Georgia official: Trump call to ‘find’ votes was a threat

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Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger discusses his new book, “Integrity Counts,” during an interview on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, in Atlanta. In the book, Raffenseperger speaks out against former President Donald Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)

ATLANTA (AP) — Donald Trump was threatening Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger when he asked him to help “find” enough votes to overturn his loss in Georgia to Democratic President Joe Biden, Raffensperger writes in a new book.

The book, “Integrity Counts,” was released Tuesday. In it, Raffensperger depicts a man who defied pressure from Trump to alter election results, but also reveals a public official settling political scores as he seeks to survive a hostile Republican primary environment and win reelection in 2022.

An engineer who grew wealthy before running for office, Raffensperger recounts in his book the struggle in Georgia that followed Biden’s narrow victory, including death threats texted to his wife, an encounter with men who he says may have been staking out his suburban Atlanta home, and being escorted out of the Georgia capitol on Jan. 6 as a handful of right-wing protesters entered the building on the same day many more protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol.

The book climaxes with the phone call, which was recorded and then given to multiple news organizations. Raffensperger — known as a conservative Republican before Trump targeted him — writes that he perceived Trump as threatening him multiple times during the phone call.

“I felt then — and still believe today — that this was a threat,” Raffensperger writes. “Others obviously thought so, too, because some of Trump’s more radical followers have responded as if it was their duty to carry out this threat.”

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is investigatingpotential attempts to improperly influence Georgia’s 2020 election. Raffensperger said in an interview with The Associated Press that Willis’ investigators have talked to some employees in his office, but that he hasn’t been interviewed.

“They’ve talked to some of our folks here. We sent all the documents and she can now buy the book online,” Raffensperger said of Willis.

Jeff DiSantis, a spokesperson for Willis, said the investigation is ongoing.

“Any relevant information is part of the investigation, whether it’s a book, testimony in a congressional committee or information we gather ourselves,” he said.

Spokespersons for Trump didn’t immediately respond to emails and a phone call seeking comment Monday.

Raffensperger takes aim at Republicans who have attacked him, arguing they are damaging the GOP.

“When you eat your young and you go after people in your own party who are loyal, traditional Republicans, you are destroying our future as a party,” Raffensperger writes.

He blames a defeat that wounded Trump’s ego, writing, “You believe in your heart that you did a good job, and if you never lack self doubt, it must be doubly debilitating — and confusing. Instead of accepting defeat, you look for scapegoats, shift blame, or seek alternative theories.”

Raffensperger said the book is meant to lay out the facts debunking claims that Georgia’s election results were fraudulent. “I knew we had the facts and I knew over time the truth would be revealed and believed,” he writes.

The author also repeatedly takes aim at prominent Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, who has argued that the state obstructs voting. Raffensperger argues that Abrams shirked her “distinct obligation to avoid slandering our electoral system” when she acknowledged but refused to concede her narrow 2018 gubernatorial loss to Republican Brian Kemp.

Raffensperger writes that “the corrosive effects of such lies are spreading still,” and argues that Abrams and other Democrats share “an all-too-bipartisan willingness to undermine the integrity of our democracy.”

Abrams has repeatedly rejected Raffensperger’s comparison, saying her complaints were over voters whom Republicans removed from the rolls. Few Georgia Democrats today dispute that Kemp is the legitimate governor and none have resorted to violence.

The book checks some other boxes for a Raffensperger reelection run. He defends at length a legal settlement that set standards for how mail-in ballot signatures were verified. Many Republicans claimed without proof that the change allowed fraudulent absentee ballots.

Raffensperger also takes shots at U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, a Trump-endorsed opponent in Georgia’s 2022 Republican primary for secretary of state, saying Hice showed little interest in election administration before 2020.

“Ironically, Hice accepted the results of his own race, which he won, but objected to the results of the presidential race,” Raffensperger writes. “Same voters. Same ballots. One, presumably, was honest. The other was ‘faulty and fraudulent.’ He’s a double-minded person. How can you hold two opposing views at one time?”

Raffensperger also insists that election fraud is not systemic, writing, “Our elections are both fairer and more secure than they have been at any point in our history.”

But he does think voters need to choose officials with more integrity, as conveyed by the book’s title.

“If we don’t have people of the highest character run for elective office, we will continue to fight disinformation, misinformation and outright deception, and the end result will be an erosion of public trust,” Raffensperger writes. “We need the people who hold public office to continually strive for the noble causes in life with noble behavior.”

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Associated Press writer Kate Brumback contributed to this report.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.

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