Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Sen. Lindsey Graham
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a key ally of President Donald Trump, is denying this week that he asked Georgia’s secretary of state about ways to throw out legally cast ballots after Joe Biden narrowly triumphed there.
Georgia, which Trump lost to Biden by about 14,000 votes, is undergoing a hand recount before it certifies its results later this week.
Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state and the top official overseeing Georgia's elections, said in an interview with The Washington Post published Monday that he has been facing pressure from some GOP lawmakers — including a recent phone call from Graham — to find ways to exclude legally cast votes.
“In their conversation, Graham questioned Raffensperger about the state’s signature-matching law and whether political bias could have prompted poll workers to accept ballots with nonmatching signatures,” the newspaper reported Raffensperger told them.
“Graham also asked whether Raffensperger had the power to toss all mail ballots in counties found to have higher rates of nonmatching signatures, Raffensperger said,” according to the Post.
Nathan Posner/Shutterstock Brad Raffensperger
The South Carolina senator denied that interpretation of the conversation when asked Monday, telling reporters on Capitol Hill that Raffensperger’s understanding of their chat was “ridiculous,” The Huffington Post reported.
“If he feels threatened by that conversation, he’s got a problem,” Graham, 65, said. “I actually thought it was a good conversation.”
Elsewhere, Graham told reporters that he had been speaking with officials in certain key states where Trump lost to Biden, including Arizona. Graham said he talked with Gov. Doug Ducey. (Trump lost Arizona to Biden by about 10,000 votes.)
Graham's disputed conversation with Raffensperger comes as the 65-year-old lifelong conservative told the Post he and his family are facing intense pressure surrounding the state’s 2020 election recount — including death threats.
President Trump, 74, has refused to concede that he lost to Biden, some two weeks after the general election, and he has attacked the country’s election process without providing proof of the fraud he says means the results should be tossed out. This despite U.S. officials and one national security agency saying the Nov. 3 contest was the “most secure in American history.”
Trump's position, even as Biden moves forward with a transition team preparing to take office in January, has put Republicans at odds with one another.
Some, like Raffensperger, have defended the election and said they did not find the kind of wrongdoing Trump alleges. Others, like Georgia Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue (who will be up for re-election in January), sided with Trump and said Raffensperger should resign.
Brynn Anderson/AP/Shutterstock Brad Raffensperger
ERIK S LESSER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Voters cast their ballot in Georgia earlier this year.
Raffensperger told the Post that the state’s hand recount will only “affirm” its original results.
Still, the Georgia secretary of state says Republican lawmakers have been among those pressuring him to find a way to make Trump the winner — including the call from Graham.
Speaking with CBS News on Tuesday, Raffensperger said he got off the phone with Graham after the lawmaker appeared to make suggestions about ways to throw out votes by finding legal loopholes. Raffensperger said he didn’t want to “re-engage” with the senator after that.
“When it went down this other path, I think the best thing was to disengage and just move forward,” he said on CBS, defending both his and his state’s integrity surrounding the election.
“Right now, people have really inflamed emotions,” Raffensperger said. “I think eventually when people come to accept the hard fact that this is what the results are — and as a Republican, I wish the results would go another way — but I think at the end of the day what you’re going to see is this audit is going to verify what the machines counted.”