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“Standby if there’s any stunts we need to pull”: Leaked audio exposes Trump campaign’s Big Lie

A newly released audio recording revealed former President Donald Trump’s campaign acknowledging his loss in Wisconsin while plotting to push baseless allegations of widespread fraud that were repeatedly debunked by election officials and the courts.

The audio — obtained by the Associated Press on Thursday — captured a Nov. 5, 2020 strategy session in Wisconsin, two days after the election. The political operatives in the session appear to praise the Democratic turnout in one of the state’s largest counties and even joked about their opponents’ efforts to engage Black voters 

Andrew Iverson, the head of the Trump campaign in Wisconsin, is heard warning the team that they may need to pull “stunts,” and planning a strategy to claim Democrats stole the election.

“Here’s the deal: Comms is going to continue to fan the flame and get the word out about Democrats trying to steal this election. We’ll do whatever they need. Just be on standby if there’s any stunts we need to pull,” Iverson said in the audio.

Iverson is now the Midwest regional director for the Republican National Committee, and referred the AP’s questions about the recording to RNC spokesperson Keith Schipper, who also declined to comment because he claimed to have not yet heard it. 

The audio came from a former campaign official and Republican political operative who recorded the meeting and shared the audio with AP. The operative is not authorized to speak publicly about what was discussed during the meeting, and did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation, but said they released the audio out of concern for Trump’s third bid at the presidency. 

Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung dismissed the audio recording.

“The 2024 campaign is focused on competing in every state and winning in a dominating fashion,” Cheung told the AP. “That is why President Trump is leading by wide margins in poll after poll.”

Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 and his team fought hard to keep the swing state in 2020, but ultimately lost it by less than one percentage point to President Joe Biden. The result was subject to multiple independent and partisan audits and reviews, lawsuits, and recounts as Biden only defeated Trump by a margin of 21,000 votes. 

However, in the recording, Republican campaign operatives don’t discuss Trump having won the state. Instead, they focus on closing campaign offices and writing reports on how the election unfolded. At one point, Iverson even admits the margin of defeat for Trump in the state.

“At the end of the day, this operation received more votes than any other Republican in Wisconsin history,” Iverson said. “Say what you want, our operation turned out Republican or DJT supporters. Democrats have got 20,000 more than us, out of Dane County and other shenanigans in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Dane. There’s a lot that people can learn from this campaign.”

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The recording shows the dissonance between what Republican officials said about the results in private and the allegations of a stolen election that Trump and his allies were pushing out in public. Trump’s own attorney general told him at the time that there was no evidence of widespread fraud, but the former president ignored the advice of his administration. 

The audio also captured the Trump campaign officials discussing the state’s Black voters. At one point, operatives laughed about needing “more Black voices for Trump.” 

“We ever talk to Black people before? I don’t think so,” Iverson said to a room full of laughter. 

Another GOP operative at the meeting was identified as Clayton Henson, the regional director for the RNC in charge of Wisconsin and other Midwestern states at the time. He praised Republican turnout in the state while also acknowledging Democrats’ efforts in their turn-out-the-vote campaign. 

Henson cites the Democratic turnout in Dane County, which includes the state capital — Madison — a predominantly liberal area. The county hit a record high when it came to voting in 2020, with 80% of the voting-age population casting ballots, and 76% of the vote going to Biden. 

“Hats off to them for what they did in Dane County. You have to respect that,” Henson told the group. “There’s going to be another election in a couple years. So remember the lessons you learned and be ready to punch back.”

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