During his speech at his Mar-a-Lago estate, Trump insisted that his leaked Jan. 2, 2021, phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which he urged the fellow Republican to “find” 11,780 votes, was “perfect.”
“Nobody said, ‘sir, you shouldn’t say that,’” Trump said, adding that many lawyers were on the call. No one “hung up in disgust because of something I inappropriately said. Because nothing was said wrong.”
The former president’s remarks echoed previous statements he had made, including falsehoods that no one pushed back against him during the Raffensperger conversation. But his comments put a renewed spotlight on what many experts say could be a stronger legal case against Trump, who is running for the Republican nomination for president for a third time.
Trump on Tuesday said the “fake case” in Fulton “was brought only to interfere with the upcoming 2024 election and it should be dropped immediately.”
Trump has also called Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is Black, “an animal” and a “racist.”
New York attorney Nick Akerman, who has closely followed the Manhattan and Fulton County investigations, said Trump’s harsh language is not going to score any points in the prosecutors’ offices or in the courts.
“At some point, it’s going to get him charged with a separate crime of intimidation,” Akerman said. “Trump is coming awfully close to the edge.”
“I think it’s just a matter of time before he finds himself being charged with a crime for doing precisely what he has been doing,” he continued. “That just is not something judges are going to allow him to do as a matter of course.”
The Raffensperger call prompted Willis, a Democrat, to launch an inquiry into whether Trump and his allies criminally interfered in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election. The probe has since expanded to include the appointment of a slate of “alternate” electors, falsehood-filled testimony Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and others delivered to Georgia lawmakers and attempts to intimidate a Fulton poll worker, among other events.
A rare special grand jury was seated to help Willis hear testimony and collect evidence. The group, which met for nearly eight months, recommended that more than a dozen people be charged with crimes, according to forewoman Emily Kohrs, who declined to name names.
Willis is currently reviewing the special grand jury’s recommendations, which are sealed from the public but include an allegation that at least one witness may have committed perjury. She’s expected to announce any indictment decisions in the weeks ahead.
Last month, Trump’s Atlanta-based attorneys launched a broad attack on the Fulton probe, arguing in a court filing that the conduct of Willis, the jurors and the judge overseeing the probe tainted the investigation. They asked that a judge quash the grand jury’s final report and recuse the DA’s office from pursuing the case. Fulton prosecutors are expected to respond to that filing by May 1.
On Tuesday, Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg unsealed an indictment against Trump, the first ever to be levied against a former U.S. president. The charges accused Trump of falsifying business records to protect his campaign for president in 2016. They said he also concealed the nature of hush money payments made to two women, a porn star and a former Playboy Playmate of the year who said they had affairs with him, and a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have information about a child Trump had allegedly fathered out of wedlock.
While the Manhattan case is entirely separate from the Fulton probe, law enforcement here is closely watching the developments in New York, mindful that similar events could unfold in downtown Atlanta should Willis choose to pursue an indictment against Trump.
At his arraignment in New York, Judge Juan Merchan advised Trump to “please refrain from making statements that are likely to incite violence or civil unrest.”
Trump had previously called for mass protests in Atlanta, New York and anywhere else where he deems that prosecutors might have overstepped. Those comments prompted Willis in January 2022 to request security assistance from the FBI’s Atlanta field office to help secure the Fulton courthouse.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.