Trump misquoted in reports about Georgia call found in trash folder

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Early media accounts of a phone call between former President Donald Trump and a top Georgia investigator contained false quotes, prompting at least one major media outlet to issue a correction.

The Wall Street Journal first published audio last week of the roughly six-minute call on Dec. 23 between Trump and Frances Watson, the chief investigator of the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, in which he urged her to look for fraud in mail-in ballots in Fulton County, where much of Atlanta is located.

Indeed, Trump can be heard telling Watson, who was in the middle of conducting an audit of voting results in Cobb County, that he won the 2020 election and that she would be “praised” when the “right answer comes out.” He also insisted “something bad happened.”

President Biden defeated Trump in Georgia by fewer than 12,000 votes, becoming the first Democrat since President Bill Clinton in 1992 to win the state’s 16 Electoral College votes.

In response to Trump, the investigator said: “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.”

However, the audio shows that early reports in January about that call, based on anonymous sourcing, misquoted Trump. In those reports, Trump was quoted as urging Watson to “find the fraud,” and if she did so, the investigator would be a “national hero.”

Outlets such as CNN published these quotes, corroborating what was first reported by the Washington Post. While CNN’s version, reliant on a single anonymous source, remains unchanged, the Washington Post stuck a long correction note to the top its report:

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.

— Washington Post

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is conducting a criminal investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 election.

The Georgia secretary of state’s office is also conducting an investigation, which was initiated in the face of growing pressure in response to multiple calls Trump made to state officials about tracking down potential voter fraud that could flip the result. “All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes,” the former president told Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a Jan. 2 call, referencing a number that would hand Trump victory in the state.

As part of the Fulton County investigation, Willis sent out letters to state officials in February asking them to preserve relevant documents.

Both CNN and Washington Post reported previously that state officials said they did not believe a recording of the Trump-Watson call existed, but in recent days both new reporting that says officials found the recording in Watson’s trash folder on her device while responding to a public records request.

Watson spoke with WSB-TV, which reported that the investigator said she was surprised by Trump’s call but did not feel that she was being pressured by him. “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.

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