US President Donald Trump has been caught on tape trying to coerce Georgia’s secretary of state to "find" enough votes to overturn president-elect Joe Biden’s victory there.
The audio, first reported by The Washington Post on Sunday, is of an hour-long phone call between Trump and fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, and several other presidential allies. Experts say it raises legal questions.
During the conversation, which was recorded in secret, Trump pushed Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes” – one more than the number of ballots by which he was defeated in the southern state.
“The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry,” Trump said. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.”
Biden’s victory in Georgia, which has long leaned Republican, has remained unchanged despite recounts and audits.
After being told that his data was wrong and he was relying on debunked conspiracy theories to make his case, Trump reportedly warned Raffensperger that he was taking “a big risk” in his failure to comply.
“There’s no way I lost Georgia…We won by hundreds of thousands of votes…You know what they did and you’re not reporting it,” he said.
News of the Trump recording comes days before runoff elections in Georgia that will determine control of the US Senate.
Trump told Raffensperger that if he did not act, Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler risked losing their seats and ceding control of the upper house to the Democrats.
“You would be respected, really respected, if this can be straightened out before the election,” Trump said.
Vice president-elect Kamala Harris described Trump's actions as “desperate” and “a bald-faced, bold abuse of power”.
CNN presidential historian Timothy Naftali said: ”At the very least it's an abuse of presidential power which in a normal time would be impeachable”.
In a letter to Raffensperger, David Worley, the only Democrat on Georgia’s State Election Board, asked for an investigation to determine if Trump had violated Georgian law.
The White House has not commented on the release of the tape.
All 50 US states have certified the November election result, and Congress is due to formally approve Biden’s win on 6 January.