House Democrats urge FBI to open criminal investigation into Trump call

House Democrats urge FBI to open criminal investigation into
Trump call 1

Georgia’s top elections official on Monday systematically dismissed and dismantled the inaccurate claims made by President Trump and his allies about the election,  calling it “anti-disinformation Monday.” The press conference by Gabriel Sterling came just hours after two House Democrats are calling on the FBI to open a criminal investigation into President Trump’s explosive call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for possible violations of federal and state election laws.

“This is all easily, provably false. Yet, the president persists,” Sterling said, as he went one-by-one through the various unfounded and false claims about Dominion voting systems and uncounted ballots. 

Congressman Ted Lieu of California and Congresswoman Kathleen Rice of New York made their request in a letter to FBI Director Chris Wray on Monday after audio of Mr. Trump’s hour-long call with Raffensperger was obtained and published by several news outlets Sunday, including CBS News. In the call, the president pressured the secretary of state to “find 11,780 votes” to reverse his loss in Georgia’s presidential election.

“The evidence of election fraud by Mr. Trump is now in broad daylight,” the two Democrats wrote. “The prima facie elements of the above crimes have been met.”

Lieu and Rice, both former prosecutors, believe the president “engaged in solicitation of, or conspiracy to commit, a number of election crimes.” The pair cited two federal laws they believe Mr. Trump violated, as well as one Georgia state law regarding solicitation of election fraud.

In the course of their conversation, Mr. Trump told Raffensperger, “All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.”

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“The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry,” the president said. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.”

President-elect Joe Biden defeated Mr. Trump in Georgia by 11,779 votes, and ballots cast in the state have been counted a total of three times, with Mr. Biden’s win affirmed each time.

The president repeatedly claimed in the call that he won the election in the Peach State and suggested ballots had been shredded in Fulton County. The president also claimed Dominion Voting Systems, a supplier of election technology, was removing or tampering with machinery.

Raffensperger and his general counsel Ryan Germany, who was also on the call, repeatedly pushed back against Mr. Trump’s claims, with the secretary of state asserting the state’s election results were “accurate.”

“Mr. President, the challenge that you have is that the data you have is wrong,” Raffensperger told the president.

Since November 3, the day of the election, Raffensperger’s office received 18 attempted phone calls from the White House. The call Saturday, however, was the first call the secretary of state has been on with Mr. Trump since Election Day.

Mr. Trump’s comments have raised questions as to whether he could come under legal scrutiny.

Raffensperger told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday that his office would not be opening an investigation as it could be a conflict of interest, but he believes the Fulton County district attorney “wants to look at it.”

“Maybe that’s the appropriate venue for it to go,” he said.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said in a statement she found the call “disturbing” and cited news reports that the lone Democrat on the state election board requested the elections division investigate the call, after which the board can refer the case to Willis’ office and the state attorney general.

“As I promised Fulton County voters last year, as district attorney, I will enforce the law without fear or favor. Anyone who commits a felony violation of Georgia law in my jurisdiction will be held accountable,” she said. “Once the investigation is complete, this matter, like all matters, will be handled by our office based on the facts and the law.”

Justin Levitt, a law professor at Loyola Marymount University, said it’s “very possible” the president violated federal law and probably broke Georgia state law.

“It mostly turns on what the president honestly believe at this point, and the only choices aren’t great,” he told CBS News. “So either he understands reality and knows that there are not 11,800 ballots sitting somewhere that are Trump votes and weren’t counted in recounts and audits, in which case he committed a crime. If he actually understands the true nature of the world, if he can discern fact from fiction, he probably committed a crime.”

But, “if he doesn’t, then we’ve got a chief executive who is still in power for 16.5 days who cannot reliably distinguish between fact and fiction based on the information he receives,” Levitt continued.

“That’s not a great consolation prize,” he said, adding there is “plenty” in Mr. Trump’s call with Raffensperger “that is alarmingly indicative that the president can’t tell fact from fiction, that he has bought into his own conspiracy theories.”

Levitt suggested the president and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who was on the call, may also have broken an 1871 law on criminal conspiracies to subvert civil rights if they agreed the goal of the call “was to see if we can convince him to make up a fake count.”

“If Meadows knows, if he can tell the difference between fact and fiction and he has the same objective as the president, then that’s all conspiracy requires,” he said

Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who led the Justice Department under President Obama, tweeted Sunday that those listening to the audio of Mr. Trump’s call should “consider this federal criminal statute,” and he included an image of a law that states that any person in a federal election 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” would be fined or imprisoned for up to five years.

Adam Brewster contributed to this report

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