Trump pressured Georgia’s secretary of state to ‘find’ votes – US politics live

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Trump speaks at Georgia rally ahead of runoff elections – as it happened” was written by Lois Beckett (now), Joan E Greve and Oliver Holmes (earlier), for theguardian.com on Tuesday 5th January 2021 03.30 UTC

3.26am GMT

Evening summary

We’re wrapping up our live US politics coverage for tonight, but you can continue to follow our live global coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.

Some updated highlights from today’s political news:

  • At a Georgia GOP rally the night before a closely contested senate runoff election, Donald Trump continued to recite debunked claims about election fraud and claim that he should have won the state of Georgia, and the 2020 presidential election overall. While the rally was meant to convince Georgia Republicans to go to the polls to elect Republican senators, Trump continued to cast doubt on the legitimacy of November’s election results and on the trustworthiness of Georgia’s current election officials.
  • Trump also used the Georgia rally to rail against anyone who had refused to endorse conspiracy theories about his supposed election victory, from the US supreme court to Georgia’s Republican secretary of state and governor. He pressured vice-president Mike Pence to use his ceremonial role later this week to contest the results of the election, and invited Marjorie Taylor Greene, the first QAnon conspiracy theorist elected to congress, on stage with him.
  • In his own speech to Democrats in Georgia earlier on Monday, President-elect Joe Biden said that Georgia voters could secure ,000 stimulus checks for all Americans if they elected the two Democratic senators, and said of Trump, I don’t know why he still wants the job. He doesn’t want to do the work.”
  • DC police arrested Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio on property damage charges related to his admission that he helped burn a Black Lives Matter banner torn from a historically black church. The leader of the violent far-right group had been helping to organize what is expected to be a volatile right-wing demonstration in DC on 6 January. supporting Trump’s false claims about election fraud.
  • A top Georgia election official denounced Donald Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud as “provably false”. During a press conference this afternoon, Gabriel Sterling refuted Trump’s allegations point by point and pleaded with Georgians to vote in tomorrow’s Senate runoff races, which will determine control of the chamber. “Do not self-suppress your own vote,” Sterling said.
  • Brad Raffensperger acknowledged Trump may face an investigation from the Fulton county district attorney’s office, after the president demanded that the Georgia secretary of state “find” enough votes to throw the state to him. Joe Biden won Georgia by nearly 12,000 votes.
  • Two House Democrats called on the FBI to investigate the call. The two lawmakers, Ted Lieu of California and Kathleen Rice of New York, wrote in a letter to FBI director Christopher Wray, “The evidence of election fraud by Mr Trump is now in broad daylight.”
  • Trump awarded the presidential medal of freedom to Devin Nunes, one of his fiercest defenders in Congress amid the Russia investigation. Nunes has been frequently criticized for spreading conspiracy theories about the 2016 election and downplaying findings from the US intelligence community.
  • Almost 200 business leaders urged Congress to certify Biden’s victory in the presidential election. In a letter obtained by the Washington Post, the business leaders said, “The presidential election has been decided and it is time for the country to move forward.” The letter comes as some Republican lawmakers have said they plan to object to Congress’ electoral vote count on Wednesday.

Updated at 3.30am GMT

2.58am GMT

Trump asks QAnon congresswoman to join him onstage at Georgia rally

Marjorie Taylor Greene won a Georgia congressional race this November despite her record of racist and bigoted statements and her support of QAnon, a baseless conspiracy theory rooted in antisemitic tropes whose followers believe Donald Trump is secretly fighting against a cabal of Democrats, billionaires and celebrities engaged in child abuse.

She is the first adherent of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which has been linked to repeated violent incidents and labeled a potential domestic terrorism threat, to be elected to Congress. Her campaign attracted support from Republican leaders.

At his rally in Georgia tonight, Trump asked Greene to join him onstage and address the crowd.

“I love her,” Trump said. “Come up here. Don’t mess with her, don’t mess with her.”

2.49am GMT

Trump spends rally for Republican senate candidates complaining about his election

The president flew to Georgia to rally voters to turn out for Republican senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who are facing off against Democratic candidates in a high-stakes runoff election tomorrow, but he had a lot of other complaints to voice first.

Donald Trump is finally talking about why voters should support Loeffler and Perdue, and oppose their “radical” Democratic opponents, after a long digression to complain about all of the people who have failed to assist him in his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost, from Georgia’s Republican secretary of state to the US supreme court.

Trump also pledged to come back to Georgia in a year and a half to campaign against Georgia’s Republican governor and Republican secretary of state, who have both refused to give into the president’s pressure to deny the state’s election results and name Trump the winner instead.

2.39am GMT

Trump bashes the supreme court, which ‘has let us down … so far’

Speaking to Republican voters in Georgia before the senate runoff there, Donald Trump criticized the US supreme court for not overturning the results of the 2020 election in his favor.

“The supreme court has let us down,” Trump said, then added, “So far. Who knows? Maybe they’ll come back.”

Trump said the nine supreme court justices might regret their choice if Democrats were able to add additional justices to the supreme court, which currently has a conservative majority, with three extremely right-wing justices appointed by Trump himself.

Updated at 2.50am GMT

2.34am GMT

Trump pressures Pence not to certify the election results

On Wednesday, Trump’s vice-president Mike Pence is scheduled to preside over what is typically a symbolic, televised certification of the electoral college vote in Congress, reiterating that Joe Biden won the presidential election.

But Trump, speaking to Republican voters in Georgia, suggested that Pence should turn that ceremonial role into a substantive rejection of the outcome of the election, which Trump refuses to admit that he lost.

It’s not the first time that Trump has floated the idea that Pence needs to reject the will of American voters and act out of loyalty to him to contest the election results, as the New York Times reported.

“Mr Trump himself has retweeted supporters referring to the ’Pence Card theory’, which claims, inaccurately, that the vice-president has the power to reject the certified election results, and calling on Mr Pence to do so,” the New York Times reported.

Updated at 2.41am GMT

2.19am GMT

Trump: Democrats are ‘not taking this White House. We’re going to fight like hell.’

Speaking at a rally in Dalton, Georgia, ahead of the runoff elections there to determine the control of the Senate, Donald Trump continued to deny that he lost the presidential election and to recite debunked claims about election fraud.

“They’re not taking this White House,” Trump said of Democrats. “We’re going to fight like hell.”

Updated at 2.24am GMT

2.15am GMT

Trump is now speaking at a Republican rally in Georgia for tomorrow’s runoff election

2.09am GMT

Kamala Harris: ‘We’re going to be inaugurated. Period.’

As Donald Trump continues to contest his loss in the 2020 presidential election with conspiracy theories and baseless allegations of fraud, vice president-elect Kamala Harris made a blunt comment earlier on Monday:

1.59am GMT

A White House response to Biden saying Trump ‘doesn’t want to do the work’?

Several journalists are flagging the phrasing of the president’s official schedule for Tuesday, which was released hours after Joe Biden said of Trump, “I don’t know why he still wants the job. He doesn’t want to do the work.”

Updated at 2.07am GMT

1.46am GMT

Georgia GOP election rally still waiting for Trump to arrive

At a Republican rally in Dalton, Georgia, to get out the vote for the crucial senate runoff election tomorrow, nothing much is happening, as supporters wait for Donald Trump to arrive.

1.12am GMT

Donald Trump Jr. calls Democratic senate candidates “commie bastards”

Speaking at a Republican rally in Georgia, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr called Democratic candidates for Senate Jon Ossoff and the Rev Raphael Warnock “radical leftist socialist commie bastards”.

Updated at 1.24am GMT

1.05am GMT

Trump Jr to speak at Georgia rally in advance of high-stakes runoff election

Donald Trump is scheduled to speak tonight at a rally to support Republican senate candidates in Georgia. The president departed Washington about an hour ago. In the meantime, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr, is speaking to the crowd, telling them that two Republican senators from Georgia would be crucial to blocking the Democrats’ “radical agenda”.

Updated at 1.25am GMT

12.59am GMT

Warnock: Trump ‘spent an hour on the phone in the middle of a pandemic’

In the final day before a Georgia runoff election that will determine the control of the US senate, some Democrats are criticizing Donald Trump’s continuing efforts to overturn his loss in the 2020 election as simply a selfish move by a president who is no longer doing useful work for the American people.

That was the approach president-elect Joe Biden took in a Georgia speech, when he slammed Trump, saying “I don’t know why he still wants the job. He doesn’t want to do the work.”

Raphael Warnock, one of the two Democratic senate candidates in Georgia, made a similar comment about Trump, saying that “he spent an hour on the phone in the middle of a pandemic.”

12.31am GMT

Washington police statement on arrest of Proud Boy leader Enrique Tarrio

Here’s the full statement from the Washington DC metropolitan police department on the arrest of a leader of a violent far-right group who was helping to organize a volatile pro-Trump rally in DC on Wednesday focused on claims that Trump did not actually lose the presidential election.

Today, January 4, 2021, upon entering the District of Columbia and pursuant to a DC Superior Court Arrest Warrant, MPD members arrested 36 year-old Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, of Miami, FL. He was charged with Destruction of Property related to an offense that occurred on Saturday, December 12, 2020 in the 900 block of 11th Street, Northwest. At the time of his arrest, he was found to be in possession of two high capacity firearm magazines. He was additionally charged with Possession of High Capacity Feeding Device.

Updated at 1.26am GMT

12.27am GMT

Axios: Dominion Voting Systems says it will sue attorney Sidney Powell ‘imminently’

One of the major targets of misinformation about the results of the 2020 election, a company that makes voting machines, is planning to sue attorney Sidney Powell for defamation, and is contemplating suing Donald Trump, as well, the Dominion Voting Systems CEO told Axios.

In his leaked call with Georgia election officials, Trump called the company “corrupt,” Axios noted.

11.25pm GMT

Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio arrested in DC

Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, a violent far-right, pro-Trump group known for street brawling, was arrested today in Washington, DC, and charged with destruction of property and a firearms offense, according to local police.

Tarrio’s arrest comes days before planned pro-Trump protests in Washington on Wednesday, organized by the Proud Boys and other right-wing activists who falsely allege election fraud and who want to overturn the results of the presidential election in Trump’s favor.

The Proud Boys leader was arrested on property destruction charges related to his admitted role in burning a Black Lives Matter banner torn down from a historic Black church during a previous pro-Trump protest in Washington on 12 December, which DC police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said they had been investigating as a potential hate crime. Police said Tarrio, who lives in Miami, Florida, was arrested after his arrival in the District of Columbia today.

DC police said Tarrio had also been charged with possessing two high-capacity ammunition magazines, which were found in his possession when he was arrested. The District of Columbia, which has some of the strictest firearms laws in the nation, bans the possession of firearm magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

Less than three weeks before Joe Biden will be sworn in as president, Trump has been encouraging supporters to continue to protest over the results of an election he refuses to admit he lost, including what he said would be a “BIG protest rally” on 6 January. in Washington, which experts who monitor extremist groups said they feared would bring more chaos and violence to the US capital, including renewed violent attacks by the Proud Boys on left-wing counter-protesters, the Washington Post reported.

A journalist who was on the phone with Tarrio earlier this afternoon said he heard sirens in the background and that, when the call eneded suspected that Tarrio had been arrested.

During a presidential debate in September, Trump was asked to condemn the Proud Boys, and other violent rightwing groups linked to white supremacy, and instead told the group to “stand back and stand by”, because “somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.”

Tarrio’s arrest was first confirmed by the New York Times.

Updated at 12.27am GMT

10.40pm GMT

Florida journalists help confused residents schedule coronavirus vaccines online

In Florida, two reporters for the Tallahassee Democrat wrote on social media today that they have been helping confused residents schedule coronavirus vaccines online.

Journalist Jim Rosica first highlighted a post from one of his colleagues, CD Davidson-Hiers, who wrote that she was working on responding to 75 text messages and more voicemails asking about help scheduling vaccine appointments online.

“I will do my best to get back to you,” she wrote. “NOTE: I am NOT a health/care official. I am a newspaper reporter.”

Rosica added about an hour later that he himself had helped an elderly couple set up an online appointment.

The 87-year-old man Rosica had assisted had told him that he called the local newspaper because “I didn’t know what else to do, I called everybody. You’re the first to call back.”

“If people are calling us to get a vaccine appointment, there’s something wrong,” Rosica tweeted.

Updated at 11.03pm GMT

10.27pm GMT

Biden on Trump: ‘I don’t know why he still wants the job. He doesn’t want to do the work.’

A day after a recording of Donald Trump pressuring Georgia officials to “find” enough votes to overturn the election results in Georgia in his favor was made public, President-elect Joe Biden said it did not make sense why Trump still wanted to stay in the White House, since he did not seem to want to do the work of being president.

This pointed criticism was Biden’s only response, during a speech this afternoon in Georgia, to an unfolding news story that has prompted Congressional Democrats to ask the FBI to open a criminal investigation into Trump’s attempt to pressure Georgia officials into changing the results of an election.

As other Democrats have suggested criminal charges or impeachment would be the most appropriate response to Trump’s attempt to bluster and beg Georgia officials to declare him the winner of an election he lost, Biden has again chosen not to amplify Trump’s attacks on the legitimacy of the presidential election.

Updated at 11.09pm GMT

10.08pm GMT

Biden in Georgia: ‘It’s time to start rewarding work and not wealth’

In a brief, now-concluded speech in Georgia ahead of the runoff elections there tomorrow, Joe Biden made the case for Democratic senate candidates by saying that Democrats will pass legislation to offer k stimulus checks to all Americans to help them get through the next months of the coronavirus pandemic, and by criticizing the wealth of Republican senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

He also criticized the Republican senators’ loyalty to Trump, rather than the constitution.

He reminded listeners to keep working on get-out-the-vote efforts, even though he acknowledged that many were likely exhausted by an intense runoff election that bombarded Georgia voters with tens of millions of dollars in paid campaign advertising, and that has already resulted in a historic 3m votes cast during the early voting period.

As my colleague Lauren Gambino noted earlier today, Biden was the first Democratic presidential nominee in nearly three decades to win Georgia, where changing demographics and a political realignment across the Atlanta suburbs have turned this once reliably Republican southern state into a presidential battleground.

Updated at 10.11pm GMT

9.57pm GMT

Biden in Georgia: Elect Democrats to approve k stimulus checks

This is Lois Beckett, picking up our live US politics coverage from our west coast bureau in Los Angeles.

Joe Biden is speaking now in Georgia ahead of the runoff election tomorrow that will determine whether Republicans or Democrats control the US senate, and whether Republicans will be have the power to block much of the Biden administration’s agenda.

The president-elect opened by tying the election of Georgia’s two Democratic senate candidates, Jon Ossoff and Rev Raphael Warnock to the passage of coronavirus relief measures that many Americans desperately need.

Updated at 11.04pm GMT

9.30pm GMT

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Lois Beckett, will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • A top Georgia election official denounced Donald Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud as “provably false.” During a press conference this afternoon, Gabriel Sterling refuted Trump’s allegations point by point and pleaded with Georgians to vote in tomorrow’s Senate runoff races, which will determine control of the chamber. “Do not self-suppress your own vote,” Sterling said.
  • Brad Raffensperger acknowledged Trump may face an investigation from the Fulton county district attorney’s office, after the president demanded that the Georgia secretary of state “find” enough votes to throw the state to him. Joe Biden won Georgia by nearly 12,000 votes.
  • Two House Democrats called on the FBI to investigate the call. The two lawmakers, Ted Lieu of California and Kathleen Rice of New York, wrote in a letter to FBI director Christopher Wray, “The evidence of election fraud by Mr Trump is now in broad daylight.”
  • Trump awarded the presidential medal of freedom to Devin Nunes, one of his fiercest defenders in Congress amid the Russia investigation. Nunes has been frequently criticized for spreading conspiracy theories about the 2016 election and downplaying findings from the US intelligence community.
  • Almost 200 business leaders urged Congress to certify Biden’s victory in the presidential election. In a letter obtained by the Washington Post, the business leaders said, “The presidential election has been decided and it is time for the country to move forward.” The letter comes as some Republican lawmakers have said they plan to object to Congress’ electoral vote count on Wednesday.

Lois will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Updated at 9.42pm GMT

9.14pm GMT

In a bonus episode of the Guardian’s Politics Weekly podcast, Jonathan Freedland and David Smith discussed Donald Trump’s call with Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state.

Smith, the Guardian’s Washington bureau chief, joined the call from Georgia, as the state prepares for tomorrow’s Senate runoff races, which will determine control of the chamber.

9.02pm GMT

Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, said his office made the audio of his phone call with Donald Trump public because the president spread baseless claims about the conversation.

In an interview with local NBC affiliate 11Alive News, Raffensperger said he considered the call to be a “private conversation” and would not have shared details of it if the president had not sent a false tweet about it.

“If President Trump wouldn’t have tweeted out anything and would’ve stayed silent, we would’ve stayed silent as well,” Raffensperger said. “If you’re going to put out stuff that we don’t believe is true, then we will respond in kind.”

A day after the call, Trump said in a tweet that Raffensperger was “unwilling, or unable, to answer questions” about the president’s baseless claims of widespread fraud in the November election.

Raffensperger replied in another tweet, saying, “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out.”

8.42pm GMT

Gabriel Sterling has now concluded his press conference, after refuting Donald Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud point by point.

The Republican official made clear there is absolutely no basis to the claims that Trump raised during his weekend call with Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state.

“This is all easily, provably false,” Sterling said. “Yet, the president persists and by doing so undermines Georgians’ faith in the elections system, especially Republican Georgians in this case.”

Sterling pleaded with Georgians to vote in tomorrow’s runoff races, urging them to ignore the president’s baseless claims.

“Do not self-suppress your own vote,” Sterling said. “Do not make a self-fulfilling prophecy out of doing this. Don’t let anybody steal your vote that way. And that’s what’s happening.”

8.36pm GMT

Gabriel Sterling said he “screamed in my car at the radio” when he heard the audio of Donald Trump’s call with Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state.

In the call, Trump demanded that Raffensperger “find” enough votes to flip Georgia, which Joe Biden won by nearly 12,000 votes.

Asked by a reporter whether there had been any conversations about investigating the president over the call, Sterling said he was not aware of such conversations.

8.29pm GMT

Gabriel Sterling came to this press conference armed with props. The Republican official is going through Donald Trump’s baseless claims of widespread election fraud while standing next to a large poster detailing his fact-check.

8.23pm GMT

Gabriel Sterling, a senior Republican official in the Georgia secretary of state office, is basically going through every one of Donald Trump’s false fraud claims and refuting each one point by point.

Sterling joked that it was “anti-disinformation Monday,” as he pushed back against the president’s baseless fraud claims a day before the state’s Senate runoff races.

“There are people in positions of authority and respect who have said their votes didn’t count, and it’s not true,” Sterling said.

“It’s Whac-A-Mole again, it is Groundhog Day again,” Sterling added. “I’m going to do it again one last time.”

8.16pm GMT

Georgia elections offical refutes Trump’s fraud claims before runoff races

Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager in the Georgia secretary of state’s office, is now holding a press conference at the state capitol.

Speaking one day before the state’s pivotal Senate runoff races, Sterling encouraged every Georgian to vote and again denounced Donald Trump’s baseless claims of widespread fraud in the November election.

“The secretary wants me to make clear: everybody’s voice is going to count. Everybody’s vote did count,” Sterling said.

Sterling argued that those refusing to vote in the runoff races because of Trump’s claims are being “self-destructive.”

“Everybody who cares about the future of this nation should turn out and vote,” Sterling said. “Every person, every vote matters.”

8.07pm GMT

Pat Toomey, a Republican senator from Pennsylvania, criticized Donald Trump over his phone call with Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state.

“President Trump’s call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger represents a new low in this whole futile and sorry episode,” Toomey said in a statement.

“I commend Republican election officials across the country who have discharged their duties with integrity over the past two months while weathering relentless pressure, disinformation, and attacks from the president and his campaign.”

In the phone call, Trump demanded that Raffensperger “find” enough votes to flip the state, which Joe Biden won by nearly 12,000 votes in November.

7.44pm GMT

Joe Biden is now en route to Atlanta, Georgia, where the president-elect will hold a campaign event for Democratic Senate candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

Joe Biden arrives to board his plane en route to Atlanta, Georgia.
Joe Biden arrives to board his plane en route to Atlanta, Georgia.
Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/AP

Biden’s visit comes a day before Georgia’s two Senate runoff races, which will determine control of the chamber and, by extension, greatly impact how much of his agenda he will be able to enact over the next two years.

7.27pm GMT

Almost 200 business leaders urge Congress to certify Biden’s victory

Almost 200 business leaders are calling on Congress to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential race, despite some Republicans’ plans to object to the electoral vote count.

The Washington Post reports:

The letter marked the business community’s most significant push yet to ensure President Trump’s efforts to overturn the November election are unsuccessful. Signers included a wide array of executives of Fortune 500 companies, from the leaders of banks, airlines, investment firms, pharmaceutical companies, professional sports leagues, real estate conglomerates, top law firms and media companies.

‘The presidential election has been decided and it is time for the country to move forward,’ the letter reviewed by The Washington Post said. ‘ … The incoming Biden administration faces the urgent tasks of defeating covid-19 and restoring the livelihoods of millions of Americans who have lost jobs and businesses during the pandemic.’

Many of the leaders have previously been wary of getting publicly involved in politics, and some have been supportive of the president. Kathryn Wylde, the president and chief executive of the Partnership for New York City, which organized the letter, said questioning the national election was causing long-term damage to the country and that important issues such as vaccine distribution and high unemployment needed more focus.

Congress is scheduled to certify Biden’s victory on Wednesday, following a formal count of electoral college votes. Some Republicans have said they will object to the count, citing Trump’s baseless allegations of widespread fraud in the election.

7.10pm GMT

Perdue bought bank stocks after meeting financial officials

The Guardian’s Stephanie Kirchgaessner reports:

David Perdue, the Georgia Republican facing a Senate runoff election on Tuesday, has twice bought a significant number of shares in a US bank shortly after meeting with financial policy makers, raising more questions about his prolific stock trading while in office.

In one case, in May 2015, Perdue bought between ,000 and ,000 worth of shares in Regions Financial Corporation two days after a 10-minute phone call with then treasury secretary Jack Lew.

Perdue bought additional shares in the bank two years later, on 18 May 2017, two days after a half-hour meeting with then Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen.

It is not clear in either case if Perdue discussed relevant financial regulation or other market-sensitive issues with Lew or Yellen or whether the discussions influenced his decision to buy the stock.

John Burke, Perdue’s communications director, has said that Perdue does not handle day-to-day decisions about his portfolio, which Perdue claimed is managed by outside financial advisers.

6.55pm GMT

DC mayor Muriel Bowser urged residents to avoid downtown in the next couple of days, as the city prepares for pro-Trump demonstrations in connection to Congress’ electoral vote count on Wednesday.

The Democratic mayor said at a press conference today, “We will not allow people to incite violence, intimidate our residents or cause destruction in our city.”

The AP has more details on the city’s preparations:

[Bowser] urged calm Monday as some 340 National Guard troops were being activated while the city prepared for potentially violent protests surrounding Congress’ expected vote to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

According to a U.S. defense official, [Bowser] put in a request on New Year’s Eve to have Guard members on the streets from Jan. 5-7th, to help with the protests. The official said the D.C. National Guard members will be used for traffic control and other assistance but they will not be armed or wearing body armor. …

The defense official said that there will be no active duty military troops in the city, and the U.S. military will not be providing any aircraft or intelligence. The D.C. Guard will provide specialized teams that will be prepared to respond to any chemical or biological incident. But the official said there will be no D.C. Guard members on the National Mall or at the U.S. Capitol.

6.40pm GMT

It seems Devin Nunes has already received the presidential medal of freedom, in a ceremony almost as mysterious and surreptitious as his infamous (not to say “extraordinary and peculiar”) “midnight run”.

This is from the White House pool reporter:

[White House press aide] Judd Deere tells your pooler that ceremony to award medal of freedom to Devin Nunes was held earlier today – when White House issued emailed statement on the subject.

The statement is, to use a technical term, a doozy. It calls the California Republican “a public servant of unmatched talent, unassailable integrity and unwavering resolve”. You (and large sections of the internet) may know him as a sometime dairy farmer who famously mounted a lawsuit over the activities of Twitter accounts entitled “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and “Devin Nunes’ Cow”.

More here:

6.21pm GMT

Ohio senator Portman will oppose electoral college objection

Rob Portman of Ohio “cannot support allowing Congress to thwart the will of the voters” and will not join other Republican senators in objecting to, and thereby trying to overturn, the electoral college result when it is certified in Congress on Wednesday.

The news is not of especially shocking import, as the attempt by at least 12 senators and more than 100 House Republicans is not going to work. Nonetheless, it’s always diverting when a member of the party of Trump chooses to reveal he or she has a spine.

Here’s the full statement:

6.01pm GMT

Today so far

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Brad Raffensperger acknowledged Donald Trump may face an investigation from the Fulton county district attorney’s office, after the president demanded that the Georgia secretary of state “find” enough votes to throw the state to him. Joe Biden won Georgia by nearly 12,000 votes.
  • Two House Democrats called on the FBI to investigate the call. The two lawmakers, Ted Lieu of California and Kathleen Rice of New York, wrote in a letter to FBI director Christopher Wray, “The evidence of election fraud by Mr. Trump is now in broad daylight.”
  • Trump is awarding the presidential medal of freedom to Devin Nunes, one of his fiercest defenders in Congress amid the Russia investigation. Nunes was frequently criticized for spreading conspiracy theories about the 2016 election and downplaying findings from the US intelligence community.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

5.46pm GMT

Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger will hold a press conference at 3 pm ET, hours before Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Dalton for Republican Senate candidates David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

Raffensperger will likely use the press conference to preemptively push back against Trump’s baseless claims of widespread fraud in Georgia’s vote count.

In a statement announcing his press conference, Raffensperger’s office described Georgia as “a national leader in elections.”

5.35pm GMT

Trump to award Nunes presidential medal of freedom, White House confirms

The White House has confirmed that Donald Trump will award Devin Nunes, a Republican congressman who became one of the president’s fiercest defenders amid special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, the presidential medal of freedom.

In a statement announcing the award, the White House said, “Congressman Nunes pursued the Russia Hoax at great personal risk and never stopped standing up for the truth. He had the fortitude to take on the media, the FBI, the Intelligence Community, the Democrat Party, foreign spies, and the full power of the Deep State. Devin paid a price for his courage.”

The US intelligence community has concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to boost Trump’s chances of victory.

“Congressman Devin Nunes is a public servant of unmatched talent, unassailable integrity, and unwavering resolve,” the statement added. “He uncovered the greatest scandal in American history.”

During the Mueller investigation, Nunes consistently downplayed or dismissed the intelligence community’s findings regarding Russian interference and spread conspiracy theories about the 2016 election.

5.25pm GMT

Fani Willis, the new Fulton county district attorney, pledged to fairly investigate the president if a case involving his phone call to Brad Raffensperger is referred to her office.

“Like many Americans, I have found the news reports about the President’s telephone call with the Georgia Secretary of State disturbing,” Willis, a Democrat, said in a statement to local ABC News affiliate WSB-TV.

Willis noted that a Democratic member of the state election board members has called on the secretary’s elections divisions to investigate the matter, which could then be referred to her office or the Georgia attorney general’s office.

“As I promised Fulton County voters last year, as District Attorney, I will enforce the law without fear or favor. Anyone who commits a felony violation of Georgia law in my jurisdiction will be held accountable,” Willis said.

“Once the investigation is complete, this matter, like all matters, will be handled by our office based on the facts and the law.”

5.02pm GMT

Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo has reportedly emerged as a top contender to lead the commerce department, after being passed over for secretary of health and human services.

Axios reports:

Raimondo, a Rhodes scholar who co-founded a venture capital firm in Rhode Island earlier in her career, has prioritized good relationships with the business community, the target audience of commerce.

Nonetheless, Raimondo has also clashed with unions as she worked to reform Rhode Island’s public employee pension plans. …

Biden had been considering a prominent CEO or a Republican to lead the Commerce Department.

In considering Raimondo, he appears to be moving to a more traditional choice.

Raimondo, 49, and former chair of the Democratic Governor’s Association, is seen as a rising star in her party.

Previous reports indicated Raimondo was one of the leading contenders to take over HHS, but Biden ultimately selected California attorney general Xavier Becerra for the role.

4.42pm GMT

Joe Biden’s inaugural committee announced the president-elect’s team would participate in the national day of service on Martin Luther King Day as part of the events leading up to his January 20 inauguration.

In a new statement, the inaugural committee said its service events would “focus on COVID-19 relief and address challenges that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, such as poverty, hunger, racial injustice, homelessness, mental health, and educational disparities.”

Tony Allen, the CEO of the committee, added, “When Dr. King accepted the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, he underscored our collective responsibility to strive towards the ‘oughtness’ that confronts us as it does today.

“President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris are empathetic leaders who know the crisis millions of American families are facing. And like Dr. King, they know that we must have a shared commitment — in word and in deed — to bring the nation together in service to others.”

4.25pm GMT

A White House official told the Associated Press that Donald Trump would present the medal to Devin Nunes on Monday.

Nunes was a loyal ally during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and links between Trump and Moscow.

He rejected intelligence community findings, promoted conspiracy theories and, in March 2017, made what his Democratic counterpart Adam Schiff called an “extraordinary and peculiar midnight run” to the White House to view specially provided intelligence material.

The congressman also famously mounted a lawsuit over the activities of Twitter accounts entitled “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and “Devin Nunes’ Cow”.

Jim Jordan, another one of Trump’s closest congressional allies, is expected to be honoured next week.

4.07pm GMT

Two House Democrats call on FBI to investigate Trump phone call

Two Democratic House members, Ted Lieu of California and Kathleen Rice of New York, are calling on the FBI to investigate Donald Trump over his call with the Georgia secretary of state.

“The President of the United States, in an approximately one-hour long phone call, threatened and berated Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to ‘find 11,780 votes’ to overturn the President’s defeat in the state,” the Democrats wrote in their letter to the director of the FBI, Christopher Wray.

“The evidence of election fraud by Mr. Trump is now in broad daylight,” Lieu and Rice added. “Given the more than ample factual predicate, we are making a criminal referral to you to open an investigation into Mr. Trump.”

In an interview this morning, Raffensperger said his office would not launch an investigation into the matter, but he acknowledged Trump could face a criminal investigation by the Fulton county district attorney.

3.47pm GMT

The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, ignored questions from reporters about whether he had concerns regarding Donald Trump’s call with the Georgia secretary of state.

The Republican leader also would not say whether he supported the effort by some of his colleagues to object to the congressional count of electoral votes on Wednesday.

3.34pm GMT

Donald Trump lashed out against Tom Cotton, after the Republican senator said he would not object to counting the electoral votes that will finalize Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential race.

“How can you certify an election when the numbers being certified are verifiably WRONG,” Trump said in a new tweet. “You will see the real numbers tonight during my speech, but especially on JANUARY 6th. @SenTomCotton Republicans have pluses & minuses, but one thing is sure, THEY NEVER FORGET!”

Cotton, a Republican of Arkansas, broke with his fellow 2024 presidential hopefuls yesterday, when he announced he would not join them in objecting to Congress’ electoral vote count on Wednesday.

“Under the Constitution and federal law, Congress’s power is limited to counting electoral votes submitted by the state,” Cotton said in a statement. “Thus, I will not oppose the counting of certified electoral votes on January 6.”

Trump and his allies have insisted the count is not valid due to their allegations of widespread fraud in the election, but they have produced no valid evidence to substantiate those claims.

3.14pm GMT

Nancy Pelosi sent a “Dear colleague” letter reminding House members to respect public health guidelines, a day after several Republicans were seen on the floor not wearing masks.

“As we go forward, please note with respect the guidance set forth by the Office of the Attending Physician and the Sergeant at Arms,” the Democratic speaker wrote in the letter.

“When staff urge you to leave the Floor, it is not a suggestion. It is a direction, in the interest of keeping the Congress healthy and intact.

“As Members of Congress, we are considered essential workers. We must take our responsibility seriously to: Wear masks at all times. Respect social distancing. Limit the number of Members on the Floor.”

After several House Republicans, including QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene, were seen not wearing masks on the floor, a heated debate broke out between Democratic and Republican floor staffers. The attending physician of the Capitol, Dr Brian Monahan, eventually got involved in the discussion.

As a reminder, there is substantial evidence that the wearing of masks helps limit the spread of coronavirus.

2.44pm GMT

Raffensperger acknowledges potential criminal investigation of Trump

Brad Raffensperger acknowledged Donald Trump could face a criminal investigation over his demand that the Georgia secretary of state “find” enough votes to throw the state to him.

Speaking to “Good Morning America” today, Raffensperger said he did not think it would be appropriate for his office to launch an investigation because of a potential conflict of interest.

Raffensperger added, “I understand that the Fulton County district attorney wants to look at it. Maybe that’s the appropriate venue for it to go.”

The Republican official would not comment on the legality of Trump’s demands, but he again defended his office’s handling of the election, pushing back against the president’s baseless allegations of widespread fraud.

“I’m not a lawyer. All I know is that we’re going to follow the law, follow the process,” Raffensperger said. “Truth matters. And we’ve been fighting these rumors for the last two months.”

Updated at 3.24pm GMT

2.15pm GMT

This is Joan Greve in Washington, taking over for Oliver Holmes.

Here’s what the blog is keeping an eye on today: both Donald Trump and Joe Biden will be campaigning in Georgia, the state that is holding two Senate runoff races tomorrow. The results of those elections will determine control of the Senate.

The runoff races come days after the president pressured Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” enough ballots to allow him to win the state, which he lost by nearly 12,000 votes in November.

The blog will have more updates on both of those stories coming up, so stay tuned.

Updated at 2.43pm GMT

1.59pm GMT

Here is US Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris at a rally on Sunday accusing Trump of a ‘bold abuse of power’ following the president’s call to Georgia’s secretary of state.

1.40pm GMT

Donald Trump is reportedly set to bestow the presidential medal of freedom, the highest US civilian honour, on Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan, Republican allies in Congress who supported him in the Russia investigation, his impeachment and other Washington controversies.

Citing “someone familiar with the plans”, the Washington Post reported that Trump, who will leave office on 20 January, had settled on giving the medal to Nunes, a former chair of the House intelligence committee. Other outlets confirmed the report.

Nunes was a loyal ally during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and links between Trump and Moscow.

He rejected intelligence community findings, promoted conspiracy theories and, in March 2017, made what his Democratic counterpart Adam Schiff called an “extraordinary and peculiar midnight run” to the White House to view specially provided intelligence material.

The Post said Jordan was also likely to be honoured, although plans were not as advanced as in Nunes’ case. Jordan is a former wrestling coach who has been accused of ignoring sexual abuse of athletes by a team doctor at Ohio State, a charge he denies.

He emerged as a key “attack dog” for Trump, employing what one observer called a “style of brash, offensive conduct” during impeachment proceedings.

1.21pm GMT

In 2016, Brad Raffensperger supported Trump. And in 2018, Trump repaid the favour by endorsing Raffensperger’s run to become the secretary of state for Georgia.

But Trump’s sour loss to Joe Biden broke the relationship, with the US president labelling his party member an “enemy of the people”.

A bit more background on Raffensperger here:

12.39pm GMT

Kamala Harris, the Vice-President-elect, is in Georgia to help the campaign.

12.29pm GMT

All eyes are on Georgia, and not just because of the Trump phone call affair.

On 5 January (tomorrow!) the state will vote on two critical Senate races that were too close to call in November.

While only two of the 100-seat Senate are up for grabs, that exactly the number Democrats need to control it and push through their agenda.

More from my colleague, Naaman Zhou:

11.15am GMT

Here is an opinion piece by New York attorney and former Department of Justice official, Lloyd Green, on the Republicans seeking to overturn the election result.

10.19am GMT

My colleague and live blog pro, Helen Sullivan, has rounded up the six key points from the leaked Trump phone call. If you’re pressed for time or prefer listicles, have a read:

10.06am GMT

Trump and Raffensperger followed up on their tense call with a good old Twitter bust-up.

9.52am GMT

The Washington Post obtained the recording of a conversation on Saturday between Trump and Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state.

Here are some of the key quotes from Trump that are leading to the accusations of election interference and intimidation:

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.

There’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.

Raffensperger, who is a Republican, is clearly uncomfortable but stands his ground.

In a reply, he says:

Well, Mr President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong.

Excerpts from the call between Donald Trump and Georgia’s secretary of state– video

9.37am GMT

Good Morning

Where to start with this one?

Probably with the bombshell revelation that Donald Trump pressured Georgia’s secretary of state to overturn Joe Biden’s victory, leading to accusations the president broke election law by intimidating and coercing a state official.

Then there’s the fact that the spiralling death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has passed 350,000 in the US, a figure the president falsely asserts is “far exaggerated”.

Meanwhile, all of the 10 former US defence secretaries who are still living, including two who worked for Donald Trump, have warned the outgoing president may attempt to foment a crisis with the aim of triggering a military intervention in a last-ditch struggle to hold on power.

The sun has not yet risen on the US east coast. It’s going to be a long day.

Welcome to a fresh US live blog.

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