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'You'll be praised': Audio of Trump call with Georgia elections investigator offers new details

"You have the most important job in the country right now," Trump told the investigator leading a Cobb County signature audit.
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President Donald Trump meets with CEOs of major banks to discuss the Covid-19 response during a meeting at the White House on March 11, 2020.Mark Wilson / Getty Images file

President Donald Trump urged Georgia's chief elections investigator to find "dishonesty" that could help overturn the state's election results, framing her work as a matter of national importance, according to audio of a December phone call obtained from the secretary of state's office Monday.

Officials discovered the recording of the conversation between Trump and Frances Watson, the lead elections investigator for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in a trash folder on Watson's device while responding to a public records request, according to a source familiar with the internal process.

The Wall Street Journal was first to report the audio.

"You have the most important job in the country right now," Trump told Watson, who was leading an audit of absentee ballot signatures in Cobb County at the time, according to the audio.

"Because if we win Georgia ... the people of Georgia are so angry at what happened to me, they know I won," he continued, repeating the false claim that he won the state.

President Joe Biden won Georgia by 12,670 votes, according Georgia's certified election results.

"When the right answer comes out, you'll be praised," Trump told Watson at another point in the call, adding, "People will say 'great,' because that's what it's about, the ability to check and to make it right, because everyone knows it's wrong."

Earlier reporting by NBC News and other news organizations, including The Washington Post, misquoted the exact words Trump used to urge Watson to look for fraud based on Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs' account of Watson's recollection of the conversation.

"After hearing the tape, it's clear that [Watson's] recollection accurately portrayed the president's assertions that there was fraud to uncover and that she would receive praise for doing so," Fuchs said Monday in a statement to NBC News.

In a statement Monday, Trump expressed appreciation for The Post's correction while repeating the false claims of widespread election fraud in Georgia that he made in the months after Biden won the election.

During the conversation, which took place Dec. 23, Trump said his chief of staff at the time, Mark Meadows, suggested he call Watson after Meadows visited Cobb County the day before.

At one point, Trump, referring to the process of matching voters' signatures on file with the elections office and the signatures on their ballots, said he hoped Watson was reviewing older signatures, rather than just the most up-to-date ones on file for voters.

"If you go back two years, and if you can get to Fulton, you're going to find things that are going to be unbelievable, the dishonesty that we've heard from, just, good sources, really good sources," Trump said before claiming without evidence that Fulton County, a Democratic stronghold and home to Atlanta, was the "mother lode" of such fraud.

"I appreciate your comments," Watson responded. She admitted that she was "shocked" that he had taken the time to call her.

"Whatever you can do, Frances, it would be — it's a great thing," Trump told her, according to the audio. "It's an important thing for the country. So important. You've no idea. So important. And I very much appreciate it."

Watson said her team was "only interested in the truth" and "finding the information that's based on the facts." Trump then asked whether her team of investigators would continue working past Christmas to "keep it going fast."

"Because, you know, we have that date of the 6th, which is a very important date," he said, apparently referring to the joint session of Congress to formalize the Electoral College results. A pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempt to disrupt the process of formalizing Biden's election victory.

Trump also made calls to Raffensperger and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp as part of his efforts to overturn the results of the election, particularly in Georgia, which he became the first GOP candidate in nearly 30 years to lose.

During the call with Raffensperger, which took place in early January before the Capitol riot, Trump pleaded with him to "find" enough votes to overturn the results and deliver him the state.