Florida connections to four phone calls that got Trump in trouble

Antonio Fins
Palm Beach Post
President Donald Trump appears at a campaign rally for Georgia's incumbent Republican senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, at an airport in Valdosta, Ga., on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020.  When Trump departs the White House, he will have a huge pile of cash to fuel his future ambitions.

Saturday's call to Georgia Secretary of State has landed President Trump in trouble, again.

It's the fourth time since his election that a phone call puts Trump, and his presidency, behind a political eight-ball. Each call had a common denominator — a Florida connection. Here they are:

Mike Flynn calls Russian ambassador

The call, while Trump was at Mar-a-Lago in December 2016, prompted a chain of events that ended with the 22-month Mueller investigation. First, Flynn lied about the call, leading to his firing as national security adviser in February 2017. Trump then fired James Comey, at least partly to end the FBI probe of Flynn and Russian interference in the 2016 election. That led to the naming of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Flynn was charged in December 2017 but pardoned last month by Trump.

More:Mike Flynn, Trump and Mar-a-Lago: A timeline on path to guilty plea

Trump calls the Ukraine president

The Mueller probe officially ended with the former special counsel's testimony before Congress on July 24, 2019. One day later, Trump opened another Pandora's Box with a fateful call to Ukraine President President Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump later insisted said it was a "perfect call." But a whistleblower reported that Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and allegedly withheld military aid to the besieged country. Four months later, the scandal resulted in Trump becoming the third U.S. president to be impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. And then two Floridians would figure prominently in the U.S. Senate trial. U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Orlando, was named to the House Managers' prosecutorial team. And Trump hired former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to defend him. Trump was acquitted by the U.S. Senate on Feb. 5, 2020.

More:Trump impeachment: How Val Demings rose to House Manager

More:Trump impeachment: How 0.2% of Florida voters decided if John Bolton testifies

Trump calls journalist Bob Woodward

Two days after his acquittal in the U.S. Senate, Trump phoned Washington Post legend Bob Woodward and discussed the fast-spreading coronavirus. “This is more deadly,” Trump said in the taped phone call. “This is five per — you know, this is 5 percent versus 1 percent and less than 1 percent, you know. So, this is deadly stuff.” Problem is, Trump at the time was publicly downplaying the virus. No more so than in early March during a weekend visit to Mar-a-Lago. There he publicly downplayed the virus in especially flasy fashion while Vice President Mike Pence was in Fort Lauderdale encouraging people to get on cruises and visit Florida theme parks. At Mar-a-Lago, Trump hosted Brazil's  president and reassured the nation that in terms of coronavirus there was nothing to worry about. “We’re doing very well and we’ve done a fantastic job with respect to that subject,” Trump said. On his way out of town, he even tweeted: “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!” Within a week, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, the economy was preparing for lockdown and the country was headed for 350,000 coronavirus deaths by yearend. When the call with Woodward was revealed in September 2020, rival Biden used it to sharply contrast his approach to the pandemic with Trump's.

More:Lost weekend? Trump reveled, didn't warn about COVID in March visit to Mar-a-Lago

Trump calls Georgia election officials

In the Jan. 2 call, Trump pleaded with Georgia elections officials to "find" him 11,780 votes. It's hard to tell what the consequences of that one-hour phone conversation will be. On Wednesday, speaking to supporters at a rally in Washington the president defended the call. "I think that it was a great call, personally," he said. Still, there has been speculation that Trump committed an elections crime, and there have been calls for a congressional censure. But his GOP allies have rushed to defend the president. One thing's clear. There is an indirect link to Florida. See, the call was the culmination of more than two months of the president's futile, longshot and democracy-debilitating efforts to overturn his election loss to Biden. And one of the first GOP figures to urge Trump to fight was none other than his political godson, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. On Nov. 5, two days before the election was called for Biden, DeSantis was already prodding Republican-controlled legislatures to intervene on Trump's behalf. "Especially if you're in those states that have Republican legislatures like Pennsylvania and Michigan and all these places, call your state representatives and your state senators," DeSantis said on Fox News. "Under Article 2 of the Constitution, presidential electors are done by the legislatures and the schemes they create and the framework. And if there's departure from that, if they're not following law, if they're ignoring law, then they can provide remedies as well."