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President Donald Trump gestures at a campaign rally in support of U.S. Senate candidates Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and David Perdue in Dalton, Ga., Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

ATLANTA (AP) — While election officials in Georgia were verifying signatures on absentee ballot envelopes in one metro-Atlanta county, President Donald Trump pressured the lead investigator to "find the fraud" and said it would make the investigator a national hero.

The December call, described by a person familiar with it who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to describe the sensitive nature of the discussion, preceded Trump's Jan. 2 call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger where he asked election officials to "find" enough votes to overturn Joe Biden's win in the state's presidential election.

The call to the investigator occurred as election officials were conducting an audit of signatures on absentee ballot envelopes in Cobb County. The audit, which reviewed more than 15,000 signatures, found no cases of fraud. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation helped conduct the signature audit.

Trump and his allies have for months made false claims about Georgia's signature verification process for absentee ballots and about the results of the November election, which Trump lost to Biden in Georgia by about 12,000 votes. Among other things, they demanded an audit of the signature matches.

The White House had no immediate comment. The call was first reported Saturday by The Washington Post, which said it was withholding the name of the investigator, who did not respond to requests for comment, because of the risk of threats and harassment directed at election officials.

Various election officials across the country and Trump's former attorney general, William Barr, have said there was no widespread fraud in the election. Raffensperger and other election officials in Georgia have repeatedly disputed Trump's false claims about the election and said it was conducted freely and fairly.

Trump held at least three phone calls with Georgia officials seeking to overturn the election results before Congress certified Biden's Electoral College win early Thursday -- hours after a violent throng of pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol.

During a call in early December, Trump pressed Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to order a special session of the state legislature to subvert Biden's victory. Kemp refused.

Trump repeatedly lashed out at Raffensperger and Kemp, both fellow Republicans, and others he saw as standing in his way of overturning his election loss.

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