Trump’s rally in Perry might have bolstered legal case against him, think tank says

Donald Trump’s scorched-earth rally in Georgia last month might have done more than deepen the factional divide in the state GOP. It might have also strengthened the criminal case that Fulton County prosecutors could build against the former president.

The Brookings Institution think tank on Monday updated its analysis of Trump’s post-election conduct to include his remarks at the Sept. 25 rally in Perry, when he repeatedly blasted Gov. Brian Kemp for refusing to reverse his defeat.

The report, authored by seven legal analysts, highlights that Trump twice said he asked the Republican governor to call a “special election” to decertify his narrow defeat to President Joe Biden in Georgia.

“I said, ‘Brian, listen, you have a big election integrity problem in Georgia. I hope you can help us out and call a special election and let’s get to the bottom of it for the good of the country,’” Trump said at the rally, recounting his effort to subvert the election results.

ExploreRead the Brookings Institution report

Trump has long assailed Kemp for refusing to call a special legislative session, but the report’s authors say the remarks specifically calling for a “special election” are a new angle for investigators, one that echoes comments from advisers promoting the idea that he could have declared martial law to force states to hold new elections.

“That’s very important for the prosecution. Now they have an additional matter to investigate, which is exactly what the full scope of Trump’s attempt at election fraud and how outrageous was it,” said Norman Eisen, who was President Barack Obama’s ethics czar before becoming a special counsel to House Democrats during Trump’s first impeachment trial.

“If he’s prosecuted, I’d be very surprised if that tape of him talking about the Kemp conversation does not end up being played at trial,” Eisen added.

The report concludes that Trump’s attempts to interfere with Georgia’s result leaves him at “substantial risk of possible state charges.” It comes as the Fulton County district attorney’s office continues its 7-month-old criminal probe of Trump’s conduct in Georgia.

Overall, the report said, the charges could include criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, intentional interference with performance of election duties, conspiracy to commit election fraud, racketeering and violations of more than a dozen other state statutes.

Trump’s advisers have dismissed the probe as politically motivated. His adviser, Jason Miller, previously called it an attempt by Democrats to “score political points by continuing their witch hunt against President Trump, and everybody sees through it.”

Much of the report centers on the Jan. 2 phone call between Trump and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger first reported by The Washington Post and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. During that call, Trump badgered the GOP elections official to “find” enough votes to reverse his narrow defeat.

But it also outlines other potential criminal infractions surrounding his push to invalidate the election, including direct calls to Kemp and state Attorney General Chris Carr, and efforts by his attorney Rudy Giuliani to lobby state legislators to take extraordinary action.

The authors said that beyond analyzing the public facts and the law itself, it isn’t their place to say what should happen to Trump. They strongly suggest, however, that prosecutors can build a potent case against the former president.

Fulton County prosecutors have appeared before a grand jury seeking subpoenas for documents and witnesses; interviewed at least four of Raffensperger’s closest aides; hired the state’s leading authority on racketeering and conspiracy laws; and begun coordinating with members of Congress probing the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the AJC previously reported.

It’s not clear if Trump misspoke during the Georgia rally. Trump’s spokeswoman has said the former president “clearly meant special session” in his remarks and not “special election.” Still, Eisen questioned whether it was a mistake given that he said it twice during the event at the Georgia National Fairgrounds.

“We can’t just accept at face value the effort to backpedal after his remarks,” Eisen said in an interview.

“I’ve been doing criminal law now for over 30 years. I’ve gone after the bad guys and defended the wrongly accused,” he added. “And the No. 1 rule is if you’re under investigation keep your mouth shut. By coming to Georgia and talking about these events, the former president has deepened his potential risk.”

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