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Trump Georgia call divides House GOP

The bombshell audio recording of President TrumpDonald TrumpSouth Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Ex-Trump aide Pierson won't run for Dallas-area House seat House Oversight panel reissues subpoena for Trump's accounting firm MORE pressuring a top Georgia official to find 11,000 votes to overturn the election has fractured the House GOP conference, with some lawmakers calling Trump’s words highly inappropriate and others fiercely defending the lame-duck president.

Sunday’s report and hourlong audio recording posted by the Washington Post is sparking chaos and confusion in the Republican Party ahead of a pair of runoff Senate elections on Tuesday and is complicating a long-shot push by Trump’s congressional allies this week to reject the Electoral College votes that handed Joe BidenJoe BidenIntercept bureau chief: minimum wage was not 'high priority' for Biden in COVID-19 relief South Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Obama alum Seth Harris to serve as Biden labor adviser: report MORE the White House. 

“I think that [the call] was deeply troubling, and I think everybody ought to listen to the full hour of it,” House Republican Conference Chair Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyRomney released from hospital after fall over the weekend MAGALand in Orlando Kinzinger: Trump just wants to 'stand in front of a crowd and be adored' MORE (Wyo.), the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress, told reporters Monday.

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Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) stated that the president’s remarks to find votes was flat-out “wrong,” adding that he believes the results of the election need to be accepted. 

“It's wrong to go to a secretary of state” and ask him to find votes, Bacon told The Hill on Monday. “We work our butts off to win elections; after the election we play fair and square.”

And centrist Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerHaley praises Trump CPAC speech after breaking with him over Capitol riot Kinzinger: Trump just wants to 'stand in front of a crowd and be adored' Juan Williams: Hypocrisy runs riot in GOP MORE (R-Ill.), one of the first to denounce the president’s comments on the phone call, said the call should spark concern from lawmakers regardless of party. 

“It was bizarre. It was obviously way over the top. ... You look at that and you see a president repeating stuff you read on Twitter that's been debunked,” Kinzinger told The Hill.  

“And then, you know, obviously threatening what seems to be legal action, it was definitely disconcerting.”

Other rank-and-file Republicans said they believe the president’s comments could actually backfire against Trump’s own efforts to overturn the election. His words on the call could deter some GOP colleagues who were on the fence about supporting formal floor votes set for Wednesday to challenge the presidential election results.

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“Republicans are between a rock and a hard place” with the Wednesday votes, said one House Republican. The call “complicates it further.” 

In the phone call, audio of which was obtained by the Post, Trump instructed Georgia’s GOP secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to “find” the “11,780 votes” needed to overturn his defeat to Biden in the Peach State — an action that some experts said could violate state and federal law. Trump also threatened the Georgia official with criminal consequences if he failed to act.

Throughout the call, Raffensperger pushed back on Trump, affirming that the elections were legitimate and fair. 

While staunch Trump loyalists defended the president’s actions on the call, most Republicans seemed to want nothing to do with the issue or said they were unfamiliar with it.

“I have to hear it first,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthySome Republicans say proxy voting gives advantage to Democrats Wray says no evidence of 'antifa' involvement in Jan. 6 attack Republican rips GOP lawmakers for voting by proxy from CPAC MORE (R-Calif.). 

“I didn’t see it. I’ll go look at it,” said Rep. Roger WilliamsJohn (Roger) Roger WilliamsDemocrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Trump Georgia call divides House GOP MORE (R-Texas). 

“That’s my comms director,” said Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), after his aide handed a reporter a business card. 

Reps. Buddy CarterEarl (Buddy) Leroy CarterNRCC finance chair: Republicans who voted for Trump impeachment will not be penalized House GOP campaign arm rolls out new leadership team Georgia elections chief refutes election claims in letter to Congress MORE (R-Ga.) and Patrick McHenryPatrick Timothy McHenryOn The Money: House panel spars over GameStop, Robinhood | Manchin meets with advocates for wage | Yellen says go big, GOP says hold off House panel spars over GameStop frenzy, trading apps Robinhood CEO, regulators to testify at House hearing on GameStop frenzy MORE (R-N.C.) also declined to comment. 

But Trump had plenty of defenders on the Hill as well. Even though Raffensperger is a fellow Republican, Trump allies saw Democrats’ fingerprints on the story. 

“This is typical Democrats. They attack the president for everything. I think it's ridiculous what the Democrats are doing, but it doesn't surprise me,” said Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanJim Jordan calls for House Judiciary hearing on 'cancel culture' CPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' MORE (R-Ohio), a vocal ally whom Trump will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom next week.

Rep. Brian MastBrian Jeffrey MastTapper battles GOP lawmakers over criticism of Afghan vet's Electoral College vote Republican war veteran gives Guard troops a tour of the Capitol LIVE COVERAGE: House votes to impeach Trump after Capitol insurrection MORE (R-Fla.) reiterated the president’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in Georgia, arguing that he has a right to press the Georgia secretary of state for answers. 

“I don't think that the president brought up anything that's not a substantiated claim,” Mast said. 

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Courts have repeatedly rejected the president's claims, as have GOP state officials in Georgia and other states.

Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieCan members of Congress carry firearms on the Capitol complex? Republicans rally to keep Cheney in power House Republicans gear up for conference meeting amid party civil war MORE (R-Ky.), who has clashed with Trump in the past, also downplayed the call. In March, Massie said Trump called him up and gave him “two earfuls” and threatened to boot him from the GOP after the congressman tried to hold up a multitrillion-dollar coronavirus relief package.  

“I’ve been on phone calls with the man and it sounded kind of mild compared to the phone calls I’ve been on,” Massie told The Hill.

Mike Lillis contributed.