Georgia investigation opened into Trump’s call to overturn election

President Donald Trump holds a rally in Dalton earlier this year to campaign for U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Georgia election officials are investigating a call Trump made to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger where he applied pressure on the state official, trying to get him to overturn the results of November's presidential election.   (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
President Donald Trump holds a rally in Dalton earlier this year to campaign for U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Georgia election officials are investigating a call Trump made to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger where he applied pressure on the state official, trying to get him to overturn the results of November's presidential election. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Georgia election officials opened an investigation Monday into Donald Trump’s phone call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger urging him to “find” enough votes to reverse the outcome of the presidential contest in the state.

The investigation will review Trump’s Jan. 2 call when he pressured Raffensperger to overturn the election, said Walter Jones, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office.

Raffensperger, a Republican, has repeatedly said there was no widespread fraud that could have changed the results of the election, which Joe Biden won by less than 12,000 votes in Georgia. He told Trump the “data you have is wrong” as he resisted the president’s false claims that he had won in Georgia.

“The secretary of state’s office investigates complaints it receives. The investigations are fact-finding and administrative in nature. Any further legal efforts will be left to the attorney general,” Jones said.

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The investigation was prompted by a complaint from George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf III, according to a case initiation document provided by the secretary of state’s office.

By opening the inquiry, the secretary of state’s law enforcement investigators will be looking into allegations involving Raffensperger, who is their boss.

Election investigations can take months or years before they’re referred to the State Election Board, where Raffensperger is the chairman. The board can dismiss cases, levy fines or refer cases to the attorney general’s office for potential criminal investigation.

Trump’s call to Raffensperger came days before rioters swarmed the U.S. Capitol as Congress was considering Electoral College votes for Biden, who received 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.

After the call, some attorneys said Trump may have violated Georgia laws.

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Trump held out the possibility of criminal prosecution if Raffensperger didn’t agree with him and implored him to say he had “recalculated” vote totals. Georgia laws prohibit conspiracy to commit election fraud, solicitation to commit fraud and interfering with the duties of an election official.

Trump’s impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate begins Tuesday, which will focus on charges that he incited the assault on the Capitol and his actions leading up to the insurrection, including his call to Raffensperger.

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