A leaked audio recording in which President Donald Trump urged Georgia officials to “find 11,780 votes" to help him reverse the 2020 election is “far worse” than the Watergate scandal, according to one of the journalists who famously broke the 1972 story.
On Sunday, The Washington Post published a leaked recording of a call between Trump, 74, and Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. During the hour-long call, Trump cites baseless conspiracy theories, argues falsely that he won the election, and pushes the Georgia official to reverse the state’s certified vote.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein told CNN the recording was “the ultimate smoking gun” of Trump attempting a coup.
The investigative journalist also insisted Trump was a criminal and that his actions weren’t comparable to those taken by President Richard Nixon amid the Watergate scandal, which led to his disgraced early resignation in 1974. The scandal stemmed from the Nixon administration's efforts to cover up an orchestrated break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters.
“It’s not déjà vu,” Bernstein, 76, said. “This is something far worse than Watergate. We have both a criminal president of the United States in Donald Trump, and a subversive president of the United States at the same time in this one person.”
Bernstein added: “This is the ultimate smoking gun tape. It is the tape with the evidence of what this president is willing to do to undermine the electoral system and illegally, improperly and immorally try to instigate a coup.”
On Monday, Raffensperger told Good Morning America the president’s unprecedented and widely rebuked request to reverse the 2020 vote is "just plain wrong."
"For the last two months we've been fighting the rumor whack-a-mole,” Raffensperger, 65, said, “and it was pretty obvious from very early on that we've debunked every one of those theories that are out there, but president Trump continues to believe them.”
Raffensperger is a self-described Republican who has said he voted for Trump in the November election, which was won by President-elect Joe Biden by a 306-232 margin in the Electoral College.
In the popular vote, Biden defeated Trump by 81.3 million to 74.2 million ballots.
Trump has refused to concede the election and has recently voiced support for protests in Washington, D.C., this week, when Congress is set to certify the Electoral College vote and affirm Biden as the next president.
The Republican Party is harshly split over whether to support Trump’s undemocratic efforts or disavow them.
Senators Josh Hawley, of Missouri, and Ted Cruz, of Texas, are both leading a coalition of 11 GOP senators who plan to vote against certifying the Electoral College vote on Wednesday, while moderate Republicans like Senators Susan Collins and Mitt Romney have spoken out against continuing to entertain Trump’s demands to ignore the American public’s vote and overturn the election in his favor.
Ultimately, Bernstein told CNN, members of Congress — both Republican and Democratic lawmakers — should make an “immediate call” for Trump’s resignation.
But, “we’re not going to hear that,” Bernstein said.
“We might from a few Republicans, but that’s what’s really called for here," he continued. "And the one thing we should recall from Watergate was that the heroes of Watergate were Republicans who would not tolerate Richard Nixon’s conduct.”
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