Prosecutors investigating former President Donald Trump and his legal team’s attempts to upend election results in Georgia using false allegations of fraud are likely planning to utilize a little-used law in the state that makes it a crime to knowingly give wrong information to officials.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s office is reportedly actively seeking to apply “false statement” charges to members of Trump’s team who were helping him at the time to make the case for overturning the election results in the state. President Joe Biden won Georgia by less than 12,000 votes.
The law is not utilized very often. Nevertheless, it could be used in this matter, as the false statements Trump and others made could have had serious consequences, including affecting the outcome of the presidential race itself.
The possibility of charging Trump and others with making false statements was initially brought up earlier this month, after Willis sent a formal letter to state officials regarding what her office was looking into within her inquiry. “This investigation includes, but is not limited to, potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election’s administration,” Willis wrote in her letter.
Sources are now indicating that the “false statement” charge is being more aggressively pursued, according to reporting from The Daily Beast. The crime is considered a serious one and carries with it a minimum prison sentence of one year, and a maximum of up to five years.
The charges are being considered for some high profile members of Trump’s inner circle, including his former lawyer Rudy Giuliani. The former New York City mayor presented false evidence of fraud to state legislators in Georgia, and was also involved in two recorded phone calls asking state elections officials to find evidence of fraud — including the call in which Trump reportedly told Georgia officials that they would “find” votes for him in Fulton County, where the former president also alleged votes for him were “dumped.”
Trump also made false claims during the call that suitcases of ballots that had been cast for him as president were replaced with ballots cast for Biden. That specific claim has been deemed untrue by Georgia officials, some of whom chided Trump and others on his legal team early on for continuing to make such allegations.
“What’s really frustrating is the president’s attorneys had this same videotape; they saw the exact same thing that the rest of us could see, and they chose to mislead state senators and the public about what was on that video,” said Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s election system implementation manager, in December.
That context may be important for investigators pursuing the “false statement” charges against Trump and others, as it showcases that it was clear from the start that the claims being made were outrageous enough to not be believable, even to team Trump. To successfully charge someone with making a false statement in Georgia, a person must have knowingly made a “false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry, in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of state government or of the government of any county, city, or other political subdivision of this state.”