VALDOSTA, Ga. (NewsNation Now) — President Donald Trump campaigned Saturday for two Republican senators in Georgia facing January runoffs in his first political rally since his re-election bid loss last month.
Georgia, long a Republican stronghold — but one with rapidly changing demographics — is the site of the two runoffs on Jan. 5 to settle which party would control the Senate. The runoffs pit two Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, against well-funded Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
Democrats would need to win both seats to win a majority. If Republicans win one seat, they will retain control and be able to block much of Biden’s legislative agenda. Saturday’s rally is hosted by the Republican National Committee and is expected to have appearances from other notable Republicans.
Trump’s 100-minute rally before thousands of largely maskless supporters came not long after he was rebuffed by Georgia’s Republican governor in his astounding call for a special legislative session to give him the state’s electoral votes, even though President-elect Joe Biden won the majority of the vote.
Trump has repeatedly and without evidence asserted widespread fraud in the November election, a claim rejected by state and federal officials, including in Georgia, which Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since Bill Clinton in 1992.
“Let them steal Georgia again, you’ll never be able to look yourself in the mirror,” Trump told rallygoers.
Hours before the event, Trump asked Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in a phone call to order the legislative session; the governor refused, according to a senior government official in Georgia with knowledge of the call who was not authorized to discuss the private conversation and spoke on the condition of anonymity. A person close to the White House who was briefed on the matter verified that account of the call.
Kemp, in a tweet, said Trump also asked him to order an audit of signatures on absentee ballot envelopes in his state, a step Kemp is not empowered to take because he has no authority to interfere in the electoral process on Trump’s behalf.
Trump, though, vented his frustrations with Kemp on Twitter and at the rally.
“Your people are refusing to do what you ask,” he complained in a tweet, as if speaking with Kemp. “What are they hiding? At least immediately ask for a Special Session of the Legislature. That you can easily, and immediately, do.”
At the rally, he took aim once again at Kemp, saying he could assure him victory “if he knew what the hell he was doing.”
Kemp refuted the claims.
In a tweet, Kemp said: “As I told the President this morning, I’ve publicly called for a signature audit three times (11/20, 11/24, 12/3) to restore confidence in our election process and to ensure that only legal votes are counted in Georgia.”
While the governor does not have the authority to order a signature audit, an audit was initiated by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and it triggered a full hand recount that confirmed Biden’s victory in Georgia. The race has been certified for Biden and affirmed by the state’s Republican election officials as a fairly conducted and counted vote, with none of the systemic errors Trump alleges.
On Friday, President-elect Biden confirmed he would travel to campaign for his party’s Senate candidates.
You can watch the full rally in the player below: