Trump campaign asks for another Georgia recount

I understand that Georgia law required an audit, and that it although they counted all votes again it was not a recount.

Given that

Campaign-requested recounts involve rescanning paper ballots, which would not address Trump’s call to “include signature matching.” The statewide audit did not verify signatures because once outer envelope signatures are verified before votes are originally tallied, they are separated from the ballots inside to maintain voter secrecy.

What does Trump hope to gain? Is it as simple as hoping to gain time and then "something something something" electoral college?

I realize that this is sounding opinion based, which is a big no-no on most S.E sites, so, could someone please give a concrete example of how this could profit the soon to be ex-president?

Given that the votes for president have already been (re)counted by hand once (after having been counted by machine) ...

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    Note that the 'first recount' was not a recount but an audit. Normally these are done with machines and with only a few random batches for accuracy/quality control. The audit normally is not as remarkable or thorough as what the Secretary of State made it be. A recount could result in a different ultimate set of ballots being considered (e.g. GA could be ordered by lawsuit, theoretically, to not count certain ballots). This wouldn't be possible until the initial vote certification (including an audit) was completed.
    – TylerH
    Nov 23, 2020 at 18:54
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    @TylerH While you are correct that it was technically an audit, and we do need to remember the precise rules, I do believe that audit has been considered to be a de-facto recount.
    – Cort Ammon
    Nov 23, 2020 at 19:35
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    Any citation on that "best 4 out of 7"?
    – Mawg
    Nov 24, 2020 at 7:46

8 Answers 8


It is highly unlikely that a recount will give Trump a chance to win the election. Recounts just don't move number of votes enough to change an election where Biden had such a raw lead over Trump.

It's entirely possible that Trump is going to fight any way he can, even if there are slim odds of the fight winning, to not give up presidency. That is not entirely out of keeping with his personality. However, there is one way he does gain a concrete benefit, if rather cynical, for continuing the fight.

Trump has been sending requests to supports asking for them to donate money to help him pay to continue to make legal challenges for recounts. However, if one reads the fine print of these e-mails one sees in fact around 60% of the money can, and is, spent not on fighting for recounts but on paying off campaign debts. Paying off these debts benefits Trump, and there have also been some claims that Trump could use other tricks to help ensure that 60% trickles down to his pockets (how valid these later claims are I'm frankly not informed enough to speculate on).

The point is as long as people are paying into this fund Trump benefits via the 60% that goes to paying off his debts. People only contribute to this fund thinking they are helping Trump's chance of overturning state election counts and becoming president. Thus for Trump to continue to get support, and donations, he needs to be seen to visibly be making an effort to overturn election results.

So in effect even if the recount doesn't change who won the state's election it could motivate his backers to continue donating to the fund and Trump could, in turn, benefit from utilizing fund money to pay off campaign debts.

As I said this is a highly cynical motivation and I can't know how much, if at all, it plays a role in Trump's decision. However, you asked for what he can hope to benefit and rather or not this is Trump's primary motivation it is one concrete benefit he likely would gain from continuing legal battles.

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    Yeah, the point about collecting donations is significant, and very likely a strong motivation.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 23, 2020 at 18:46
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    Another key point is that the margin is small enough that the recount is taxpayer funded, so there's very little downside for the challenger, and lots of fundraising profit to be made. This is in contrast to the Wisconsin recount, which had a margin large enough that the Trump campaign would have had to foot the bill - in that circumstance, only a partial recount was requested. Nov 23, 2020 at 20:25
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    "Paying off these debts benefit Trump" -- maybe worth clarifying: are these debts owed by a campaign organization that could theoretically just declare bankruptcy, or is Trump himself personally liable for them?
    – David
    Nov 24, 2020 at 2:54
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    Err... Why would Trump care about paying off debts? He never has before - just look at his long history of business bankruptcies.
    – jamesqf
    Nov 24, 2020 at 4:15
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    @jamesqf Those were business bankruptcies, where he intended to cut the business loose in order to preserve his own take. (I'm not saying this was good or ethical, but it is what it is.) That's not something he can do with the entire Republican Party. He also would not want to declare personal bankruptcy, because then every creditor will have carte blanche to go over his records with a fine-tooth comb.
    – Graham
    Nov 24, 2020 at 13:52

As @dsollen’s excellent answer says, it seems extremely unlikely that the recount could materially change the election result. That answer suggests another, somewhat cynical, possible motive: to raise more money for Trump to pay off campaign debts.

Another major possible motive is to promote the perception or belief that the election results are closer or more questionable than they are. Such a belief, if it remains widely-held, could be very advantageous to Trump or his political successors in the future. This has been fairly widely discussed (e.g. here at FiveThirtyEight) as a major goal of the Trump campaign’s post-election strategy, and specifically as a motive for many of their apparently hopeless legal and procedural challenges to election results.

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    I actually completely agree with you. I was going to include this point as well in my answer, but stumbled with out to express why it was beneficial to trump. I'm glad someone else pointed it out for me.
    – dsollen
    Nov 24, 2020 at 18:14

There has been some speculation that the goal is simply delay. If legal filings, even when they fail, can somehow delay the certification of the vote in a number of places, then the courts might wind up deciding the "winner" as they did in 2000.

And if the lawyers for Trump can get a couple of conflicting rulings in the states, then there can be grounds for appeal to the Supreme Court to settle the issues. This is one reason why it was considered so important to "rush" through the confirmation of the latest justice.

Part of this is causing enough confusion in the minds of some voters that Republican legislators could possibly get away with throwing out the vote in their states and appoint either an "official" or an "alternate" set of electors. In such a case, the winner might need to be decided in congress where the rules are a bit strange.

Fortunately these ploys have failed so far. But, at base, they are attempts to have a winner declared by fiat rather than by election.

Part of the underlying problem is that the US Constitution built in some "hard" dates at a time when travel took a long time, especially in winter.

  • When vote margins are less than a percent in several swing states like Georgia, it motivates the loser to challenge the tabulation. Indeed, errors have been found, though not enough to change the results, at least not yet. A thorough tabulation of all valid, legitimate ballots in five swing states however might change the results and that is one of the Trump team's motivations. The other is, as you say, a strategy of delay long enough to force a Supreme Court adjudication. Nov 25, 2020 at 13:08
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    @Blisterpeanuts, yes, and in some states a small percentage difference (sometimes 1%, sometimes other) will lead to a required recount. In some states, if you request a recount that isn't required, you need to pay for it and it can be quite substantial. This is true not only for presidential elections, also.
    – Buffy
    Nov 25, 2020 at 13:16

Besides the (continuing) funding aspect that was covered in the accepted answer, some additional ones that have been raised in the press:

  • Trump's ego/image. Does not want to be seen as having "gone down" without having exhausted every angle. Remember all the nicknames he put on competitors from "low energy" to "losers" etc.

  • in tandem with just getting more funds, it keeps the Republican base energized and still focused on Trump. E.g. (referring to Nov 11 survey):

A recent Economist/YouGov survey found that 8 in 10 Trump voters said Biden’s election victory was not legitimate despite all the evidence showing that it was.

That number seems to have come down a bit in a more recent Ipsos-Reuters survey and a Rassmusen one, but still a majority of Republicans think the election was somehow illegitimately won by Biden.

Such high numbers could potentially have offered political cover for Republicans in canvassing boards and even state legislatures to push the (state) constituional/legislative boundaries like not certify elections results, which might have given Congress a say in the outcome, be it by not accepting some states' results as "irregular" (e.g. if given past a certain deadline), and/or ultimately--as was suggested in another answer--a downright contingent election. Trump relished the prospect of a contingent election, because the House of Representatives' votes in such an election are weighted differently than for regular votes. Lawyers that were associated with Trump have also been fairly explicit about this:

Harvard Law professor emeritus and Trump impeachment defense attorney Alan Dershowitz explained why postponing certification is such an important part of Trump's attempt to have the election decided by state legislatures or the U.S. Congress. [...]

"The goal here is to try to just make sure that by the date the electors meet and vote there aren't 270 votes for Biden." [...] "If they can bring down the number of electors... from the 305 and bring it down to 267 or 268 then the election goes to the House, where the Republicans win," Dershowitz said.

Likewise (the short-lived Giuliani sidekick) Sidney Powell said their goal was to:

"invalidate the results of the election and force it to the legislatures and the Electoral College and the Congress if necessary."

Explainer of how a contingent vote would favor Trump:

When the House determine an election outcome, it's not by a majority of votes by individual members. Rather, each state votes as a delegation. Republicans hold a majority of states by delegation, even though Democrats have a majority of seats. In the 116th Congress, Republicans control 26 states, Democrats control 22 and Pennsylvania and Michigan are split. If the vote was down party lines, Trump would win.

Although ostensibly done for other reasons (than applying pressure on them), Trump for example had phone calls with the Republican Wayne county commissioners who announced they were rescinding their certification votes. Likewise he met with the Republican leadership of the state's legislature soon thereafter. The RNC sent a letter to Michigan's Republican state board member urging them to delay certification by conducting another audit. (One of the Republicans on this state board abstained, but the other one did not, so the results were certified.)

On Dec 3, Giuliani publicly pleaded his case with Georgia's Senate (committees):

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was in Georgia on Thursday to make claims of widespread voter fraud at one of two [Georgia] Senate committee hearings held on election security. [...]

Giuliani urged legislators in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee not to certify the election results and said that Georgia’s senators could use their constitutional power to appoint Georgia’s electors.

“You are the final arbiter of who the electors should be and whether the process is fair or not,” Giuliani said. “The other way to look at it is, it’s your responsibility if a false and fraudulent count is submitted to the United States government. And it’s clear the count you have right now is false.”

All this immediate benefit aside, there are potentially long-term benefits to Trump's faction in the Republican party to propagate the legend that Trump's loss was illegitimate. Some commentators have drawn an analogy with birtherism (the belief that Obama was not born in the USA, thus not a legitimately elected president), which stayed at relatively high numbers throughout Obama's presidency (and possibly still stays that way, although it doesn't get polled much recently) as a motivator for a good part of the Republican base.

Feelings that a historic injustice was perpetrated against one's side/group have fueled some political movements (fairly) long-term in numerous cases before. It remains to be seen if Trump's election loss turns out to be one of those.


I'm going to disagree with most of the other answers -- there is no grand strategy and Trump knows there is no path to victory.

It's clear at this point none of this is about winning the election, but rather maximizing his position going forward once he leaves the White House. He has pretty obvious plans to move into media, which was the original plan in the 2016 election. It's about finding something, anything to point to that will be seen as fraud through the lens of his primary audience (the Republican base). Then he can claim that he only lost because of fraud, which would assumedly help him maintain his importance in the party and among his base.

Most of all, he cannot allow himself to be seen as a loser -- I'm not sure he has ever admitted, in his entire life, that he lost or failed at something. This, more than anything, is why he was never going to do a standard concession speech.


One possibility is that he is searching for ammunition to use in a contingent election. If Biden doesn't have 270 electoral college votes by December 8th, the election will be decided by House delegations, of which Republicans control the majority.

He could be looking for constitutional issues to take to court and reverse certification, or he could be looking for evidence of fraud to show Georgia's Republican-controlled legislature and get them to send Republican electors instead of Democrat electors. Probably both.

Basically, I don't think the plan is to change the vote totals enough to flip the election traditionally, it's about other paths to victory.

  • Comments deleted. This is not a place to start yet another debate about the merits of every single allegation of election fraud made by the Trump campaign in the past weeks. Please try to focus your comments on how this answer could be improved.
    – Philipp
    Nov 26, 2020 at 10:14

Sowing doubt about the election undermines the authority of the new government and compromises trust in the entire political system. Such recounts and absurd lawsuits fuel that doubt, even though they lack all substance: They are like sex abuse allegations. Something will stick. What's your best guess how long we'll have voter fraud memes floating around on Facebook? The emerging strategy is to alienate a substantial part of the electorate from mainstream politics and media, and make them deeply suspicious about members of both. And mainstream media for them includes Facebook and Twitter, which they leave in droves.

These alienated voters will believe that Trump was cheated out of his rightful second term by a deep state and media conspiracy, and they will be unreachable for or deaf to corrective voices. The new President, indeed the entire administration and government will be illegitimate to them. They will feel less obliged to follow laws they don't like and be more willing to participate in rogue political action, violent or not. This makes the political system brittle and volatile. This New York Times article draws parallels to the situation after the First World War in Germany, when a similar conspiracy theory about the German capitulation weakened the cohesion of the young Weimar Republic.

Undermining the government's authority and weakening the country's cohesion fits a general pattern of Trump's presidency:

Disruption and destabilization of the country politically, socially and psychologically.

To which end, if any, is unclear, except it affects the orderly, normal functioning of government and society in the U.S. The trajectory into distrust, suspicion, segregation and detachment which Trump exploited and fueled is happening on all levels at the same time: Government, society, individuals. Families don't talk to each other anymore, much like students and boomers, or the Senate factions.

You may ask cui bono?

Who benefits from a weak government seen by many as illegitimate? To answer that, let's rehash what a democratic government actually does: On the inside it upholds the rule of law and administers it, ideally in a fair manner. On the outside it protects the sovereignty of the nation.

The rule of law constitutes a set of rules everybody must abide by. In its absence, we simply have the unmitigated rule of the powerful, militarily, criminally, or economically. These are the internal players who profit from a weak government.

Externally, a strong, confident government would pursue American interests against adversaries. (This is not to be equated with blunt strongman policies; pursuing interests, especially long-term, can take on many forms, including win-win strategies like the Marshall Plan.) A weak government, absorbed by domestic problems, would pay less attention to external events and thus give more space to other powers to expand their sphere of influence.

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    @JaredSmith Wow. I thought it was obvious. Probably proves the point! ;-) Nov 25, 2020 at 14:52
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    @JaredSmith Just to add more context: Steve Bannon was entirely open about his disdain for the traditional government. He openly sought to "deconstruct Regulation and Agencies". Nov 25, 2020 at 15:09
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    The jump from decentralizing the government and "undermin(ing) the authority of the new government" to "Disruption and destabilization of the country politically, socially and psychologically" is more than I can make, it's not obvious to me. Seems like you're either giving Trump way too much credit or not enough. The other answers, e.g. cynical ploy for donations and/or just being a sore loser seem more likely. Nov 25, 2020 at 15:18
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    @JaredSmith Note that destabilization and undermining of authority is a worldwide trend, from antivaxers through Covid / climate change deniers to the supporters of right-fringe beliefs. All of those benefit from giving the impression that there is much more to their arguments than there actually is. Web 2.0 and social media provide the perfect platform for that.
    – DevSolar
    Nov 25, 2020 at 19:57
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    @dsollen If you read my answer carefully you will note that I say nowhere that "Trump wants" to destabilize [the U.S.] democracy. I was rather describing that he factually does that, and asking who benefits from it. But that said: Given the choice of Bannon as advisor and Trump's stated loathing of the "deep state" I think it is safe to say that he wanted to be disruptive at least to some aspects of the traditional government. Disruption is hard to imagine without some form of destabilization. Whether that's good or bad is another question. Dec 8, 2020 at 0:55

In the beginning Trump would have hoped to overturn the vote in Georgia as a component of his route to the white house in 2020. However, his motive as of this moment in time are likely that he believes being seen to back down\concede the count will make him look weak in the eyes of his base, and thus reduce his chances of a nomination\victory in 2024.

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