PBS vs PBS? NewsHour Assumes Trump’s Guilt on Georgia Phone Call, Amanpour Doesn’t

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So just what was then-president Trump thinking when he called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in early January 2021, and asked him to “find 11,780 votes” in Georgia, which if really there, would have put Trump over Biden in the close Georgia race?

NewsHour congressional reporter Lisa Desjardins seemed confident she knew just what Trump was thinking in her Tuesday evening report — that he knew “he was short of votes,” but still asked Raffensperger to change the outcome.

Desjardins: [Fulton County District Attorney Fani] Willis launched the investigation in February 2021, a few weeks after audiotape revealed Trump knew he was short of votes in the state, but asked Georgia’s secretary of state to change the outcome anyway.

Donald Trump, Former President of the United States: All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.

Compare that blunt declaration of Trump’s guilt with a segment on Tuesday’s edition of Amanpour & Co., which airs on PBS and CNN International. Fill-in host Bianna Golodryga certainly isn’t a Trump fan, but she at least applied a shred of journalistic skepticism, leaving the question of Trump’s mindset open — a potentially vital part of his legal defense — while speaking with Darryl Cohen, a former Fulton County (GA) Assistant District Attorney.

Golodryga: Among the other charges, we have election fraud, false documents, fall statements, witness intimidation. Let’s just drill down on some of these other instances and I want to get you to respond to what exactly, what law Fani Willis is saying the president or these 18 others broke. Let’s start with that famous phone call now that took place on January 2, 2021. The former president made a call at the time to the secretary of state in Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, asking for 11,000 votes to be found. Let’s play that for the viewers.

Donald Trump: So, look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes which, is one more than we have because we won the state.

Unlike Desjardins, Golodryga and her guest held back from finding Trump guilty based on those words alone:

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Golodryga: So, for an amateur, just listening without a legal background, that does sound suspicious. But tell us exactly what laws may have been broken here with that request?

Cohen: Well, it depends. If you take it at face value — and we haven’t heard the entire recording, but if you just take it at face value, it could be, hey, do a recount. I’m certain that 11,780 votes were miscounted. Just keep looking because there may have been a malfunction in one or more of the machines, or it could be more sinister. You need to change 11,780 votes so I could be the winner of the electoral votes in Georgia and I can be re-elected as president. It just depends on how you interpret it and you cannot take it by itself. It has to be a part of a larger conversation, part of a larger conspiracy that Fani Willis has charged Trump and 18 other people with.

Golodryga: And would you assume that that’s what Fani Willis has been able to prove or put together that this was a part of a larger conspiracy as opposed to just the president saying, listen, I hope we can find 11,000 votes?

Unlike the NewsHour, Golodryga also pointed out the district attorney is an elected Democrat.

Golodryga: Another difference here is that the district attorney, Fani Willis, is a Democrat, as an elected official, unlike Jack Smith, who was appointed by the attorney general….

The biased NewsHour segment was brought to you in part by Consumer Cellular.

A NewsHour transcript is available, click “Expand” to read:

PBS NewsHour

August 15, 2023

7:02:45 p.m.

Geoff Bennett: For the fourth time this year, former President Donald Trump is defendant Donald Trump. Late yesterday, a grand jury in Georgia charged Mr. Trump and 18 others and a far-reaching racketeering case related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

Lisa Desjardins starts our coverage.

Lisa Desjardins: Today on social media, Donald Trump lashing out, calling the latest indictment a witch-hunt and promising to release his own report alleging election fraud next week…

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): They’re trying to take Donald Trump down.

Lisa Desjardins: ….while his Republican allies rally to his defense.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): This is disgraceful, it is wrong, and it is an abuse of power by angry Democrats.

Lisa Desjardins: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy called the chargers a desperate sham, saying: “The radical DA in Georgia is following Biden’s lead.”

The latest charges were voted on by a grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, late yesterday and announced by district attorney Fani Willis, who led the two-and-a-half year investigation into Trump and the 2020 election.

Fani Willis, Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney: The indictment alleges that, rather than by abide by Georgia’s legal process for election challenges, the defendants engaged in a criminal racketeering enterprise to overturn Georgia’s presidential election result.

Lisa Desjardins: The Georgia indictment charges Trump and 18 others with a combined 41 counts in a wide-ranging case, among them, violation of the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization, or RICO, Act, often used to prosecute organized crime, soliciting a violation of oath by a public officer, filing false documents, and making false statements.

Willis launched the investigation in February 2021, a few weeks after audiotape revealed Trump knew he was short of votes in the state, but asked Georgia’s secretary of state to change the outcome anyway.

Donald Trump, Former President of the United States: All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.

Lisa Desjardins: The allegations expanded to a multipronged criminal conspiracy, including false claims of election fraud, a scheme to appoint fake electors, tampering with voting machines and harassment of election workers.

Alongside Trump, the indictment charges several co-defendants from his inner circle, lawyers Rudy Giuliani Sidney Powell and John Eastman, his former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark, and other Georgia Republican officials.

This is the fourth indictment of the former president this year, bringing the number of felony charges against him to 91. The Georgia case into election interference overlaps with federal charges brought by special counsel Jack Smith earlier this month, but the state charges are seen by legal experts as significant on their own.

Unlike the DOJ case, Trump could not pardon himself or attempt to shut down the Georgia investigation if he is reelected president next year.

Fani Willis: The grand jury issued arrest warrants for those who are charged.

Lisa Desjardins: In the meantime, all defendants are to surrender by the end of next week for processing and mug shots, including one to be taken of Trump.

For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Lisa Desjardins.

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