On Sunday, the Washington Post published a recording of an extraordinary phone conversation between President Donald Trump and Georgian Foreign Secretary Brad Raffensperger in which the outgoing President urged Republican Raffensperger to find enough votes to overthrow President-elect Joe Biden's victory in Georgia .
During the call, which came on Saturday, Trump made several unsubstantiated claims that some of the ballots cast in the state of Georgia were "corrupt," as well as evidence-free claims that an unidentified person "destroyed ballots." in the state. Trump claims that Raffensperger and his office's general counsel, Ryan Germany, are taking a "great risk" – suggesting that Raffensperger and Germany themselves are committing criminal behavior by covering up these imaginary election crimes. And then Trump drops this bomb:
I just want to do that. I just want to get 11,780 votes, one more than us because we won the state.
Biden won Georgia with 11,779 votes. So if Raffensperger “found” 11,780 votes, Trump would take the lead in that state. Raffensperger repeatedly rejected Trump in his honor.
Trump's call to Raffensperger wasn't just a direct attack on American democracy. It was most likely a crime too. It is a federal crime to knowingly attempt to “deprive or defraud the residents of a state of fair and impartial electoral process” by “obtaining, casting, or tabulating ballot papers known to be materially false and fictitious or fraudulent under the laws of the state in which the election is being held. "
After the recording of Trump's phone call was released, several prominent lawyers, including former Attorney General Eric Holder, suggested that Trump may have broken that law.
Four criminal laws Trump may have violated
There is no evidence that Georgia lost its ballots or otherwise counted incorrectly, a point Raffensperger raised repeatedly during the call. When Trump pressured Raffensperger to “find” nearly 12,000 fake votes, he appeared to be attempting to deprive Georgians of voting in a fair and impartial manner, in an attempt to obtain false, fictitious or fraudulent ballots.
Under this law, however, the federal prosecutor must prove that Trump had a certain state of mind when he pressured Raffensperger to rig the election. In order to convict Trump, prosecutors would have to prove that the outgoing president sought the counting of ballot papers that (Trump (Trump) knew were materially false, fictional or fraudulent under the laws of the state where the elections are being held are).
For example, Trump's attorneys could argue that Trump really believed the various conspiracy theories promoted during his call to Raffensperger, and that Trump believed that there are indeed thousands of legitimate ballots that Raffensperger could "find". To overcome this argument, prosecutors would have to prove beyond any doubt that Trump knew he lost the election and that any ballot papers "found" are fraudulent.
If Trump were convicted under this law, he could be imprisoned for up to five years.
Another federal law makes it a crime to "conspire to harm, oppress, threaten, or intimidate a person … in the free exercise or enjoyment of any rights or privileges afforded him by the constitution or the law the United States are secured ". Trump was assisted by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and at least two lawyers. To the extent that he has conspired with them to try to deprive even a single Georgian voter of a constitutional right to vote, Trump could potentially be imprisoned for up to 10 years.
Georgia state law could also criminalize Trump's attempt to topple an election. State law makes it a crime to deliberately tamper with "a voter roll, voter certificate, numbered electoral roll, ballot box, voting machine, electronic direct recording device (DRE), or tabulator". And while Trump did not directly manipulate the vote in Georgia, state law also makes it a crime to ask another person to commit such a crime "with the intent that another person is involved in a crime." A person convicted of prosecuting a crime in Georgia is “punished with a minimum of one and a maximum of three years imprisonment” (although the sentence may be higher for committing a crime that includes life in prison or death is punished).
Georgian law also explicitly makes it a crime to make “criminal inducements to commit election fraud”.
Another federal law makes it a crime to "deliberately fail or refuse to tabulate, count, and report that person's vote," although it is less likely that Trump could be prosecuted under that law. While Georgian law makes it a crime to solicit another person to commit a crime, federal law only criminalizes solicitation of a "crime of the crime of violence" – meaning that the crime is "the use, attempted use, or action threatened use of physical violence against “must involve property or the person of another. "
Ultimately, the question of whether Trump will be prosecuted for federal crimes will rest with whoever President-elect Biden chooses to lead the Justice Department and oversee federal prosecution in Georgia. And the question of whether Trump will be tried in a state court will lie with prosecutors.
Whatever the prosecutors decide, there is no question that Trump's actions were a major attack on democracy. You were probably a criminal too.
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