US President Donald Trump pressured the Georgia secretary of state in a phone conversation to "find" enough votes to overturn Joe Biden's victory in the southern state.
The secretly taped conversation with fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger on Saturday, first reported by The Washington Post, includes threats that he and another Georgia official would be taking "a big risk" if they failed to attempt his request.
"The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry," Mr Trump is heard saying on the tape, parts of which were broadcast by CNN.
“And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated. You’re off by hundreds of thousands of votes.”
Mr Raffensperger responds: “Well, Mr President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong.”
Mr Biden won the Republican-leaning state by fewer than 12,000 votes, a margin unchanged after recounts and audits.
None of Mr Trump's allegations have been supported, and even a reversal in Georgia would not deprive Mr Biden of his victory.
Word of the recording came two days before run-off elections in Georgia that will decide control of the US Senate, and three days before Congress is to certify the results of the November 3 election.
That certification, normally routine, is being challenged by dozens of legislators at Mr Trump's behest.
Before the audio was released, Mr Trump tweeted about the call, saying Mr Raffensperger “was unwilling, or unable, to answer questions such as the ‘ballots under table’ scam, ballot destruction, out of state voters, dead voters and more”.
After the release, the White House declined to comment.
Democrats were quick to condemn the call.
“Trump’s contempt for democracy is laid bare. Once again. On tape,” representative Adam Schiff said on Twitter.
“Pressuring an election official to ‘find’ the votes so he can win is potentially criminal, and another flagrant abuse of power by a corrupt man who would be a despot if we allowed him. We will not.”
Some political commentators compared the call to the Watergate tapes that toppled Richard Nixon.
John Dean, a White House counsel to Nixon before turning against him, told CNN the new tape was “very damning for the president”.
“It’s pretty ugly,” Mr Dean said.
Mr Trump has waged an all-out fight against the election results but dozens of recounts and lawsuits, and a review by his own Justice Department, failed to substantiate the claims.
At one point, he invited Republican election officials from Michigan to the White House in an apparent effort to pressure them over their vote certification.
He pressed Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, in another call.
Mr Raffensperger and other election officials, in Georgia and other states, who rejected Mr Trump's entreaties received death threats from his supporters.
On Monday, David Worley, Georgia's sole Democrat on the state election board, told The Washington Post that Mr Trump's conduct was criminal and "a textbook definition of election fraud".
Under state law Mr Raffensperger could legally have made the tape without Mr Trump’s consent.