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Trump Faces Criminal Investigation for Call to Georgia Secretary of State

Trump asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “invent” votes, a law professor in the state contends.

President Trump speaks on a phone call from the Roosevelt Room at the White House on October 18, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

President Donald Trump suggested over the weekend that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “find” him votes to help overturn his election loss in the state during November’s presidential election — and now, because of those comments, the president is facing a criminal investigation.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who was just elected to her post this past election cycle and sworn in earlier this month, has pledged to investigate the demands made by Trump to Raffensperger during a phone call between the two on Saturday.

“As I promised Fulton County voters last year, as District Attorney, I will enforce the law without fear or favor,” Willis said in a statement announcing her plans. “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 could seek criminal charges against Trump, if she deems it necessary, because he specifically mentioned Fulton County while discussing overturning election results in the state.

Trump requested that Raffensperger “find 11,780 votes” to add to his official tally in Georgia — exactly one vote above what Biden’s margin of victory was in the presidential race in the state two months ago. Trump also appeared to suggest Raffensperger and his lawyer, Ryan Germany, could face criminal charges for bucking his demands, and for refusing to count thousands of purportedly discarded ballots in Fulton County (that don’t actually exist) to make up the difference in his loss.

“That’s a criminal offense. And you can’t let that happen,” Trump said to Raffensperger. “That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer.”

Trump’s words could be in violation of federal laws, specifically 52 U.S. Code 20511, which states that someone who “knowingly and willfully deprives, defrauds, or attempts to deprive or defraud the residents of a State of a fair and impartially conducted election process, by … the procurement, casting, or tabulation of ballots that are known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent under the laws of the State in which the election is held” is violating the law.

It’s also possible that Trump violated Georgia law, according to Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis, who spoke with Politico on Sunday about the issue.

“The Georgia code says that anybody who solicits, requests or commands or otherwise attempts to encourage somebody to commit election fraud is guilty of solicitation of election fraud,” Kreis said. “‘Soliciting or requesting’ is the key language. The president asked, in no uncertain terms, the secretary of state to invent votes, to create votes that were not there.”

Legally speaking, Raffensperger himself could also pursue charges against Trump. However, he suggested in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday that he might try to avoid doing so, as such an action could be viewed as a conflict of interest due to his involvement in the phone conversation in question. Raffensperger said Fulton County, however, could pursue charges.

“Maybe that’s the appropriate venue to go,” he added.

Raffensperger has been dealing with Trump’s constant attacks on him and other Georgia officials ever since Trump lost his reelection bid in November. The president has made a number of unfounded claims about his loss in the state, citing bogus conspiracy theories that purport the election was stolen from him without providing any evidence to back up his assertions.

Raffensperger decried those notions of election fraud during his interview on Monday as well.

“All I know is that we’re gonna follow the law, follow the process. Truth matters, and we’ve been fighting these rumors for the last two months,” he said.

Georgia has already certified the results of the election after two recounts affirmed that Biden had won the state. The Electoral College is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, when Georgia’s 16 electoral votes are expected to be awarded to Biden, and the former vice president is expected to be officially certified as the winner of the 2020 presidential election.