President Trump on Saturday stumped for Republican candidates in Georgia’s Senate runoff elections at a rally during which he repeatedly and falsely insisted that he won the Peach State and the 2020 election.
Trump spent much of the appearance in Valdosta, Ga., talking about his presidency and claiming that the election was “rigged” against him, as rally goers intermittently chanted “stop the steal.”
He urged voters to get to the polls to support Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who he briefly invited on stage, warning that Democrats were trying to “rig” the Senate elections against the GOP.
“You must go vote and vote early starting December 14. You have to do it. They cheated and they rigged our presidential election, but we will still win it. We will still win it. We’ll still win it. And they’re going to try and rig this election, too,” Trump told the crowd.
Trump also targeted Republicans leaders in the Peach State, including Gov. Brian Kemp, criticizing them for not upholding his own efforts to overturn the election results in Georgia.
Georgia is one of multiple swing states in which President-elect Joe Biden defeated Trump to win the presidential election.
Biden overtook Trump by a slim margin of less than 13,000 votes in Georgia. In addition, the state has conducted two recounts affirming Biden’s win, which certified its results more than two weeks ago.
Trump, however, has refused to concede the election and has repeatedly perpetuated unsubstantiated claims of widespread election fraud.
Election officials have disputed Trump’s claims and Attorney General William Barr told the Associated Press last week that the Justice Department has not found evidence of widespread fraud that would overturn the results of the election.
Trump and his campaign's legal efforts to challenge the results have thus far fallen flat, though he insisted on Saturday that his lawyers would take their case to the Supreme Court.
“This election was rigged, and we can’t let it happen to two of the greatest most respected people in Washington. We can’t let it happen again,” Trump told the crowd.
“Your governor could stop it very easily if he knew what the hell he was doing. He could stop it very easily,” Trump said. He claimed without evidence that “hundreds of thousands of illegal votes were cast in each state” and insisted falsely that poll watchers were “thrown out” of polling places in Pennsylvania.
Later, he insisted that Kemp “should be ashamed of himself.” At one point, Trump suggested that Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who unsuccessfully ran for Senate against Loeffler, could run for governor against Kemp, who is up for reelection in 2022.
Trump’s appearance in Georgia, which came two days before the deadline to register to vote in the runoff elections, represented his first rally since Election Day.
The Georgia Senate race will decide the control of the Senate, which is currently held by Republicans, and both parties are pouring tremendous energy and resources into the contest.
Loeffler will face her Democratic opponent Raphael Warnock and Perdue his Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff in the Jan. 5 runoffs. Obama participated in a virtual rally for Warnock and Ossoff on Friday and Biden signaled that he plans to visit the Peach State before the runoffs.
Republicans expressed concerns leading up to Saturday’s rally that Trump’s attacks on the voting process and Republican politicians in Georgia could hurt GOP efforts to retain the Senate seats by dividing the GOP and undermining confidence in elections. Trump’s performance Saturday evening is unlikely to assuage those concerns.
Democrats must win both races in order to deadlock the Senate at 50-50, where Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would serve as the tie-breaking vote. Trump said Saturday that a GOP loss in both races would cede the Senate majority to Democrats, with the president tacitly acknowledging the reality of Biden’s victory.
“At stake in this election is control of the Senate and that really means control of this country,” Trump said. “You will decide whether your children grow up in a socialist country or whether they grow up in a free country.”
Trump spent the earlier part of Saturday attacking Kemp on Twitter for not supporting his efforts to reverse the election results in the state.
The Washington Post reported that Trump called the governor Saturday to pressure him to call on the Georgia state legislature to overturn Biden’s victory and demand an audit of absentee ballot signatures.
Kemp, who alluded to the conversation in a tweet, declined Trump’s requests.
“Between Governor @DougDucey of Arizona and Governor @BrianKempGA of Georgia, the Democrat Party could not be happier. They fight harder against us than do the Radical Left Dems. If they were with us, we would have already won both Arizona and Georgia,” Trump tweeted before arriving in the Peach State on Saturday.
“We received more LEGAL votes by far. All I can do is run, campaign, and be a good (great!) President – it is 100% up to the states to manage the election. Republicans will NEVER forget this,” he tweeted.
Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Reffensperger (R), as well as Georgia Republican election official Gabriel Sterling, each issued stern warnings to Trump this past week to tone down his language and condemn threats against election officials amid his efforts to challenge the results.
Trump used a portion of his remarks to take credit for the swift development of coronavirus vaccines.
He also insisted the United States is “rounding the turn” on the coronavirus and pressured states and cities to loosen restrictions meant to curb the spread of the virus, despite cases surging to record levels across the country.
However, coronavirus infections in the U.S. are surging and Georgia itself set a record for daily coronavirus cases on Friday, reporting 5,023 new confirmed COVID-19 cases.