The Georgia Secretary of State’s office opened an investigation on Monday into former U.S. President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the state’s 2020 election results, an official in the office told Reuters.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office had faced calls to open a probe after Trump was recorded in a Jan. 2 phone call pressuring Raffensperger to overturn the state’s election results based on unfounded voter fraud claims.
“The Secretary of State’s office investigates complaints it receives,” said Walter Jones, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, describing the investigation as “fact finding and administrative.”
“Any further legal efforts will be left to the attorney general,” he said.
Legal experts said Trump’s phone calls may have violated at least three state criminal election laws: conspiracy to commit election fraud, criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, and intentional interference with performance of election duties. The felony and misdemeanor violations are punishable by fines or imprisonment.
In the Jan. 2 phone call, Trump urged Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, to “find” enough votes to overturn his Georgia loss. The transcript quotes Trump telling Raffensperger: “All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes,” which is the number Trump needed to win. Trump made another phone call in December to Georgia’s chief elections investigator, Raffensperger’s office said.
Additionally, two Democratic members of the U.S. Congress – Kathleen Rice, of New York, and Ted Lieu, of California – have asked in a Jan. 4 letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a criminal probe into Trump’s call to Raffensperger.
On Jan. 6 – the day of the U.S. Capitol riots – Trump bragged about the call in a speech to supporters: “People love that conversation because it says what’s going on,” he said. “These people are crooked.”
The push for investigations are one illustration of the legal perils facing Trump since he lost the constitutional protections that shield sitting presidents from prosecution. Trump now faces nearly a dozen legal battles, including a criminal probe by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance into his business dealings and several civil lawsuits.
Trump has described the investigations into his family business as politically motivated.
David Worley, the lone Democrat on Georgia’s state election board had planned to introduce a motion at Wednesday’s board meeting urging state Attorney General Chris Carr and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to open a criminal investigation into Trump’s phone calls with election officials.
He said such a move would be unnecessary if the Secretary of State’s office has opened an investigation. “If they’ve done this, I won’t need to make my motion,” Worley told Reuters. “This is the normal thing that should happen when a complaint is filed. If a complaint is filed, an investigation is started, that’s how it works.”
(Editing by Jason Szep)
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