• Tiana Poirier

The Legalities of Trump's Phone Call to Georgia Official

With 16 electoral votes, Georgia has been a red state for four consecutive elections, but it recently turned blue for the 2020 election. This took many Republicans and Democrats by surprise, but one person in particular did not like this outcome: Donald Trump. A phone call between President Trump and the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger from January 2, 2021 has been made public. The call was over an hour long, and it depicted Trump pressuring Raffensperger to twist the Georgia votes and ultimately change the outcome of the 2021 election to result in Trump’s victory. In the call, Trump urges Raffensperger to “find” votes, and he threatens Raffensperger’s reputation in the state of Georgia as a Republican if he does not comply. He also accused multiple cities in Georgia of voter fraud and the removal of machinery to sabotage him. Many legal scholars question if what Trump said and threatened was illegal, and worthy of taking legal action, while some lawyers have come to the conclusion that his words violated federal and state criminal regulations. Here are a few of Trump’s requests to Raffensperger:

Trump starts the call by telling Raffensperger that he won the election, and that the people of Georgia and the country are angry. He tells Raffensperger “there is nothing wrong with saying that you’ve recalculated” when Raffensperger had previously informed him that there was no voter fraud found. This was seen as a passive-aggressive way for Trump to tell Raffensperger to twist votes. Trump then starts pushing on the theory there could be voter fraud, and he accuses a town of shredding ballots. He asks Raffensperger, “Do you think it's possible that they shredded ballots in Fulton County? Because that's what the rumor is,” and he goes on to say that another city in Georgia, Dominion, is moving out machinery. Ryan Germany, the General Council for the Georgia Secretary of State, shuts down those theories to which Trump asks “Are you sure, Ryan?” and Germany confirms with a simple “I’m sure.” Legal cases say this is seen as a pressure tactic used by Trump illegally.

If the controlling voice and false accusations Trump were using weren’t already enough to build a case against him, what he says next will stand out. He tells Raffensperger “You should want to have an accurate election. And you’re a Republican.” and Raffensperger responds with the belief that they do already have an accurate election result. This stood out to lawyers because as someone in the same political party as him, these comments sound like pressure towards Raffensperger to make sure the election is in the Republicans’ favor when it has already proven to be in the Democrat’s. When Trump refuses to believe him he says “No, no, you don’t. You don't have. Not even close. You’re off by hundreds of thousands of votes.” This is assuming Trump is comparing the Georgia votes that favored him in the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton where he won the state of Georgia with 50.4 percent to Clinton’s 45.3 percent.

Trump then goes on to threaten Raffensperger of committing a criminal offence by “not reporting on” the supposed stolen election, and he says they are taking a big risk in not saying anything. What made lawyers look into this part of the phone call is what Trump says next: “I just want to find 11,780 votes.” When asked in an interview if Trump committed a crime, Former Acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal says “Absolutely. I think a criminal investigation is warranted. He said he needed to find 11,780 votes. I mean someone who is committed to seeking the truth goes out and finds the truth, they don't seak a certain amount of votes.”

Trump then shifts the conversation to a request for reexamination of ballots, but pressures Raffensperger to pick people who want Trump to win to count them. He said “ I think you have to say that you're going to reexamine it, and you can reexamine it, but reexamine it with people who want to find the answers, not people that don’t want to find answers.” This is seen as a way Trump tried to convince Raffensperger to twist the ballots once again. Raffensperger responded: “Mr. President, you have people that submit information, and we have our people that submit information, and then it comes before the court.” Raffensperger shut his request down after repeatedly telling him there was no voter fraud.

With the Georgia Senate election just around the corner when this phone call took place, Trump mentions how the results from Georgia being now mostly Democratic would affect the senate election to also favor the Democratic candidates. He states, “You have a big election coming up, and because of what you’ve done to the President, a lot of people aren't going to vote and a lot of Republicans are going to vote negative because they hate what you did to the President.” Whether he was right or wrong about Republicans voting negatively, both Democratic candidates Jon Ossnoff and Raphael Warnock won the Senate seats for Georgia.

Not only did Trump threaten Raffensperger’s reputation by saying he would be “at risk” if he didn’t report on voter fraud speculation, he also said his reputation would be boosted if he changed the election results. Trump finds one more way to try and convince Raffensperger by ending with this: “You would be respected, really respected, if this thing could be straightened out before the election. You have a big election coming up on Tuesday.”

Raffensperger later said in an interview: “Maybe they were just trying to intimidate me and cajole me into something. It was not going to happen.” With no evidence of voter fraud

President Joe Biden has taken office fairly.

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