President Donald Trump traveled to Georgia on Saturday for his first major political event since Election Day, ostensibly returning to the rally stage to support Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, the Georgia Republicans who are both facing runoff elections on January 5 that will determine control of the Senate. Yet the event may as well have been a full-scale MAGA rally, as Trump spent much of his time on stage—nearly two hours—talking about himself, undermining the integrity of the electoral system, and attacking Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, for failing to help reverse his loss in the state to President-elect Joe Biden.
“They cheated and rigged our presidential election, but we’ll still win,” Trump baselessly said, prompting a “Stop the Steal!” chant among the roughly 10,000 supporters in attendance, according to the New York Times. Later, when Trump briefly brought the two senators on stage for remarks, the audience’s “Fight for Trump” chant was reportedly so loud that it nearly overpowered Perdue. Right-wing cable channels Newsmax and One America News Network also got some love at Saturday’s rally, with Trump taking a break from his own conspiracy-laden speech to stand and watch a montage of video clips featuring media loyalists peddling similarly outlandish theories on his behalf:
Trump is now just standing around as his followers boo at right-wing media clips being played on a big screen for them that are meant to cast doubt on his loss to Biden (Loeffler and Perdue have been forgotten) pic.twitter.com/Z0c1i97kWl
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 6, 2020
Trump did read “a series of scripted lines” about Perdue and Loeffler during his lengthy address and repeatedly encouraged Georgia voters to turn out for the Republican senators in the January races, “even mentioning the deadlines for the mail-in ballots he has so often scorned,” the Times reports. Yet Trump’s focus was on his own upset in Georgia, which he lost by around 12,000 votes. He falsely claimed on Saturday to have won the state, despite Republican officials having already certified Biden’s victory. The president continued making “rigged” election claims that may undermine confidence in Georgia’s voting system, a concern for national Republicans who want voters to participate in the runoffs next month. In paying lip service to Trump’s election denial, Perdue, too, seemingly fueled public distrust in the democratic process. “I’m going to fight for this president until he gets every ballot counted correctly and every illegal ballot thrown out,” Perdue said, per the Times.
Trump urges people to vote for Loeffler and Perdue, but in the next breath pushes conspiracy theories about elections being rigged while attacking Brian Kemp pic.twitter.com/ju7SAqNXoU
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 6, 2020
During Saturday night’s rally, Trump also attacked Kemp, who he reportedly urged earlier that day to “call a special session of the state legislature for lawmakers to override the results and appoint electors who would back the president at the electoral college,” according to the Washington Post. Though Kemp is said to have refused Trump’s demand, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the president later suggested the governor should intervene on his behalf. “Your governor could stop it very easily if he knew what the hell he was doing,” Trump told the crowd, adding: “So far we haven’t been able to find the people in Georgia willing to do the right thing.”
The strategy—subverting the will of the voters by installing pro-Trump electors—appears to be Trump’s only path left to overturn the election results given his repeated failures in court. During Saturday’s call, Trump also pressed Kemp to order an audit of signatures on mail ballots, which the governor said on Twitter he had already called on Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to conduct. (The governor, as Kemp has previously noted, does not have the unilateral power to order such an audit.) Kemp declined the president’s signature request, the Post reports, and Georgia’s lieutenant governor, Geoff Duncan, also rebuffed Trump’s call for a special session to overturn Biden’s victory on Sunday. “We’re certainly not going to move the goal posts at this point in the election,” Duncan, a Republican, said on CNN’s State of the Union.