Politics

Georgia Election Officials Are Investigating The Outrageous Trump Phone Call To “Find” Votes

Trump made repeated calls to Georgia officials over the course of two months in an anti-democratic pressure campaign to get them to overturn election results. The question is whether he will found in violation of state laws and face any criminal consequences for it.

Former President Donald Trump arrives to speak at the Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit on December 8, 2020 in Washington, DC. | Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump arrives to speak at the Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit on December 8, 2020 in Washington, DC. | Getty Images

As former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial kicks off in the Senate, the Georgia Secretary of State’s office has launched an investigation into Trump’s anti-democratic efforts to overturn the state’s election results. 

Just days before a pro-Trump rally near the U.S. Capitol devolved into a deadly riot and violent takeover of the building, Trump was on the phone with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican and the state’s top election official, trying to “find” more votes for himself in the state that he lost to President Joe Biden.

Raffensperger pushed back against Trump’s attempts to subvert the electoral process, and after audio of the nearly hour-long Jan. 2 call was published by The Washington Post, members of both parties expressed outrage. Some called for a second impeachment. 

Now, Raffensperger’s office is conducting a “fact finding and administrative” investigation, a spokesperson for his office said on Monday to Reuters, who first reported the news.

The spokesperson noted that “The Secretary of State’s office investigates complaints it receives … Any further legal efforts will be left to the attorney general.”

Raffensperger’s office said it opened the investigation after George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf filed a complaint “requesting a probe into Trump’s potential election interference.” Banzhaf told Reuters it was the fourth complaint he’s filed on the subject to Georgia officials since the Jan. 2 call.

In one of the more stunning lines on the call, Trump said to Georgia election officials that “the people of Georgia are angry, the people of the country are angry. And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, that you’ve recalculated.”

Raffensperger responded by saying, “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong."

“I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state,” Trump also said on the call. Biden had already been declared the winner of the state multiple times, including after a recount in Georgia. He is the first Democrat to win the state in a presidential election since 1992.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, election investigations such as this one “can take months or years before they’re referred to the State Election Board,” which is chaired by Raffensperger. “The board can dismiss cases, levy fines or refer cases to the attorney general’s office for potential criminal investigation,” AJC reported.

The election board can also refer cases to the district attorney. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is already on the record about the Trump call, with a Jan. 4 statement that said, “Anyone who commits a felony violation of Georgia law in my jurisdiction will be held accountable. Once the investigation is complete, this matter, like all matters, will be handled by our office based on the facts and the law."

Willis is still “weighing whether to begin a criminal inquiry of her own” as of Monday, according to The New York Times, which reported that a spokesperson for Willis declined to comment.

Did Trump commit a crime with Georgia phone call?

Very possibly yes. Officials and legal experts have already cited both federal and state laws that Trump appeared to violate with his fraudulent demands and abuse of power.

Two Democratic lawmakers have already called on the FBI to investigate. Reps. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY) sent a letter to FBI Director Chris Wray, writing, "As members of Congress and former prosecutors, we believe Donald Trump engaged in solicitation of, or conspiracy to commit, a number of election crimes. We ask you to open an immediate criminal investigation into the president."

A former inspector general for the Department of Justice tweeted that Trump’s comments are a violation of federal law and that “his best defense would be insanity.” He also said that Meadows and Trump’s lawyers should also be worried about potential criminal liability.

David Worley, the only Democrat on the election board in Georgia, wrote to Raffensperger’s office that “it appears from a reading of the transcript of your call with the President that probable cause may exist to find violations of the [state] Code, particularly O.C.G.A. [statute] 21-2-603 and 604,” which prohibits conspiracy to commit election fraud, including soliciting someone else to commit election fraud. The punishment for such a violation could be up to three years in prison.

Prosecutors and legal experts have also cited other potential state laws that Trump may have violated, including one that prohibits “intentional interference [with someone’s] performance of election duties,” per The Times.


 

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