David Worley, the lone Democrat on Georgia’s state Board of Elections, is calling for a civil and criminal investigation into a weekend phone call in which outgoing President Donald Trump pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, to “find” enough votes to swing the state to Trump. As Worley noted, “It’s a crime to solicit election fraud, and asking the secretary to change the votes is a textbook definition of election fraud.” In defense of his original request for action to change the certified election outcome in Georgia, Trump cited various debunked claims about supposed election fraud in Georgia, claiming at one point that, in actuality, he won the state by some half a million votes, which is just entirely fictional.
Worley said that Trump’s phone call constituted “probable cause” for an investigation into possible violations of state election code, noting that “[such] an incident, splashed as it is across every local and national news outlet, cannot be ignored or brushed aside.” Similarly, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) — the number two Democrat in the United States Senate — has called for a criminal investigation into the incident. If Democrats win Georgia’s two ongoing Senate races, thereby taking control of the chamber, then using the machinations of the Senate to hold Trump accountable for his belligerent behavior could become significantly easier.
Richard H. Pildes, who works as a constitutional law professor at New York University, noted to The Washington Post that Trump “is either knowingly attempting to coerce state officials into corrupting the integrity of the election or is so deluded that he believes what he’s saying,” and neither option is particularly reassuring. During the phone conversation, Trump insisted that failing to fall in line with his claims could be a “big risk” for state officials, and the vaguely threatening sentiment could be construed as a threat of a punitive federal investigation. Trump’s apparent presentation of this option could constitute extortion.
Raffensperger, for his part, has addressed the incident on Twitter. In reply to a post in which Trump insisted that Raffensperger “has no clue,” the top Georgia Republican wrote as follows:
‘Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out.’
Trump is still acting as though the election can be turned around when Congress meets to confirm the electoral college numbers on January 6. What’s he going to do when that election overturning doesn’t take place?
Respectfully, President Trump: What you're saying is not true. The truth will come out https://t.co/ViYjTSeRcC
— GA Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (@GaSecofState) January 3, 2021