• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Georgia prosecutor launches criminal probe into Trump phone call with election officials

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Georgia's district attorney is investigating whether former President Trump's phone call to state election officials violated state law. In audio released from the January call, Mr. Trump is heard asking Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” him 11,780 votes. Atlanta Journal-Constitution political reporter Greg Bluestein joins "Red and Blue" host Elaine Quijano with more on the investigation.

Video Transcript

ELAINE QUIJANO: Georgia prosecutors are investigating whether President Trump broke the law in his attempts to overturn the state's 2020 election results. During a now released phone call from January, Mr. Trump can be heard asking Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find him more votes.

DONALD TRUMP: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Mr. Trump lost to Georgia to now President Biden by about 12,000 votes. On Wednesday, Fulton County's Democratic District Attorney sent a letter to Secretary Raffensperger, as well as Governor Brian Kemp, both Republicans, advising them to preserve all records related to the election. She added that particular care should be given to, quote, "evidence of attempts to influence the actions of persons who were administering the election." Now it comes as House impeachment managers argue it was not only President Trump's words on January 6 that incited the capital riot, but also his allegations of election fraud leading up to the attack.

Greg Bluestein joins me now. He's a political reporter for The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Hi, there, Greg. So what do we know about why this investigation was launched? And what kind of resources are being devoted to it?

GREG BLUESTEIN: Yeah, well the newly elected Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis has been considering this action for weeks now, especially after that tape you just mentioned emerged on January 2. And then today, as you mentioned, she sent letters not only to Governor Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger but also Lieutenant Governor Jeff Duncan and Attorney General Chris Carr, asking them to preserve these documents. And in the letter, she outlines just how far and how broad this investigation could go. She's looking at potential violations of Georgia law, including election fraud, false statements, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath in office, and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election administration.

So this is a broad, broad outline of what she could be looking at. And she looks like she's going to move pretty quickly.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, what kind of charges does the former president potentially face from his phone call with Secretary of State Raffensperger?

GREG BLUESTEIN: Yeah, with the Raffensperger call in particular, prosecutors have indicated looking at is a state law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud. So if state attorneys, if the Fulton County District Attorney's office can prove that this was a solicitation, that the former president was demanding that Brad Raffensperger commit election fraud, elections experts, legal experts in Georgia say that under state law, there could be a criminal violation right there.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, this connects with the arguments House impeachment managers are trying to make, that the attack on the US Capitol followed weeks of false allegations from former President Trump that the election was somehow stolen. Has the Trump team responded to news of this investigation?

GREG BLUESTEIN: Yeah, you're exactly right. This case, this phone call is factored directly into the impeachment proceedings going on right now. And yeah, the Trump Senior Advisor, Jason Miller, responded, basically questioning whether or not the timing was meant to damage the former president's case during the impeachment trial. He said the timing is not accidental, and that it's simply another attempt by Democrats to score political points against the former president.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Finally, Greg, I also want to ask you about Georgia's State Republican Party. After losing the two critical runoff races, which flipped control of the Senate to Democrats, they also lost the general election for the first time since 1992. Now, in June, the party will have the chance to elect new leadership. So who's running and what are their ideas to address these defeats?

GREG BLUESTEIN: Yeah, this would be a big moment for state Republicans because it's not just a matter of who's going to lead the state party, but it's also a matter of how they're going to funnel, how the state apparatus is going to funnel millions of dollars and resources, direct volunteers, and really cast the tone over the 2022 election cycle, when every statewide constitutional office is up for grabs and Republicans will be trying to unseat newly elected Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock. Right now, David Shafer, who's been the Republican chairman of the state party for the last two years, is running for another term.

He faces at least one opponent, Jason Shepherd, who comes from Cobb County, he is a suburban Republican who says that David Shafer fell through on his promises to lead Republicans to victory. There'll also be some other Republicans, I think, getting into this contest as well.

ELAINE QUIJANO: All right, there's always another election to look forward to. Greg Bluestein. Greg, always great to have you. Thank you very much.

GREG BLUESTEIN: Thanks for having me.