Before departing for the state, Trump called on Georgia Governor Brian Kemp to hold a special session of the state legislature over election results there.
US President Donald Trump has kicked off his Saturday night rally in Georgia for Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue by recycling the falsehood that he won the state.
“You know we won Georgia, just so you understand,” Trump told the large crowd gathered for the first post-election rally for the president.
In fact, President-elect Joe Biden won the state of Georgia by about 12,500 votes out of 5 million cast.
Trump said that he traveled to Georgia to help “ensure” the two Republicans win what are probably the most important Senate runoffs in US history.
"We're winning this election," Trump said at the rally in Valdosta, Georgia, adding later that "we will still win it."
"It's rigged. It's a fixed deal," he said of Biden's victory.
Despite surging cases of Covid-19 nationwide, few masks could be seen at the rally and many in the crowd were not abiding by social-distancing measures.
The former reality show star was campaigning in Georgia on behalf of two Republican Senate candidates facing a hugely important runoff on January 5.
The runoff races will decide which party controls the US Senate, and Trump continued his fear-mongering about rival Democrats.
"The voters of Georgia will determine which party runs every committee, writes every piece of legislation, controls every single taxpayer dollar," he said.
"Very simply, you will decide whether your children will grow up in a socialist country or whether they will grow up in a free country."
Kelly Loeffler climbs onto the stage amid "stop the steal!" chants, which signifies how well this rally is going pic.twitter.com/nZGHo1jCFc— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 6, 2020
The stakes in the run-off elections are sky-high. Former president Barack Obama laid them out at a virtual rally on Friday, saying that "the special election in Georgia is going to determine ultimately the course of the Biden presidency."
If Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff defeat Republican senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, the Senate will be evenly divided at 50-50, meaning Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris would cast any deciding votes, as the Constitution dictates.
The race has drawn enormous attention. One measure of the intense interest: With donations pouring in from across the country, the candidates have already spent more than $315 million, the AdImpact website reported, an astounding figure for senatorial races.
And figures as prominent as Obama, Vice President Mike Pence and now Trump himself are scrambling to boost voter turnout.
Trump has placed himself in a difficult spot. Since Biden won the November 3 election, the president has repeatedly, and baselessly, attacked the US electoral system as riddled with "fraud."
Despite an overwhelming series of setbacks in the courts, the president and his lawyers have advanced wild conspiracy theories (one involving long-dead Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez) to explain Biden's victory.
Now analysts say he might have created a political monster – having undercut Georgia voters' faith in the election system just as he needs them to turn out on January 5.
A headline in the Valdosta Daily Times summed up the conflicted feeling among area voters: "Trump in Valdosta: S.Ga. excited, outraged by presidential visit."
Rally comes as state sets virus record
Part of the "outrage" stems from the notion of yet another mass Trump rally coming on a day when the banner headline in the Atlanta Journal Constitution reads: "State sets single-day virus record."
Masks will be required and temperatures taken at the airport rally, local media reported, though public health officials say such mass gatherings always carry risk.
Trump's ability to excite his supporters remains powerful, and he thrives on the campaign rally setting.
But some voters even in long conservative Georgia are expressing weariness over the constant drama surrounding the president.
Analysts said it could make a crucial difference whether Trump, in Valdosta, merely repeats his litany of election grievances or instead addresses the importance of maintaining Senate control.
"It will be good for the rally if it's about Perdue and Kelley Loeffler and how we need to go vote," Spud Bowen, a Republican businessman from Tifton, Georgia, told the Valdosta Daily Times, "but I am certainly not in the mood to hear any more name-calling."
Loeffler and Perdue have moved cautiously, urging Georgians to vote without directly challenging Trump's angry complaints.
Trump, Kemp spar
But Trump has not made things easier for Georgia Republicans, angrily attacking officials in his own party over his loss there, starting with Governor Brian Kemp.
"I'm ashamed that I endorsed him," Trump said of Kemp, furious that the governor did not denounce Republican secretary of state Brad Raffensperger – branded an "enemy of the state" by the president – for certifying the election.
Hours before the event, Trump asked Kemp in the phone call to order the legislative session; the governor refused, according to a senior government official in Georgia with knowledge of the call who was not authorised to discuss the private conversation and spoke on the condition of anonymity. A person close to the White House who was briefed on the matter verified that account of the call.
According to a tweet from the governor, Trump also asked him to order an audit of signatures on absentee ballot envelopes in his state, a step Kemp is not empowered to take because he has no authority to interfere in the electoral process on Trump’s behalf.
But you never got the signature verification! Your people are refusing to do what you ask. What are they hiding? At least immediately ask for a Special Session of the Legislature. That you can easily, and immediately, do. #Transparency https://t.co/h73ZfjrDt3— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 5, 2020
As the large crowd at the rally chanted “Stop the Steal”, Trump responded that “Your governor could stop it very easily if he knew what the hell he was doing.”
Kemp's office said earlier he would not attend the rally on Saturday, after a young Loeffler staff member and close family friend of Kemp's, Harrison Deal, died in a car crash on Friday.