July 25, 2021

Lindsey Graham’s controversial call with Georgia’s secretary of state, explained

President Donald Trump is trying to overturn the results of the presidential election through lawsuits and bluster. And amid all this, a question has arisen about whether Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of his close allies, tried to get Georgia’s secretary of state to throw out vast numbers of legally cast mail ballots — something that could theoretically flip a state Joe Biden won to Trump.

The Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, claims Graham came close to doing this in a call with him on Friday. He says Graham asked whether he had the power to throw out all mail ballots in counties where there were relatively high rates of rejection of mail ballots because their signatures did not match voters’ signatures on file.

“It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road,” Raffensperger told the Washington Post’s Amy Gardner.

If Raffensperger’s interpretation of Graham’s meaning is accurate, it would be a boldfaced, undemocratic attempt from a Trump ally to overturn the election results. And some Democrats, like Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), are calling on the Justice Department to investigate Graham’s actions.

For his part, Graham — a onetime Trump critic who has become one of the president’s staunchest supporters — told Gardner he was just asking questions, worried about fraud, and trying to find out how Georgia verified mail ballots were legitimate. (Graham later said he made a similar call to the governor of Arizona and unnamed other officials.)

But another Georgia official on the call, Gabe Sterling, confirmed Tuesday that the conversation did indeed entail a discussion of whether Raffensperger could discard all ballots from counties with high signature rejection rates. Sterling also said, however, that he could see why Raffensperger and Graham may have interpreted the conversation differently.

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