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Durbin: Trump Georgia call 'merits nothing less than a criminal investigation'

Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinGarland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks National Sheriffs' Association backs Biden pick for key DOJ role Senate coronavirus bill delayed until Thursday MORE (D-Ill.) said Sunday that President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee MORE’s call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) “merits nothing less than a criminal investigation.”

The Washington Post on Sunday released the audio from the Saturday phone call, in which Trump repeatedly asked Raffensperger to “find” more than 11,000 ballots to put the president in the lead in the state.  

In his statement calling for an investigation, the No. 2 Senate Democrat labeled the conversation as “more than a pathetic rambling, delusional rant.”

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“His disgraceful effort to intimidate an elected official into deliberately changing and misrepresenting the legally confirmed vote totals in his state strikes at the heart of our democracy and merits nothing less than a criminal investigation,” Durbin said. 

“The President is unhinged and dangerous,” he added. “Those who encourage and support his conduct, including my Senate colleagues, are putting the orderly and peaceful transition of power in our nation at risk.”

The audio from Trump’s conversation with Raffensperger represents the first evidence of the president directly trying to pressure a state official to overturn the election results. 

Trump told the Georgia secretary of state that “the people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry. And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, that you’ve recalculated.”

"All I want to do is this," the president added. "I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state."

The president had previously called on Georgia Gov. Brian KempBrian KempGeorgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee Democrats must prepare now for a contested 2024 election Raid the Republican Party to save the party MORE (R) to initiate a special legislative session aiming to overturn the election results, but the governor refused, which has led Trump to publicly condemn Kemp and call for his resignation. 

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Raffensperger, Kemp and other Republican officials in the state have maintained that Biden won Georgia, and claims that widespread voter fraud affected the election are unfounded. 

Biden has been widely acknowledged as the president-elect since Nov. 7, but Trump has refused to concede. Instead, he and his legal team have contested the election results, citing unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud and filing unsuccessful lawsuits in battleground states. 

Bob Bauer, a senior adviser to Biden, reacted to the audio release by calling it “irrefutable proof” of the president’s “assault on American democracy.”

"We now have irrefutable proof of a president pressuring and threatening an official of his own party to get him to rescind a state's lawful, certified vote count and fabricate another in its place,” he said in a statement. “It captures the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump's assault on American democracy."

The release of the phone call audio comes ahead of the expected certification of the vote by Congress this week, the final step before Inauguration Day. 

The process is usually a formality, but dozens of Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate are expected to challenge the Electoral College results with the goal of sending the matter to the mostly Republican state legislatures after congressional approval.

But Congress is unlikely to support objections to the state votes, as Democrats control the House and several Republicans and party leaders in the Senate have spoken out against the effort.