mind that extreme reactions are the variable, and decisions like the one MLB made last week are constant.

As ESPN writer and baseball historian Howard Bryant pointed out, integrated seating in Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium was a precondition for the Braves moving to the city from Milwaukee before the 1966 season. Even if segregationists hated it, conservative politicians didn’t scramble to cancel Major League Baseball.

In 1990, the NFL told Arizona lawmakers that it would move the 1993 Super Bowl out of the state if it didn’t recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday. That decision failed to set off a chain reaction of Republican senators threatening to use the tax code to punish the league, but by 1992 Arizona recognized Dr. King’s birthday as a holiday, and the following year the Super Bowl came to Phoenix.

MLB’s decision, however, has triggered prominent right-wingers in a different way.

A month ago, republican politicians like Matt Gaetz, and infotainment outlets like Fox News, railed against “Cancel Culture,” arguing that making Mr. Potato Head gender neutral, or removing children’s books with racist images, were the political left’s attempt to erase cherished history.

By this week, Abbott had cancelled his date with the Blue Jays, while the #BoycottMLB campaign seeks to all but cancel America’s pastime. And it’s all happening three months after a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, hoping to consummate the ex-president’s quest to cancel the results of the 2020 presidential election.

But the numbers are the numbers. Biden won Georgia by fewer than 12,000 votes, and the electoral college by 74. Vote numbers held steady after a series of recounts, and none of team Trump’s allegations of widespread voter fraud yielded credible evidence. Yet, the state legislature, bent on fixing problems that didn’t exist, overhauled voting laws, in the name of election integrity. It’s akin to MLB banning any pitch over 100 mph to crack down on sign stealing.

WATCH | Warnock, Ossoff score monumental senate wins in Georgia:

The Democrats have gained control of the U.S. Senate after winning two run-off races in Georgia. 2:00

Of course, the real motive, to extend the baseball analogy, was the Republican party’s 0-for-3 showing in the 2020 election cycle. Biden beat Trump for president, winning 73 per cent of the votes cast in Fulton County. Jon Ossoff defeated republican incumbent David Perdue for senate, and Raphael Warnock, with a high-profile boost from the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, topped former Dream owner Kelly Loeffler. Against that backdrop, the new law seems more like outlawing triple-digit velocity because you’re sick of striking out.

Those details also help clarify why MLB had to move its showcase event.

Race aside, you still have a law that advantages one party at the expense of its opponent. That’s an awful look for a league still in damage control mode after the Houston Astros cheating scandal, and trying to sell the idea of fair competition.

But race is central to the campaign to restrict voting access, and MLB is still reckoning with the long-term effects of its racist past, even as the percentage of Black big-leaguers hovers near historic lows. The league can’t align itself with any initiative that carries even a whiff of Jim Crow, and the new law carries a heavy scent of systemic racism.

And it’s all unfolding in a state where voters — who are also residents and potential customers — have sent an unambiguous message that they want the opposite of these new laws. So MLB did what businesses do all the time. They looked at the stats and listened to the numbers.

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CBC | Sports News

Democrat Raphael Warnock wins U.S. Senate run-off election in Georgia

Democrat Raphael Warnock won one of Georgia’s two Senate run-offs Wednesday, becoming the first Black senator in his state’s history and putting the Senate majority within the party’s reach.

A pastor who spent the past 15 years leading the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached, Warnock defeated Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler. It was a stinging rebuke of outgoing President Donald Trump, who made one of his final trips in office to Georgia to rally his loyal base behind Loeffler and the Republican running for the other seat, David Perdue.

The focus now shifts to the second race between Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff. That contest was too early to call as votes were still being counted. If Ossoff wins, Democrats will have complete control of Congress, strengthening president-elect Joe Biden’s standing as he prepares to take office on Jan. 20.

Warnock’s victory is a symbol of a striking shift in Georgia’s politics as the swelling number of diverse, college-educated voters flex their power in the heart of the Deep South. It follows Biden’s victory in November, when he became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1992.

Warnock, 51, acknowledged his improbable victory in a message to supporters early Wednesday, citing his family’s experience with poverty. His mother, he said, used to pick “somebody else’s cotton” as a teenager.

“The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton picked her youngest son to be a United States senator,” he said. “Tonight, we proved with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible.”

A pastor who spent the past 15 years leading the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached, Raphael Warnock defeated Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler. (Stephen Morton/The Associated Press)

Loeffler refused to concede in a brief message to supporters shortly after midnight.

“We’ve got some work to do here. This is a game of inches. We’re going to win this election,” insisted Loeffler, a 50-year-old former businesswoman who was appointed to the Senate less than a year ago by the state’s governor.

Loeffler, who remains a Georgia senator until the results of Tuesday’s election are finalized, said she would return to Washington on Wednesday morning to join a small group of senators planning to challenge Congress’s vote to certify Biden’s victory.

“We are going to keep fighting for you,” Loeffler said. “This is about protecting the American dream.”

Georgia’s other run-off election pitted Perdue, a 71-year-old former business executive who held his Senate seat until his term expired on Sunday, against Ossoff, a former congressional aide and journalist. At just 33 years old, Ossoff would be the Senate’s youngest member.

Trump’s false claims of voter fraud cast a dark shadow over the run-off elections, which were held only because no candidate hit the 50 per cent threshold in the general election. He attacked the state’s election chief on the eve of the election and raised the prospect that some votes might not be counted even as votes were being cast Tuesday afternoon.

Republican state officials on the ground reported no significant problems.

Run-offs bring end to turbulent election

This week’s elections mark the formal finale to the turbulent 2020 election season more than two months after the rest of the nation finished voting. The unusually high stakes transformed Georgia, once a solidly Republican state, into one of the nation’s premier battlegrounds for the final days of Trump’s presidency — and likely beyond.

Both contests tested whether the political coalition that fuelled Biden’s November victory was an anti-Trump anomaly or part of a new electoral landscape. To win in Tuesday’s elections — and in the future — Democrats needed strong African American support.

Drawing on his popularity with Black voters, among other groups, Biden won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes by about 12,000 votes out of five million cast in November.

Trump’s claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election, while meritless, resonated with Republican voters in Georgia. About seven in 10 agreed with his false assertion that Biden was not the legitimately elected president, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 3,600 voters in the run-off elections.

Turnout record shattered

Election officials across the country, including the Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, as well as Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, have confirmed that there was no widespread fraud in the November election. Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the Supreme Court, where three Trump-nominated justices preside.

Even with Trump’s claims, voters in both parties were drawn to the polls because of the high stakes. AP VoteCast found that six in 10 Georgia voters say Senate party control was the most important factor in their vote.

WATCH | Democrats hold early lead in Georgia Senate run-off:

The Democrats held an early lead after Georgia voters cast their ballots in a run-off election for two seats that could shift the balance of power in the U.S. Senate from the Republicans to the Democrats. The race was expected to be close with results likely not known for a couple of days. 2:41

Even before Tuesday, Georgia had shattered its turnout record for a run-off with more than three million votes by mail or during in-person advance voting in December. Including Tuesday’s vote, more people ultimately cast ballots in the run-offs than voted in Georgia’s 2016 presidential election.

In Atlanta’s Buckhead neighbourhood, 37-year-old Kari Callaghan said she voted “all Democrat” on Tuesday, an experience that was new for her.

“I’ve always been Republican, but I’ve been pretty disgusted by Trump and just the way the Republicans are working,” she said. “I feel like for the Republican candidates to still stand there with Trump and campaign with Trump feels pretty rotten. This isn’t the conservative values that I grew up with.”

But 56-year-old Will James said he voted “straight GOP.”

He said he was concerned by the Republican candidates’ recent support of Trump’s challenges of the presidential election results in Georgia, “but it didn’t really change the reasons I voted.”

“I believe in balance of power, and I don’t want either party to have a referendum, basically,” he said.

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CBC | World News

Some want Trump charged for call with Georgia official. His state of mind could be a defence

Some jaw-dropping snippets of audio of U.S. President Donald Trump begging, badgering, and possibly even threatening a Georgia election official on the weekend to overturn his defeat there in the recent presidential election had some people calling for charges.

A pair of federal Democratic lawmakers sent a criminal referral to the FBI. They alleged Trump broke two federal laws and one Georgia state law on election fraud.

A Democrat on the state elections board demanded a probe. And the district attorney for Atlanta’s Fulton County called the recording disturbing and promised to consider the case if state election officials sent her a complaint.

So could Trump actually face charges over this?

WATCH | The National’s report on the call: 

U.S. President Donald Trump called on Georgia’s secretary of state to ‘find’ more votes so he could win that state. The recording of the phone call emerges as the new Congress is sworn in, and with some Republican senators days away from mounting their own challenge to the election results. 2:02

A well-known expert on American election law wrote that Trump deserves to be charged, and in an email to CBC News, he said it could happen, in theory.

“Potentially, yes,” said Rick Hasen of the University of California, Irvine.

But he said he doubts it will get that far. The criminal laws cited in the lawmakers’ letter to the FBI all refer to wilful intent. Hasen and several peers view prosecution as a long shot because of the challenge in proving Trump thought he was committing a crime.

“His prosecution would be unlikely given the difficulties of proving intent and going after a former president,” Hasen said.

That points to one striking takeaway from the full hour-long recording of Trump’s call last weekend with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, which also included White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and lawyers for both sides.

It’s that Trump sounds like he may actually believe he won.

‘Fellas, I need 11,000 votes’

Trump keeps insisting throughout the call, sometimes with a dejected sigh, sometimes with a defiant interjection, that he won the state of Georgia in a landslide in the Nov. 3 presidential election. 

Trump starts the call by mentioning his crowd sizes at rallies and keeps saying things like, “There’s no way I lost Georgia. There’s no way.” 

He proceeds to cycle through a series of conspiracy theories, clinging to disparate scraps of testimonials posted on random corners of the internet to piece together a claim that he was defrauded in Georgia by hundreds of thousands of votes.

And that’s the context of Trump’s most stunning demand — that Raffensperger find the votes he needs to win.

WATCH | Trump asks Raffensperger to overturn his defeat:

The U.S. president is heard pleading with Georgia’s election chief to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state, according to audio clips obtained by The Washington Post. 1:30

In effect, Trump is telling this official that he is the aggrieved party, wronged by hundreds of thousands of votes, and all he’s seeking is a smidgen of justice, that a few thousand be corrected.

At different points in the call, Trump says:

“I just want to find 11,780 votes.”

“I have to find 12,000 votes, and I have them — times a lot.”

“I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes.” 

Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, seen here at a December news conference, allowed the recording and release of his call on Saturday with Trump. (Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)

The Georgia officials keep insisting his claims are wrong — that they stem from deceptively edited video, from bad data, from events already investigated and dismissed by state and federal police. 

Those Georgia officials, Raffensperger and state lawyer Ryan Germany, say claims about thousands of dead and out-of-state people voting are completely off.

“The data you have is wrong,” Raffensperger says.

WATCH | Georgia election official debunks Trump’s fraud allegations: 

Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, accuses the legal team of U.S. President Donald Trump of intentionally misleading the public. 2:51

He tells Trump police have also examined claims about double-counting and found nothing.

“Then they’re incompetent,” Trump replies.

So, if a hypothetical case did require a demonstration of criminal intent, Trump’s state of mind would become a key factor for investigators to consider. 

The case of the wounded ego

Some observers who have opined on the president’s personality say his narcissistic tendencies will make it difficult for him to ever accept defeat.

“We know that narcissism is associated with aggression following [an] ego threat and what bigger threat than a presidential [election] loss?” said Joshua Miller, a clinical psychologist and director of clinical training at the University of Georgia who has been using Trump as a case study in his work for more than a decade.

Donald Lynam, a distinguished professor of clinical psychology at Purdue University in Indiana, agreed.

“This is what psychoanalysts call a grave narcissistic wound. … He is cut to his core. Now he reacts with absolute rage,” he said.

“I think the next two weeks will be awful.”

We’re now approaching high noon in Trump’s confrontation with the reality of defeat.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Congress votes to certify president-elect Joe Biden’s win.

Trump is encouraging supporters to flock to Washington, D.C., where thousands are expected at protests around the U.S. Capitol. Fearing the potential for violence, Washington’s mayor has activated the National Guard, and also issued a warning that anyone thinking of carrying firearms must respect the city’s strict gun laws.

Trump wants Republicans in Congress to block the election certification. Dozens will indeed contest the vote on his behalf, which will prolong by several hours what’s already been the most protracted battle over an American election result in nearly 150 years.

Trump, seen here in 2017 in the Oval Office talking on the telephone, continues to try to overturn the result of November’s presidential election. (Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)

And then Trump will lose.

Less than a quarter of Republican senators have said they’ll back Trump’s bid, while a far larger share of Republicans in the House of Representatives are expected to do the same.

There’s no sign the momentum is moving in Trump’s favour. In fact, it may have slowed since the Washington Post published the recording of Trump’s phone call with Raffensperger. 

Hours later, a staunchly pro-Trump senator, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and several others said they’d vote to certify the election.

The current numbers are likely trending toward approximately 85 per cent of the U.S. Senate and 70 per cent of the House of Representatives voting to cement Biden’s election win.

Divisions in the Republican Party

Trump will keep fighting.

His efforts to discredit the election process have a receptive audience. In a late-December poll for the Economist magazine, only eight per cent of self-identified Republicans said they had “a great deal” or “quite a bit” of confidence the election was fair.

Fealty to Trump, and to the discredited narrative of his unfair defeat, could potentially tear at his party for years, remaining a dividing issue in Republican politics.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden campaigns for Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock at a rally in Atlanta ahead of runoff elections on Tuesday. Trump continues to try to overturn Biden’s decisive victory in November’s presidential election. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Cotton was deluged with threats of a primary in five years when he’s up for re-election.

In Florida, protesters have gathered at Marco Rubio’s house and warned the senator he will face a primary next year unless he backs Trump.

Trump has referred to the senators not backing him as the surrender caucus. And he’s warned them: Republican voters will never forget.

That’s a legacy that could easily outlast the impact of this audio.

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CBC | World News

Biden, Trump make last pitches to Georgia voters ahead of run-off elections

U.S. president-elect Joe Biden on Monday told Georgia Democrats they had the power to “chart the course” for a generation as President Donald Trump rehashed old grievances over his November loss in final pleas ahead of run-off elections that will determine control of the U.S. Senate.

Trump made his final-hours pitch to voters at a nighttime rally in north Georgia, where Republicans were banking on strong voter turnout on Tuesday to reelect Sen. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue and hold control of the chamber.

Earlier, Biden campaigned with Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in Atlanta, hoping he could recreate the coalition that secured him a narrow victory in the presidential race in November.

“Folks, this is it. This is it. It’s a new year, and tomorrow can be a new day for Atlanta, for Georgia and for America,” Biden said at a drive-in rally. “Unlike any time in my career, one state — one state — can chart the course, not just for the four years but for the next generation.”

The stakes have drawn hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign spending to a once solidly Republican state that now finds itself as the nation’s premier battleground. Biden won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes by about 12,000 votes out of five million cast in November, though Trump continues pushing false assertions of widespread fraud that even his now-former attorney general and Georgia’s Republican secretary of state — along with a litany of state and federal judges — have said did not happen.

Trump’s call refuted

The president’s trip Monday came a day after disclosure of a remarkable telephone call he made to the Georgia secretary of state over the weekend. Trump pressured Republican Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Georgia’s election results ahead of Wednesday’s joint session of Congress that will certify Biden’s electoral college victory. The call highlighted how Trump has used the Georgia campaign to make clear his continued hold on Republican politics.

WATCH | Trump asks Georgia officials to ‘find’ the votes he needs to win:

The U.S. president is heard pleading with Georgia’s election chief to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state, according to audio clips obtained by The Washington Post. 1:30

On Monday, a top election official from Georgia offered a point-by-point refutation of many of Trump’s allegations on the Saturday phone call. 

Gabriel Sterling, the voting systems administration manager, said the election was not stolen and mass voter fraud did not occur in his state. But he said the best way to counter that would be to vote in Tuesday’s Senate run-off election. 

“If that’s what you genuinely in your heart of hearts believe, turn out and vote. There are people who fought and died and marched and prayed and voted to get the right to vote. Throwing it away because you have some feeling that it may not matter is self-destructive, ultimately, and a self-fulfilling prophecy in the end.”

WATCH | Trump’s call to Georgia’s secretary of state met with outrage:

Democrats and Republicans are both expressing outrage about U.S. President Donald Trump’s weekend phone call to Georgia’s secretary of state, pressuring him to “find” thousands of votes in his favour to overturn the state’s results in the presidential election. It all comes ahead of state run-off votes for Senate seats. 2:47

‘Swamp’ the polls

Angry after the Raffensperger call, Trump floated the idea of pulling out of the rally but was persuaded to go ahead with it so he will have a chance to reiterate his claims of election fraud. Republicans are wary as to whether Trump will focus only on himself and fail to promote the two Republican candidates.

Trump, at a rally in Dalton, Ga., again pressed false claims that the November election was “rigged” and urged Republicans to “swamp” the polls Tuesday.

“The Democrats are trying to steal the White House, you cannot let them,” Trump said. “You just can’t let them steal the U.S. Senate, you can’t let it happen.”

Biden on Monday took aim at Trump’s scheme by declaring that “politicians cannot assert, take or seize power” by undermining legitimate elections.

Biden said he needs a Senate majority to pass legislation to combat the coronavirus, and he blasted Perdue and Loeffler as obstructionist Trump loyalists. Loeffler says she will join other Republican lawmakers in objecting to the electoral college certification of Biden’s victory by Congress on Wednesday.

“You have two senators who think they’ve sworn an oath to Donald Trump, not the United States Constitution,” Biden said.

WATCH | A visibly exasperated Sterling on Trump’s allegations about the Georgia election:

Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, accuses the legal team of U.S. President Donald Trump of intentionally misleading the public. 2:51

Ossoff and Warnock have campaigned with warnings that a Republican Senate will stymie Biden’s administration, especially on pandemic relief.

Warnock pushed back at the deluge of Loeffler television ads casting him as a socialist. “Have you noticed she hasn’t even bothered to make a case, Georgia, for why you should keep her in that seat?” Warnock said, speaking ahead of Biden. “That’s because she has no case to make.”

More than three million Georgians already have voted. Monday’s push is focused on getting voters to the polls Tuesday. Democrats ran up a wide margin among 3.6 million early votes in the fall, but Republicans countered with an election day surge, especially in small towns and rural areas.

Even with Biden’s statewide win, Perdue led Ossoff by 88,000 votes in November, giving the Republican confidence in the run-off. The run-offs were required because none of the candidates reached a majority vote, as required by Georgia law. Despite Perdue’s initial advantage, early voting figures suggest Democrats have had a stronger turnout heading into Tuesday, and leading Republicans have expressed concerns about the pressure that puts on their turnout operation.

The four candidates in Tuesday’s Senate run-off in Georgia. Top row: Republican candidates David Perdue, left, and Kelly Loeffler. Below: Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. (Justin Sullivan, Dustin Chambers, Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

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In recorded phone call, Trump pressed Georgia election chief to ‘find’ votes for him

U.S. President Donald Trump badgered and pleaded with Georgia’s election chief to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state, suggesting in a telephone call that the official “find” enough votes to hand Trump the victory.

The conversation Saturday was the latest step in an unprecedented effort by a sitting president to pressure a state official to reverse the outcome of a free and fair election that he lost. The renewed intervention and the persistent and unfounded claims of fraud by the first president to lose reelection in almost 30 years come nearly two weeks before Trump leaves office and two days before twin runoffs in Georgia that will determine control of the Senate.

Trump confirmed in a tweet Sunday that he had spoken with Georgia’s secretary of state, Republican Brad Raffensperger, who tweeted that claims Trump made during the call were untrue.

Audio snippets of the conversation were posted online by The Washington Post. A recording of the call was later obtained by The Associated Press from a person who was on the call.

LISTEN | Trump demands Georgia officials ‘find’ votes in recoded phone call:

The U.S. president is heard pleading with Georgia’s election chief to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state, according to audio clips obtained by The Washington Post. 1:30

The president, who has refused to accept his loss to the Democratic president-elect, is heard telling Raffensperger at one point: “All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.”

Georgia certified election results showing that Biden won the state’s Nov. 3 election by 11,779 votes.

The White House referred questions to Trump’s re-election campaign, which did not respond Sunday to an emailed request for comment. Raffensperger’s office did not respond to a text message seeking comment.

Biden senior adviser Bob Bauer said the recording was “irrefutable proof” of Trump pressuring and threatening an official in his own party to “rescind a state’s lawful, certified vote count and fabricate another in its place.”

“It captures the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump’s assault on American democracy,” Bauer said.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference on Dec. 14 in Atlanta. (John Bazemore/The Associated Press)

At another point in the conversation, Trump appeared to threaten Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the secretary of state’s legal counsel, by suggesting both could be criminally liable if they failed to find that thousands of ballots in Fulton County had been illegally destroyed. There is no evidence to support Trump’s claim.

“That’s a criminal offence,” Trump says. “And you can’t let that happen.”

Trump has repeatedly attacked how Raffensperger ran Georgia’s elections, claiming without evidence that the state’s 16 electoral votes were wrongly given to Biden.

“He has no clue!” Trump tweeted of Raffensperger, saying the state official “was unwilling, or unable” to answer questions about a series of claims about ballot handling and voters that have been debunked or shot down by judges and election authorities.

Raffensperger’s Twitter response: “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out.”

Senate runoffs

There was no widespread fraud in the election, which a range of election officials across the country, as well as Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, have confirmed. Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, key battleground states crucial to Biden’s victory, have also vouched for the integrity of the elections in their states. Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the Supreme Court, which includes three Trump-nominated justices.

The Senate runoffs pit Sen. Kelly Loeffler against Democrat Raphael Warnock and Sen. David Perdue against Democrat Jon Ossoff. With the Senate up for grabs, the candidates and outside groups supporting them have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the contests, deluging Georgia with television ads, mail, phone calls and door-knocking efforts.

Republican Sen. Kelly Loefflerspeaks during a campaign event in McDonough, Ga., on Sunday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Loeffler said she had not decided whether to join Republican colleagues in challenging the legitimacy of Biden’s victory over Trump. The Democratic candidates whose wins Tuesday would help clear roadblocks for the new administration’s agenda awaited a campaign visit from vice-president-elect Kamala Harris.

Trump has persisted in attacking top Georgia Republicans over his election loss in the state, raising fears that his words could cause some Republicans to stay away from the polls.

“I believe that we will win on Tuesday because of the grassroots momentum, the unprecedented movement energy in Georgia right now,” Ossoff told CNN’s State of the Union. He said “it feels in Georgia like we are on the cusp of a historic victory.”

Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff speaks at a campaign event in Savannah, Ga., on Sunday. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Loeffler, when asked about siding with the growing group of Senate Republicans seeking to contest the Electoral College count, said she was “looking very closely at it, and I’ve been one of the first to say, everything’s on the table.” She told Fox News Sunday that “I’m fighting for this president because he’s fought for us. He’s our president and we’re going to keep making sure that this is a fair election.”

Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta who has continued to preach as he campaigns for office, seemed to allude to the runoff in a message delivered Sunday. He told viewers watching remotely due to the pandemic that they are “on the verge of victory” in their lives if they accept that God has already equipped them with the ability to overcome their adversaries.

“When God is with you, you can defeat giants,” said Warnock, who ended the early morning service by also encouraging Georgians to vote on Tuesday. “It’s so very important that your voice be heard in this defining moment in our country,” he said. “I would not be so presumptuous as to tell you who to vote for.”

Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock gestures at a campaign event in Savannah on Sunday. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Loeffler was appointed to fill a vacancy when Republican Johnny Isakson resigned his seat, and she will be in the Senate, win or lose this coming week, until the election is certified. Perdue’s seat will temporarily be vacant after his term expires Sunday at the end of six years.

Harris was scheduled to be in Savannah on Sunday afternoon. Trump and Biden plan to campaign in the state Monday, in last-minute efforts to mobilize voters after more than 3 million people cast ballots early.

The president continues to create turbulence for Loeffler and Perdue by questioning Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia and the reliability of the state’s election systems.

Trump also tweeted that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, also Republicans, “have done less than nothing. They are a disgrace to the great people of Georgia!” The president last week called on Kemp to resign; the governor dismissed it as a “distraction.”

Gov. Brian Kemp, left, greets Trump in Marietta, Ga., in March 2020. (Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)

Despite the attacks, Loeffler said she believed voters would heed Trump’s expected plea during his upcoming visit that they should turn out.

“He’s going to tell voters the same thing: You have to get out and vote Georgia, because this is too important,” Loeffler said.

Perdue, who is in quarantine because he was exposed to a staff member with the coronavirus and won’t appear with Trump at the Monday rally, said he would have joined the electoral challenge in the Senate if he had been in Washington. “I’m encouraging my colleagues to object. This is something that the American people demand right now,” he told Fox News Channel’s Sunday Morning Futures.

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The biggest wildcard in U.S. politics now: Trump fans in Georgia

They drove for hours to see Donald Trump last weekend then lined up for hours more, wearing Trump caps and T-shirts, chanting Trump chants, jeering various Trump’s nemeses, and seething over an election they will eternally insist was stolen from Trump.

The decisions made by this same group of Georgia voters over the next few weeks could shape the course of American politics for the next few years. 

A pair of Jan. 5 elections in this state will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate, with registration closing Monday and advance voting beginning next week.

To hold the chamber, Republicans must win one of these two races; the outcome will affect future president Joe Biden’s ability to confirm judges, appoint cabinet members, and sign legislation.

The concern for Republicans: Will these voters show up?

The party’s fortunes depend on turnout from what might be described as ‘Trump First’ voters, those diehard supporters currently fuming at anybody they see as insufficiently loyal to the president.

What has party brass concerned: the possibility these voters might stay home after the presidential election, disillusioned by Republican officials’ refusal to help Trump overturn the result.

Pete Toole dislikes most politicians except Trump. He still intends to vote in the Senate runoffs. (Alexander Panetta/CBC)

The weekend rally in Georgia allowed for a timely temperature-taking of this powerful slice of the electorate.

Very few people had signs for Republican senators Kelly Loeffler or David Perdue at the event, even though their re-election campaign was ostensibly the reason Trump flew in for an airport runway rally.

When Loeffler and Perdue spoke, rally-goers drowned them out with chants about the president like, “Stop the steal!,” and, “Fight for Trump,” a chorus of thousands of people making clear what truly stirs the political passions.

Fuming at Trump’s loss

Seated in the crowd, Pete Toole said he dislikes most politicians — that includes all Democrats, and most Republicans.

The one Republican he truly adores is Trump. And what matters to him, right now, is getting the Supreme Court to overturn the presidential election result.

He’s not sure how, or on the basis of what legal arguments or evidence any of that could happen, but the retired grocer from the small town of Uvalda, Ga. just can’t believe his man truly lost.

He thinks other Republicans should be doing more to help Trump stay in office and his disdain extends to the two Republican Senate candidates who were on that stage.

“I’m not a Republican or a Democrat. I’m for Trump,” Toole said. “I don’t like [Republican senators Kelly] Loeffler or [David] Perdue.”

Loeffler and Perdue are seeking re-election against Raphael Warnock, the pastor in Martin Luther King’s old church, and Jon Ossoff, a former congressional staffer.

Toole sees his party’s candidates as weak and mealy-mouthed and said they need to be tough like Trump. When asked how, specifically, they should model their behaviour on the president’s, he replied: “On everything. They should have his personality. Speak their mind.”

WATCH | Could Trump’s fraud claims could keep Georgia voters home for runoff?:

U.S. President Donald Trump spent some of the weekend trying to rally support for Republican Senate candidates in Georgia, but there are concerns his continued denouncement of the electoral system could convince voters to stay home. 2:03

So what’s the bottom line — will he turn out for the Senate runoffs or not? “I’m going to vote probably for Loeffler and Perdue.”

The reason: to stop the left from gaining power.

And that was the main takeaway from the vast majority of the many rally-goers interviewed by CBC News and other media during the weekend event.

Most of whom said that even if the presidential race mattered most to them, and even if they’re unenthused by most Republicans, they would still turn out and cast ballots to help their party keep the Senate.

The Senate candidates in Georgia. Top from left: Republican incumbents David Perdue, and Kelly Loeffler. Bottom, from left: Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. (CBC)

There were exceptions.

Lauren Voyles, who made a five-hour drive from north of Atlanta for the event, said she has lost faith in the electoral system. She thinks the vote was rigged against the president, despite the lack of evidence of electoral fraud.

She fumed at the so-called “crooks,” and the “fake-news media,” and what she sees as the weak-kneed Republican establishment not fighting hard enough to keep Trump in the White House.

When asked if she’ll vote in the Senate race she said: “Not in the current system — why would I?”

That dismissive attitude was echoed by angry Republicans who at a recent event shouted down the party chair, and by pro-Trump lawyers who urged a boycott of Senate races as a protest against a party establishment they deride as disloyal to the president.

Stakes high for Democrats too

Such talk is sweet music to Democrats’ ears.

One Democrat who lives several hours north raised her hands in pretend prayer when asked if she expected rifts on the right to depress Republican turnout.

Latresha Jackson, a volunteer with the Democratic Party near Atlanta, said her party badly wants those two seats, which would result in a 50-50 Senate tie and allow vice-president-elect Kamala Harris to cast tie-breaking votes.

“Democrats understand what’s on the line,” Jackson said, speaking at her home in Forsyth County.

The head of the Democratic Party in that same county, Melissa Clink, noted that the party that retains the Senate doesn’t just win more votes — its leadership controls the chamber agenda and decides which bills come up for a vote.

Melissa Clink, the chair of a Democratic county branch near Atlanta, says these races will determine what gets discussed in the Senate. (Alexander Panetta)

All of which holds potential consequences on issues like health care, climate change, infrastructure, and immigration policy.

“Two years of gridlock,” is how Clink described a McConnell-led Senate. “Right now [McConnell is] the gatekeeper of what we even speak about on the floor.”

Her county branch began dropping off promotional flyers last weekend for the Jan. 5 vote, and progressive groups have mailed out applications for absentee ballots.

Democrats, however, have a taller hill to climb.

While some recent polling gives Democrats an edge in what will likely be two close races, history and math are on the Republican side.

For starters, Republicans only need to win one race to retain the advantage; Democrats need both. In addition, Republicans have a history of stronger turnout in runoff elections like these ones, which in Georgia are held after a general election when there are multiple candidates and nobody surpasses 50 per cent.

In the last such runoff, in 2018, the Republican candidate for secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, expanded his wafer-thin general-election lead by more than 3 percentage points in the runoff.

That’s the same Brad Raffensperger who is now receiving death threats because he’s in charge of running Georgia’s elections and he’s refusing to help Trump overturn the result.

Republican strategy: keep Trump in the conversation

Which brings us to the president’s rally.

After the weekend event, it’s now crystal-clear what the Republican strategy is in its effort to ensure turnout from Trump-loving voters.

They’re keeping Trump in the conversation.

Several speakers at the weekend rally cast this Senate vote as a chance to cement the president’s legacy and protect it from Democrats who would undo his tax, energy, climate, and other policies.

“Don’t let them take [that legacy] away,” said Sonny Perdue, a former Georgia governor, current Trump cabinet member, and cousin to one Republican candidate, Sen. David Perdue.

The current Senate breakdown is 50 Republican votes and 48 votes from Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. If Democrats win both in Georgia, the parties would be tied and future VP Kamala Harris would be the tie-breaking vote. (CBC News)

Trump, for his part, delivered a long speech with three basic themes.

First, he encouraged Republicans to turn out. He called this vote the most important congressional runoff in history, and lauded the two Senate candidates.

Second, he trashed other Georgia Republicans. The bulk of Trump’s speech consisted of grievances about the election, and complaints about the governor, who has refused to help him overturn the result.

Finally, he also gave what sounded like a valedictory address. Trump concluded the speech by listing things his presidency achieved, from tax cuts, to building a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

Trump urged Georgians to cement that legacy by turning out for the Perdue and Loeffler: “These seats are the last line of defence to save America and protect all that we have accomplished.”

Not that Trump will ever admit defeat.

Heated rhetoric

Nor will his supporters. They aren’t just grumbling about an election loss; a large number appear to deeply believe he was robbed, based on a litany of unproven or disputed allegations now repeatedly dismissed in court.

They’re livid at the media for reporting he lost. A few screamed at a Fox News crew, while several shouted epithets at the media bus leaving the rally.

Bob Kunst, who drove up from Miami for what he said was his 201st Trump-related event, said Republicans plan to unseat, in future primaries, anyone who fails to help Trump hold onto power.

Some of the rhetoric, he said, is getting even more heated.

“This is like civil-war time,” he said. “I am the most mild-mannered person. But I am way angry. … I’ve had people here tell me they’re armed to the teeth.”

At a rally in Valdosta, Ga., Trump mostly talked about his own achievements and grievances, but also urged Georgians to vote. (Alexander Panetta)

Yet he still cares about the Senate and wants Republicans to win. “They have to,” Kunst said.

One conservative radio host who’s been lukewarm on Trump — initially opposing him, then backing him, and often criticizing him — says he expects the party to unite for the Senate races.

Erick Erickson, a Georgia-based talk-show host, said a number of Republicans do care first and foremost about Trump.

But he said there’s also been a swift backlash to the talk about a boycott, and he expects Republicans will show up. He said history has also shown Georgia Republicans do turn out in non-presidential races, as they did in the 2018 midterm year.

“I think the GOP goes two for two [in the Senate races],” Erickson said in an interview outside his Atlanta studio.

“But it’s gonna be a slugfest. Those of us in TV and radio — we’re gonna come out the winners in this. … It’s going to be close. Maybe closer than it should be.”

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Trump airs election grievances at Georgia rally for Republican Senate hopefuls

U.S. President Donald Trump pressed his own grievances over losing the presidential election at a rally Saturday in Georgia, focusing on them more than trying to help two Republican Senate candidates whose fate will decide the balance of power in Washington once president-elect Joe Biden takes office next month.

Trump rallied thousands of largely mask-less supporters in Valdosta, Ga., not long after he was rebuffed by Georgia’s Republican governor in an astounding call for a special legislative session to give him the state’s electoral votes despite Biden winning the majority of the vote.

The latest futile attempt to subvert the presidential election results continued his unprecedented campaign to undermine confidence in the democratic process, but overshadowed his stated purpose — boosting Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

Republicans need one victory to maintain their Senate majority.

Democrats need a Georgia sweep to force a 50-50 Senate and position vice-president-elect Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking majority vote.

Trump, centre, applauds as he is seen onstage with Republican Sens. David Perdue, left, and Kelly Loeffler in Valdosta on Saturday. (Dustin Chambers/Reuters)

Party officials had hoped the president would dedicate his energy to imploring their supporters to vote in the Jan. 5 election, when Perdue and Loeffler try to hold off Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively.

Trump did echo Republican rhetoric that the races amounted to “the most important congressional runoff, probably in American history.” That is only true because he lost.

But after Air Force One landed, it quickly became apparent that Trump’s aim was to air his own complaints and stoke baseless doubts about the conduct of last month’s vote, rather than boost his party.

“I want to stay on presidential,” Trumps said minutes into his speech. “But I got to get to these two.”

Supporters listen as Trump speaks at a rally in Valdosta on Saturday. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump praised the Republican lawmakers — Perdue for his support for military spending and Loeffler for pushing for early coronavirus relief spending — but he quickly pivoted back to his own defeat.

“Let them steal Georgia again, you’ll never be able to look yourself in the mirror,” he told rally-goers.

Trump pulled out a piece of paper and read a list of his electoral achievements, including falsely asserting he won Georgia and the White House. Biden carried the state by 12,670 votes and won a record 81 million votes nationally.

A Trump supporter wears a hat that reads ‘Stop the Steal’ at the Valdosta rally. The slogan has become a rallying cry for Republicans unwilling to accept Biden’s victory in last month’s presidential election (Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)

Trump continued to reiterate his unsubstantiated claims of fraud, despite his own administration assessing the election to have been conducted without any major issues.

Chants of “Fight for Trump” drowned out the two senators as they briefly spoke to the crowd.

Georgia governor rebuffs Trump

Hours before the event, Trump asked Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in a phone call to order the legislative session to subvert the election results; the governor refused, according to a senior government official in Georgia with knowledge of the call who was not authorized to discuss the private conversation and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

A person close to the White House who was briefed on the matter verified that account of the call.

Kemp, in a tweet, said 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.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, pictured with Trump in March, refused the president’s request to order the legislative session to subvert the presidential election results. (Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)

Trump, though, vented his frustrations with Kemp on Twitter and at the rally.

“Your people are refusing to do what you ask,” he complained in a tweet, 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.”

At the rally, he took aim once again at Kemp, saying he could assure him victory “if he knew what the hell he was doing.”

Supporters are seen at the Valdosta rally ahead of Trump’s arrival. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Trump’s personal contact with the governor demonstrated he is intent on amplifying his conspiratorial and debunked theories of electoral fraud even as Georgia Republicans want him to turn his focus to the Jan. 5 runoff election and encourage their supporters to get out and vote.

They’re worried that Trump is stoking so much suspicion about Georgia elections that voters will think the system is rigged and decide to sit out the two races.

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 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.

Turnout key to run-off

But after two pro-Trump lawyers this past week questioned whether voting again is even worth it — in echoes of the president’s baseless accusations of widespread voter fraud — even Vice-President Mike Pence betrayed 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, Ga. “If you don’t vote, they win.”

Few Republicans in Washington or Georgia believe wide swaths of the electorate in this newfound battleground would opt out of voting because of Trump’s false claims or his denigration of the Georgia governor and secretary of state for certifying Biden’s victory in the state.

Melania Trump is seen at the Valdosta rally, where she introduce the president and encouraged Georgians to get out to vote. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

First lady Melania Trump made a rare political appearance to introduce the president, and encouraged Georgians to get out to vote.

“We must keep our seats in the Senate,” she said. “It’s more important than ever that you exercise your rights as a citizen and vote.”

The risk for Republicans is that it wouldn’t take much of a drop-off to matter if the runoffs are as close as the presidential contest. There’s enough noise to explain why Pence felt the need to confront the matter head on after two Trump loyalists floated the idea of the president’s supporters bailing on Perdue and Loeffler.

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.

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Georgia to release report on recount results in U.S. presidential election

Georgia election officials expect to release a report Thursday on a hand tally of the presidential race, and they have repeatedly said they expect it to affirm Democrat Joe Biden’s narrow lead over Republican President Donald Trump.

The hand tally of about 5 million votes stemmed from an audit required by a new state law and wasn’t in response to any suspected problems with the state’s results or an official recount request. The state has until Friday to certify results that have been certified and submitted by the counties.

The counties were supposed to finish the hand count by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. Gabriel Sterling, who oversaw the implementation of the state’s new voting system, said he expected the secretary of state’s office to put out a report on the results by midday Thursday.

Once the state certifies the election results, the losing campaign has two business days to request a recount if the margin remains within 0.5 per cent. That recount would be done using scanners that read and tally the votes and would be paid for by the counties, Sterling said.

It was up to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to select the race to be audited, and he said the presidential race made the most sense because of its significance and the tight margin separating the candidates. Because of that small margin, Raffensperger said a full hand recount was necessary.

Observers watch during a Cobb County hand recount of Presidential votes on Sunday. Election officials in Georgia have said they expect the recount report to affirm Democrat Joe Biden’s narrow lead over Republican President Donald Trump. (John Amis/Atlanta Journal & Constitution/The Associated Press)

Going into the hand tally, Biden led Trump by a margin of about 14,000 votes. Previously uncounted ballots discovered in four counties during the hand count will reduce that margin to about 12,800, Sterling said.

Other counties found slight differences in results as they did their hand counts, and state election officials had consistently said that was to be expected.

The Associated Press has not declared a winner in Georgia, where Biden led Trump by about 0.3 percentage points. There is no mandatory recount law in Georgia, but state law provides that option to a trailing candidate if the margin is less than 0.5 percentage points. It is AP’s practice not to call a race that is — or is likely to become — subject to a recount.

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Timberwolves select Georgia guard Anthony Edwards with No. 1 overall pick

Anthony Edwards was taken by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the No. 1 pick Wednesday night when the NBA draft was finally held after multiple delays.

Edwards became the 11th straight one-and-done player to be the No. 1 pick, coming in a year where there was no clear obvious choice. He averaged 19.1 points for the Bulldogs, tops among all freshman.

Commissioner Adam Silver announced the pick from ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. The draft was originally scheduled for June 25 before multiple delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic pushed it back out and out of its usual home at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Boxes of hats were shipped to the top prospects to put on the one they needed after their name was called.

Edwards watched while seated next to portraits of his late mother and grandmother. They both died of cancer.

WATCH | Timberwolves opt for Georgia’s Anthony Edwards with 1st pick:

Minnesota Timberwolves select Anthony Edwards as first overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft. Edwards was a shooting guard with the Georgia Bulldogs. 0:34

The Golden State Warriors, stung by the news that Klay Thompson sustained another leg injury earlier Wednesday, took Memphis centre James Wiseman with the second pick. They stumbled to the bottom of the league while Thompson missed the entire season with a torn ACL in his left knee.

The severity of his injury had not been revealed as the draft began but it didn’t persuade the Warriors to take another guard. Instead they went with the 7-foot-1 centre who arrived as the No. 1 recruit out of high school and averaged 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds in three games before he was suspended for eligibility reasons and eventually left the program to prepare for the draft.

LaMelo Ball then went to the Charlotte Hornets, the next stop on a lengthy basketball journey that sent the guard from high school in California to stops as a professional in Lithuania and Australia.

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CBC | Sports News