US president Donald Trump pressured an election official to overturn the results of the presidential election in Georgia in a last-ditch attempt to invalidate Joe Biden's election win.
Excerpts from Saturday's hour-long conversation – first reported by the Washington Post – reveal Mr Trump asking secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, to "find" 11,780 votes.
“There’s no way I lost Georgia,” Mr Trump can be heard saying. “There’s no way. We won by hundreds of thousands of votes.”
In fact, Mr Biden won the state by 12,000 votes.
“The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry,” Mr Trump said, according to an excert published online by the Post. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.”
“So look. 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.
With less than three weeks remaining of his presidency, Mr Trump is intensifying his efforts to invalidate the results of November’s election ahead of a key week in Washington.
On Wednesday, vice-president Mike Pence will preside over a joint session of Congress during which the election results will be certified. But in an extraordinary development, several senior Republicans have said they will reject the election results from several states won by Mr Biden.
At least 12 of the Senate's 51 Republican members and senators-elect, including Texas senator Ted Cruz and Missouri's Josh Hawley, announced they will contest the certification process, eliciting plaudits from Mr Trump on Twitter. More than 100 of the Republican members of the House of Representatives may also challenge the result.
While the mathematics of Congress makes it highly unlikely that their efforts will succeed – enough Republicans have indicated they will vote to uphold Mr Biden’s victory – the move indicates the power Mr Trump continues to exert over his party even as his presidency draws to a close.
Wednesday’ joint session of Congress, presided over by the vice-president, is usually a procedural affair but the decision by Republicans to undermine the result will set up hours of acrimonious debate. It also puts vice-president Mike Pence in an uncomfortable position. While constitutionally he must announce the results, he has said he supports his colleagues’ efforts to “raise objections” on January 6th.
The move to block certification of the result also presents a challenge to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s authority. The Kentucky senator has already said that Mr Biden has won the election and encouraged his caucus to accept the result when it goes to a vote on Wednesday.
The issue also threatens to divide the Republican party. Republican senator Mitt Romney criticised his colleagues for disputing the results. "The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our democratic Republic," he said. "I could never have imagined seeing these things in the greatest democracy in the world. Has ambition so eclipsed principle?"
Mr Trump has encouraged supporters to travel to Washington on Wednesday for a “Stop the Steal” protest to demonstrate against the election results, prompting fears of unrest in the capital.
Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi was poised to be re-elected as speaker of the House on Sunday as the new Congress convened, despite presiding over a much-reduced Democratic majority
Both Mr Trump and Mr Biden will travel to Georgia on Monday to campaign ahead of Tuesday’s Senate run-off races, which will determine which party controls the Senate.
You can find the Washington Post post audio here