DALTON, Ga. — President Donald Trump came to Georgia on Monday to campaign for Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in an attempt to help Republicans retain control of the Senate. But he very quickly revealed another motivation for traveling to this ultra-conservative enclave.
“Hello, Georgia. By the way, there is no way we lost Georgia. There’s no way,” Trump said immediately after taking the stage. “That was a rigged election. But we are still fighting it.”
Indeed, Trump ostensibly visited the state to campaign for the incumbents and, in turn, help the GOP hang on to its only lever of power in the forthcoming Biden era. But at one point, the president seemed to acknowledge the real reason he came to conservative northwest Georgia on Monday night: to pressure other Republicans into supporting his long-shot bid to reverse his November loss, and to assert his post-presidency political power and his long-term influence over the Republican Party.
“People will remember the people who don’t support us,” Trump said of Wednesday’s joint session of Congress, when lawmakers will vote to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College votes.
Speaking at a rally here, Trump berated members of his party who have refused to support his attempt to overturn Biden’s win in November, and continued to promote falsehoods that the election was stolen from him — spending relatively little time talking up the incumbent senators whose runoff elections will take place on Tuesday.
He vowed to campaign against Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in 2022 because they certified Biden’s win in the state, and he praised Republicans who plan to challenge the Electoral College results in Congress this week.
And while he fit in praise for Loeffler and Perdue, Trump spent most of his time angrily claiming the Nov. 3 election was fraudulent — and firing a warning shot at Republican lawmakers ahead of Wednesday’s vote certification on Capitol Hill.
“We’ve had a lot of corrupt things happen,” the president said. “One thing that I’ve learned about Republicans, they have some difficulties. But you know a difficulty that they don’t have? They never forget. They never forget. And people are going to find that out.”
The crowd that attended the rally, which took place on the tarmac of the municipal airport here, was the most energized when Trump discussed his election challenges and mused about supporting a primary challenger against the governor. At one point, a group of supporters chanted, “F— you, Kemp!”
Many of Trump’s teleprompter lines were about Loeffler and Perdue, two of his biggest supporters in Congress. But when he went off-the-cuff, it was mostly about his bid to thwart the election outcome.
“I don’t do rallies for other people,” the president later said. “I do them for me.”
It was his second campaign rally since Biden was declared the winner of the election.
“This could be the most important vote you will ever cast for the rest of your life,” Trump said. “It really could be. This is so important.”
He repeatedly attacked Kemp and Raffensperger — fellow Republicans who Trump campaigned for in 2018 and who he has frequently antagonized for rebuffing his efforts to contest the election. The rally came just days after Trump called Raffensperger to push him to “find” additional votes that could tip the state in his favor. The phone call, a recording of which was leaked on Sunday, shocked officials in Washington and Atlanta alike, even leading to talk of criminal investigations.
Trump said Kemp and Raffensperger were “terrified” of Stacey Abrams, the Democratic former Georgia lawmaker who ran for governor against Kemp in 2018. His promise to return to the state to campaign against them solidified the complete 180-degree turn from his support only two years prior. It also put on display his feeling of betrayal by those he thought would stay loyal to him through his election challenge.
Trump also expressed his disappointment in the Supreme Court for refusing to hear a long-shot lawsuit to challenge the election results in a number of key states — particularly since his numerous federal court appointments, including three Supreme Court justices, were a major talking point throughout his reelection campaign.
While introducing Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) to the rally stage on Monday, Trump said he was “a little angry” at the senator, who recognized Biden’s electoral win last month.
“I just want Mike Lee to listen to what we’re talking about, because you know what, we need his vote,” Trump said.
Trump even warned Vice President Mike Pence that he’d better “come through for us” when he presides over Congress count the Electoral College votes on Wednesday.
“Of course, if he doesn’t come through, I won’t like him so much,” said Trump, who then tried to soften the remark as a jest.
Trump’s rally was a contrast from a Biden campaign event in the state earlier Monday, in which the Democratic president-elect emphasized the policy priorities at stake in the runoffs. There, Biden tied victories by Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to pushing through Covid relief legislation, including $2,000 stimulus checks.
But in his praise for Loeffler and Perdue, Trump focused instead on their loyalty. He also lauded other Republicans loyal to his cause, including Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas, who have also said they would contest the Electoral College results in Congress.
During Loeffler’s brief appearance on the rally stage, she emphasized that her loyalty to the president was not in question. She announced during the rally that she would join some of her Republican peers in contesting the Electoral College vote on Wednesday, eliciting loud cheers from the audience.
“This president fought for us. We are fighting for him. He put America first,” Loeffler said. “Georgia, we are the firewall to socialism.”
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