If Trump could successfully pressure Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to de-certify Biden’s narrow win in Georgia, that would lead to a domino effect: Officials in Pennsylvania and Michigan would follow suit and overturn Biden’s electoral victory, Trump believed, a stunning reversal that could keep him in the White House for a second term.
And Trump was certain he could subvert the election outcome, telling McConnell, then the Senate majority leader, and other top Republicans that he had personally been on the phone with officials in Pennsylvania and Michigan — and they told him they would move to keep him in power, despite the results showing Biden had won their states.
“I’ve been calling folks in those states and they’re with us,” Trump is reported to have told the Senate GOP leaders in a private December 2020 phone call, according to a soon-to-be-released book by New York Times political reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, both CNN political analysts.
An excerpt of the book, provided to CNN, also underscores the difficult political spot in which Trump’s conspiracies left McConnell, who was hoping to shift the focus away from the 2020 election and instead put the weight of the party behind the races for two Senate seats in Georgia, both of which were headed to January 2021 runoffs and would determine the next Senate majority. McConnell maintained a strategic silence over Trump’s lies in an attempt to prevent him from sabotaging the GOP’s chances ahead of the runoffs, the book said.
“We’ve got to stay focused on Georgia,” McConnell said to his colleagues right after they got off the phone with Trump in December 2020.
A McConnell spokesman declined to comment. A Trump spokesman did not dispute the account and said the former President has been consistent in his belief about widespread fraud in the 2020 election, though there’s been no evidence to support that claim.
“President Trump has been clear and consistent about the indisputable evidence of fraud in the 2020 presidential election and the need to hold those criminals accountable,” said Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich.
The phone call was one of the final conversations McConnell had with Trump. Their relationship that effectively ended after McConnell went to the Senate floor on December 15, 2020, and acknowledged Biden’s victory following states’ certification of the electoral results. The two haven’t spoken since, the GOP leader’s aides have told CNN, and the tension has only grown since McConnell pointedly blamed Trump for the Capitol attack, even as he voted to acquit the former President in his second impeachment trial last year.
McConnell bashes ‘clowns’ around Trump
But in the days before the mid-December speech, McConnell avoided any criticism of Trump’s “stolen” and “rigged” election claims, even as he was privately scoffing at the then-President.
Speaking to reporters in an ornate room just off the Senate floor on December 1, 2020, McConnell was asked by CNN why he had been quiet about Trump’s claims given the GOP leader’s long-standing concerns over electoral integrity.
“As I’ve said repeatedly we have this government for…