Georgia prosecutor investigating Trump’s election call to state elections official

By: - February 16, 2021 8:49 am
Donald Trump in Oval Office on phone

The U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol will use its first public hearing to tie the violent attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election directly to former President Donald Trump, committee aides told reporters Wednesday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Fulton County (Ga.) prosecutors are launching a wide-ranging criminal investigation into attempts to overturn last year’s presidential election results in Georgia. 

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis sent letters Wednesday to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Gov. Brian Kemp, Attorney General Chris Carr and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan asking them to preserve documents and other evidence that might reveal election fraud, false statements, conspiracy theories, racketeering and other violations.

Willis sent the letters to Kemp and the others on the second day of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. A Jan. 2 phone call Trump made to Raffensperger and other election officials, where he asked them to “find” enough votes to change the outcome, is part of the case presented in Washington this week for the former president’s impeachment. 

Trump lost Georgia to President Joe Biden by fewer than 12,000 votes, the first GOP presidential candidate to lose the state in decades. 

The letters do not name Trump, but Willis is on record saying she intends to investigate the president’s January phone call with Raffensperger.

“This letter is notification that all records potentially related to the administration of the 2020 General Election must be preserved, with particular care being given to set aside and preserve those that may be evidence of attempts to influence the actions of persons who were administering that election,” Willis wrote. 

She said the investigation is a “high priority” for her office and that her goal is to begin requesting subpoenas once the next grand jury is scheduled to meet in March. 

“At this stage, we have no reason to believe that any Georgia official is a target of this investigation,” she wrote. “As my esteemed colleague and fellow law enforcement officials, I know we all agree that our duty demands that this matter be investigated and, if necessary, prosecuted, in a manner that is free from any appearance of conflict of interest or political considerations.”

In the aftermath of the Nov. 3 general election, Trump and his allies repeated baseless fraud accusations and conspiracy theories even after Republicans Raffensperger and U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr said they found no evidence of widespread fraud. Several recounts and audits confirmed Biden’s win.

The recorded call, which Raffensperger authorized to be released after Trump tweeted about it, is a serious enough matter to warrant further investigation, said Jeffrey Lazarus, a Georgia State University political science professor.

The ongoing impeachment proceedings and criminal investigations are unlike anything the country has seen, including the scrutiny that former President Richard Nixon faced after leaving office, Lazarus said.

“One of the things that Gerald Ford did right after Nixon left office was issue a blanket pardon, so that nobody could investigate any of the things that he did for any criminal indictment,” he said. “So really, in anybody’s living memory, there’s no real precedent for any of this because Trump isn’t going to get that kind of pardon.”

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, who is also chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia, praised Willis’ decision to pursue an investigation into Trump’s attempts to overturn the state’s presidential election outcome.

“Trump and his cronies’ attacks on our elections were the direct result of Black and brown voters making their voices heard,” Williams tweeted Wednesday.

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley can brainstorm with you on criminal justice reform and civil right issues. He has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist in 2018 for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines. Stanley is a graduate of the University of Memphis.