Just days ahead of a landmark election day in Georgia, Donald Trump, along with a team of advisors and legal counsel, dialed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffenspeger in an effort to make sense of what has seemed to be a pretty elementary concept to grasp–his loss in the presidential election.
Per transcription provided by the Washington Post, President Trump urged Raffensperger to recount the votes in an effort to find 11,780 more ballots in his favor –the minimum necessary to overturn his loss to president-elect Biden in a historic flip of the traditionally Red state.
And it`s no surprise that throughout the duration of the hour-long call, President Trump made several unsubstantiated claims on the outcome of the vote that cost him the presidency.
“The people of Georgia are angry, the people of the country are angry,” he said. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, that you’ve recalculated.”
Eventually, his veiled beg for a recount would degrade into a full-on ask for some sort of electoral kickback: “So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.”
At its core, the conversation was a call to overturn the decision that the American people made in November and it characteristically brings into play yet another act of ethical and legal ambiguity at the termination of Trump`s time in the Oval Office.
Per experts, there is potential of federal election law at play. The provision in question is one that states that it is a crime for a person “who in any election for federal office knowingly and willfully deprives, defrauds or attempts to deprive or defraud the residents of a state of a fair and impartially conducted election process.”
With this in mind, it`s no surprise that House Democrats, Ted Lieu of California and Kathleen Rice of New York, sent a letter on Monday (Jan. 4th), urging the FBI to open a criminal investigation on the grounds that they believe the president “engaged in solicitation of, or conspiracy to commit, a number of election crimes.”
Despite Raffnsperger`s assurance that his office would not be opening any criminal investigation, Fulton County District Attorney, Fani Willis, issued statement that trodded investigation waters.
“It is my understanding from news reports that a member of the State Election Board has requested that the Secretary’s elections division investigate the call, after which the board can refer the case to my office and the state attorney general,” Willis said. “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.”
But, like many of President Trump`s qustionable politics, the ability to prosecute will prove to be a challenge. Criminal statutes in election law are made to address more obvious acts like tampering with or destroying ballots, not calls made from one elected offical to another.
Moreover, prosecutors would have to prove that President Trump actually believes that he has not lost, prodding the very grey area of the president`s state of mind.
“Did he really believe he’d won the election and he was just seeking a fair count, or did he know what was really going on here?” said former prosecutor Joyce Vance during a visit to MSNBC`s Morning Joe.
“There’s also this concept in the law of willful blindness, of someone who ignores the truth,” she would add on the contrary. “So when the president repeatedly asks on this call for the specific number of votes he needs to win, [saying] I just need you to find me 11,780 votes, that’s an indication that he’s not seeking an election recount, that he’s trying to steal an election.”