INDEPENDENT . Mon, January 4, 2021, 1:20 AM GMT+1
Donald Trump may have violated both state and federal law in his controversial taped phone call to Georgia’s secretary of state.
In the hour-long call the outgoing president asked Republican Brad Raffensperger to help him “find” 11,780 votes to overturn his loss to Joe Biden.
The state’s election boss and other officials told Mr Trump that they could not help him as Mr Biden’s win had been fair and accurate.
Observers say that Mr Trump’s specific request to “find” a certain number of votes to overturn Mr Biden’s win and his vague reference that Mr Raffensperger and his officials could face criminal liability could violate laws designed to prevent solicitation of election fraud.
Georgia state law has two provisions that make criminal “solicitation of election fraud” and “conspiracy to commit election fraud.”
Federal law also makes criminal “the procurement, casting , or tabulation or ballots that are known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent.”
Any violation of state law would not be subject to to a pardon from Mr Trump or his successor.
“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. ‘Soliciting or requesting’ is the key language,” Anthony Michael Kreis, a Georgia State University law professor, told Politico.
“The president asked, in no uncertain terms, the secretary of state to invent votes, to create votes that were not there.
“Not only did he ask for that in terms of just overturning the specific margin that Joe Biden won by, but then said we needed one additional vote to secure victory in Georgia.
“There’s just no way that if you read the code and the way the code is structured, and then you look at what the president of the United states requested, that he has not violated this law — the spirit of it for sure.”
Mr Trump’s call was also attacked by former Justice Department inspector general, Michael R Bromwich.
He took to Twitter to say that Mr Trump’s only defence for the call was “insanity.”
“Unless there are portions of the tape that somehow negate criminal intent, “I just want to find 11,780 votes” and his threats against Raffensperger and his counsel violate 52 U.S. Code § 20511. His best defense would be insanity,” he tweeted.
“The entire call is astonishing. The bullying, the threats, the insults, the credulous embrace of discredited conspiracy theories.
“Like a crime boss, Trump occasionally says that all he wants is the truth. But he doesn’t – he wants the win. It’s pathetic.”
And a former federal prosecutor also compared Mr Trump’s call to those of the mob bosses he used to put on trial.
“The Trump tapes sound like a mob boss giving orders to a lieutenant,” tweeted Glenn Kirschner.
“Trump tells the Georgia Secretary of State to “find” the exact number of votes he needs to flip the results. This sounds exactly like what we would catch our RICO defendants saying when we were up on a wire.”
The White House, the Trump campaign and Mr Raffensperger’s office have not responded to requests for comment.
After the call became public, Democrats in Washington DC were quick to say they viewed it as a potential criminal act.
“In threatening these officials with vague ‘criminal’ consequences, and in encouraging them to ‘find’ additional votes and hire investigators who ‘want to find answers,’ the president may have also subjected himself to additional criminal liability,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Representative Adam Schiff who lead impeachment proceedings against the president described the phone call as “amongst the most despicable abuses of power of his long list, possibly criminal, morally repugnant, virulently undemocratic and dangerous to our democracy.”
Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger, who is a vocal critic of Mr Trump, said the phone call was “absolutely appalling” and should be a warning to those Republicans trying to overturn the election result.
During the phone call Mr Trump falsely insisted he had won the election in Georgia, not Mr Biden.
“And it’s going to be very costly in many ways,” added Mr Trump.
“And I think you have to say that you’re going to reexamine it, and you can reexamine it, but reexamine it with people that want to find answers, not people that don’t want to find answers.”