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Georgia prosecutors open criminal probe of Trump’s call to top election official

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.Kevin D. Liles/For the Washington Post

ATLANTA — Fulton County prosecutors have initiated a criminal investigation into former president Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn Georgia’s election results, including a phone call he made to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Trump pressured him to “find” enough votes to help him reverse his loss.

On Wednesday, Fani Willis, the recently elected Democratic prosecutor in Fulton County, sent a letter to numerous state officials, including Raffensperger, requesting that they preserve documents related to “an investigation into attempts to influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia General Election.”

While the letter does not mention Trump by name, it is related to his intervention in Georgia’s election, according to a state official with knowledge of the matter. A copy of the letter was obtained by The New York Times.


“This investigation includes, but is not limited to, potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office, and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election’s administration,” the letter states.

In addition to Raffensperger, the letter was sent to some of the state’s other top Republican officeholders: Governor Brian Kemp, Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, and Attorney General Chris Carr.

Trump is facing a second impeachment trial in Washington this week, on a charge of “incitement of insurrection” for his role in stirring up the mob that attacked the Capitol Jan 6. The violence that day followed weeks of false claims by Trump that election fraud had deprived him of victory, including in Georgia, where he lost by about 12,000 votes.

For two months after Joe Biden was declared the winner, Trump relentlessly attacked election officials in Georgia, including Raffensperger and Kemp, claiming they were not doing enough to uncover instances of voting fraud that might change the outcome. In addition to the phone call to Raffensperger, he called Kemp in early December and pressured him to call a special legislative session to overturn his election loss. Later that month, Trump called a state investigator and pressed the official to “find the fraud,” according to those with knowledge of the call.


The inquiry makes Georgia the second state after New York where Trump faces a criminal investigation. And it comes in a jurisdiction where potential jurors are unlikely to be hospitable to the former president; Fulton County encompasses most of Atlanta and overwhelmingly supported Biden in the November election.

The Fulton County investigation comes on the heels of a decision Monday by Raffensperger’s office to open an administrative inquiry.

Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump, said in a statement that “the timing here is not accidental given today’s impeachment trial. This is simply the Democrats’ latest attempt to score political points by continuing their witch hunt against President Trump, and everybody sees through it.”

Willis had been weighing for several weeks whether to open an inquiry, after Trump’s phone call to Raffensperger on Jan. 2 alarmed election experts, who call it an extraordinary intervention in a state’s electoral process.

Former prosecutors said Trump’s calls might run afoul of at least three state laws. One is criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, which can be either a felony or a misdemeanor; as a felony, it is punishable by at least a year in prison. There is also a related conspiracy charge, which can be prosecuted either as a misdemeanor or a felony. A third law, regarding a misdemeanor offense, bars “intentional interference” with another person’s “performance of election duties.”


Biden’s victory in Georgia was reaffirmed after election officials recertified the state’s presidential election results in three separate counts of the ballots: the initial election tally; a hand recount ordered by the state; and another recount, which was requested by Trump’s campaign and completed by machines.

Biden was the first Democrat to win the presidential election in Georgia since 1992. Trump accused Kemp and Raffensperger of not doing enough to help him overturn the result in the weeks after the election. Kemp and Raffensperger had each resisted numerous attacks from Trump, who called the governor “hapless” and called on the secretary of state to resign.

Trump is also facing an ongoing criminal fraud inquiry into his finances by the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., and a civil fraud inquiry by New York’s attorney general, Letitia James.

The mere beginning of an investigation into the polarizing former president could be a career-defining moment for Willis, who took office in January. She is the first Black woman to hold the job in Georgia’s most populous county and has already faced some daunting challenges: Atlanta is coming off a year with a high number of homicides, and Willis has promised an ambitious set of changes to the office as well as a review of her predecessor’s controversial handling of the police shooting of a Black man, Rayshard Brooks, in June.


If Trump were to be convicted of a state crime in New York or Georgia, a federal pardon would not apply. In Georgia, Trump cannot look to Kemp for a state pardon, and not just because the two have a fractured relationship. In Georgia, pardons are granted only by the state board of pardons and paroles.