Georgia Prosecutor May Investigate Trump For Election Interference
During an hour-long phone call on Jan. 2 Donald Trump told Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that “there’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated” the vote total in that state’s presidential election. Now it looks like there could have been plenty wrong with Trump pressuring Raffensperger to do so.
Prosecutors in Georgia appear to be moving closer to opening a criminal investigation of Trump for potential violations of three state laws: criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, conspiracy and intentional interference with another person’s performance of election duties. Importantly, even if Trump were to try to self-pardon in the next five days he would still be subject to prosecution and punishment because they are state, not federal, crimes.
Trump’s calls may run afoul of at least three state criminal laws. One is criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, which can be either a felony or a misdemeanor. 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.
Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis is said to be deciding now about possibly hiring an outside assistant to oversee an investigation. Concurrently, the lone Democrat on Georgia’s five-person election board said he will make a referral on the matter to the DA’s office next month, which automatically would trigger an investigation.
During that early January call with Raffensperger, in which White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also participated, “The Donald” sounded just like an organized crime Don, according to Michael J. Moore, a former United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. “If you took the fact out that he is the president of the United States and look at the conduct of the call, it tracks the communication you might see in any drug case or organized crime case,” he said. “It’s full of threatening undertone and strong-arm tactics.” He said he believed there had been “a clear attempt to influence the conduct of the secretary of state, and to commit election fraud, or to solicit the commission of election fraud.”
Even one of the Republican members of the election commission thinks Trump may have legal exposure. T. Matthew Mashburn said, “The use of the word ‘recalculate’ is very dangerous ground to tread.”