Twice impeached former president Donald Trump thought his Jan. 2 conversation with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was another “perfect” phone call, much like his “perfect” phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. The former president’s admonition to Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden triggered Trump’s first impeachment.
Now he is facing legal jeopardy in Georgia for telling Raffensperger “there’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated” the state’s presidential vote total. The secretary of state’s office announced late Monday that it has begun a formal investigation of that hour-long phone call during which Trump multiple times pressured Raffensperger to find enough votes to declare him the winner of the election. The investigation was requested by David Worley, the only Democrat on Georgia’s five-member State Election Board.
Worley said, “Any investigation of a statutory violation is a potential criminal investigation depending on the statute involved. The complaint that was received involved a criminal violation.”
“All I want to do is this,” Trump said to Raffensperger during that call. “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.” Ultimately Georgia conducted two vote recounts and both showed that Biden was the victor.
Trump also made repeated attempts to pressure Gov. Brian Kemp to tip the election in his favor. His calls with Kemp and Raffensperger could have violated at least three state laws. One is criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, which can be either a felony or a misdemeanor; as a felony, it is punishable by at least a year in prison. There is also a related conspiracy charge, which can be prosecuted either as a misdemeanor or a felony. A third law, a misdemeanor offense, bars “intentional interference” with another person’s “performance of election duties.”
Fani Willis, the Democratic district attorney of Fulton County, which encompasses much of Atlanta, also is considering whether to open a criminal inquiry of her own.