CNN and the Washington Post issued corrections on Monday, revealing that they “misquoted” some of former President Trump’s comments in a December phone call with Frances Watson, Georgia’s top election investigator.
In their original reports, CNN and the Post claimed Trump ordered Watson to “find the fraud,” and if she succeeded, she would be a “national hero.”
The media outlets were forced to issue mea culpas after the Georgia secretary of state released an audio recording of the December 23 phone call, laying bare what was actually said versus what their anonymous sources claimed was said.
The audio recording makes clear that Trump never asked Watson to “find the fraud,” but rather, he urged her to go back two years to make sure signatures in Fulton County matched. Neither did he tell her that she would be “a national hero” if she found the fraud. In an attempt to encourage Watson, the former president said the job she was doing was very important, and when the truth came out, she would “be praised.”
The Post’s original headline read: “‘Find the fraud’: Trump pressured a Georgia elections investigator in a separate call legal experts say could amount to obstruction.” That has been changed to read: “Trump pressured a Georgia elections investigator in a separate call legal experts say could amount to obstruction”
In its lengthy correction, the Post said the misquotes were due to faulty “information provided by a source”:
Correction: Two months after publication of this story, the Georgia secretary of state released an audio recording of President Donald Trump’s December phone call with the state’s top elections investigator. The recording revealed that The Post misquoted Trump’s comments on the call, based on information provided by a source. Trump did not tell the investigator to “find the fraud” or say she would be “a national hero” if she did so. Instead, Trump urged the investigator to scrutinize ballots in Fulton County, Ga., asserting she would find “dishonesty” there. He also told her that she had “the most important job in the country right now.” A story about the recording can be found here. The headline and text of this story have been corrected to remove quotes misattributed to Trump.
“I won Florida by a record number, I won Ohio in a record, Texas in a record, Alabama by 40 points! I won everything but Georgia,” Trump told Watson in the call. “And I won Georgia, I know that—by a lot!”
The former president added, “something bad happened,” and suggested that the elections investigators focus on Fulton County because that is “the mother load.” “You’re going to find things that are unbelievable—the dishonesty,” Trump declared.
Watson, who was conducting an audit of voting results in Cobb County at the time, said in response: “I can assure you that our team and the [Georgia Bureau of Investigation]—that we are only interested in the truth and finding the information that is based on the facts.”
The Washington Post, CNN, and other corporate media outlets reported that former president directed her to “find the fraud,” which he did not do.
Instead, he stressed during the call, that the results in Georgia didn’t “make sense,” given his huge wins in neighboring states. Trump said Watson would be praised for getting it right because “everyone knows it’s wrong.”
CNN also quietly changed its story on Monday with a short editor’s note, claiming that the original quotes “presented paraphrasing of the President’s comments.”
“Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story, published January 9, presented paraphrasing of the President’s comments to the Georgia elections investigator as direct quotes. The story has been updated following the discovery of an audio recording of the call. Read more here. — CNN”
During the phone call, Trump tried to explain why he thinks he “won big,” pointing out that several pro-Trump Republican in Georgia had told him they had somehow managed to get more votes than he did even though they’d won because of his “coattails.”
“And we pulled them across, and they said, ‘no way did I beat you by 15 points,” he said.
Officials reportedly found the recording between Trump and Watson in a trash folder on Watson’s phone, as part of the Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ investigation into Trump’s efforts to correct the results of the Nov. 3 election.
The Georgia secretary of state’s office is also conducting a probe after multiple calls Trump made to Georgia state officials about tracking down potential voter fraud that could flip the presidential vote.
“All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes,” Trump told Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a Jan. 2 call, referencing a number that would hand Trump victory in the state, according to a video transcript.
As part of the Fulton County investigation, Willis sent out letters to state officials in February asking them to preserve relevant documents, the Washington Examiner reported.
After the audio was released, Watson told WSB-TV that she was surprised by Trump’s Dec. 23 call – but did not feel pressured.
“It is something that is not expected, and as I mentioned in the call, I was shocked that he would take the time to do that,” she said.
Biden squeaked ahead of Trump in Georgia by fewer than 12,000 votes due to election irregularities that plagued six battleground states, including, ballot mishandling, statistical anomalies, voting machine irregularities, contestable process fouls, equal protection clause violations, and outright voter fraud. In a 36-page report, former White House advisor Peter Navarro found that over 20,000 absentee or early voters cast their ballots in Georgia after having moved out of state.
Trump’s percentage of absentee votes was 7.81 percent lower in Fulton county than precincts in neighboring counties, a DOJ researcher found.
Biden is the first Democrat since President Bill Clinton in 1992 to win the conservative state’s 16 Electoral College votes.