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Trump's Georgia Phone Call Was Legally Murky: Experts

But almost certainly won't be prosecuted, they say
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2021 1:02 AM CST
Updated Jan 4, 2021 6:55 AM CST

(Newser) – When the Washington Post published its scoop on President Trump's leaked phone call with Georgia's secretary of state, the newspaper noted the POTUS may have been skating on thin ice, legally speaking, with his attempts to get Brad Raffensperger on board with overturning Joe Biden's win in the state. A law professor said that while it could be hard to prove the president knew he was pushing behavior that's actually illegal, it's still clear that Trump "was already tripping the emergency meter. So we were at 12 on a scale of 1 to 10, and now we’re at 15." In the wake of the Post's piece, there are a number of similar takes coming out. Politico, for example, talks to legal experts and lawmakers who say Trump's requests "could violate federal and state statutes aimed at guarding against the solicitation of election fraud." More on that and other news related to the call:

  • Specifically, those experts say, the problematic parts of the call are Trump's urging that Raffensperger "find" exactly the right number of votes to put him ahead of Biden in the state, plus his implication that Raffensperger and his aides might be criminally liable themselves because they didn't report so-called election interference. (There is no evidence for such interference.)

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  • But the New York Times reports that while many of the lawyers it spoke to agreed Trump either broke the law or came close, actually prosecuting him would be challenging. One lawyer notes that Trump could point to the fact that he made no attempt to conceal what he was doing as evidence that he did not intend to break any laws, or did not realize there was a federal law that might have prohibited what he was doing.
  • Some Democrats are saying the call could be criminal. Congressional Democrats are suggesting they will be probing any legal implications, with Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin specifically calling for an investigation, the Hill reports.
  • Even Republicans are speaking out, the AP reports, noting they are concerned Trump's effort to "sow doubt" on the election is "undermining Americans' faith in democracy." More on that, including who is saying what, here.
  • The leak came ahead of a big week politically: Georgia's runoff, which will determine which party controls the Senate, is Tuesday, and Congress will certify the presidential election results Wednesday. At least a dozen incoming and current GOP senators, plus more than 100 GOP representatives, plan to challenge the certification.
  • As for the runoff, Trump mentioned it in the call, suggesting Raffensperger's failure to go along with his plan could result in the Republicans, Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, losing. Trump is holding a rally in Georgia on Monday, and he told Raffensperger he would be complaining about the Georgia presidential election results at the event. On Sunday, he retweeted a call for Perdue and Loeffler to back the "do not certify" and "stop the steal" movement. CNN has a piece about how Trump's Georgia antics are making things difficult for the senators as they fight to keep their seats.
(Read more Election 2020 stories.)

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