Thu. May 23rd, 2024

ATLANTA — A second investigation into former President Donald Trump’s attempts to win Georgia by pressuring election officials was opened Wednesday by the Fulton County district attorney.

Newly elected prosecutor Fani Willis, a Democrat, sent letters to Georgia officials Wednesday asking that they preserve documents connected to “an investigation into attempts to influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia General Election.”

Securing evidence is often the first step in an investigation. And while the letter doesn’t mention the former president specifically, it was written in response to Trump’s push to flip Georgia after the Nov. 3 general election, according a state official who spoke with The New York Times.

One of the letters was sent to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whose office opened an investigation of its own Tuesday. Letters were sent also to Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Attorney General Chris Carr. All four Georgia officials are Republicans, but none of the officials are themselves being investigated, Willis told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Willis’ probe instead will target “potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election’s administration,” according to the letter as reported by the Times.

In Georgia, criminal solicitation to commit election fraud can be punished as a felony with at least a year in prison. A federal pardon could not be granted, and pardons in Georgia are granted only by a state board.

Trump called Raffensperger, asked him to “find” votes

In a recorded phone call Jan. 2, Trump repeatedly urged Raffensperger to show the former president as having won Georgia, even though President Joe Biden received the most votes Nov. 3.

“I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump told Raffensperger. “Because we won the state.”

Later in the same call, Trump said to Raffensperger: “I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.”

At one point in the conversation, Trump told Raffensperger that “the people of Georgia are angry” and “there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.”

Georgia’s ballots from the general election have been recounted three times, each time showing that Biden received about 11,000 to 12,000 more votes than Trump.

Trump also pressed Kemp to call a special session of the Georgia Legislature to overturn his defeat. When Kemp and Raffensperger pushed back, Trump tweeted insults at both of them.

Senior Trump adviser Jason Miller decried the Willis’ announcement, saying “the timing here is not accidental given today’s impeachment trial.”

“This is simply the Democrats’ latest attempt to score political points by continuing their witch hunt against President Trump, and everybody sees through it,” Miller said.

Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said the watchdog group last month sent a criminal complaint to Willis’ office outlining laws that it said Trump appeared to have broken on his call with Raffensperger. The group asked Willis to begin a criminal investigation.

“Trump’s conduct violates not only the law, but the foundation on which our democracy is built,” Bookbinder wrote in an emailed statement to the Associated Press. “He may have been able to evade facing criminal charges as president, but he is no longer president. We applaud Fulton County District Attorney Willis for launching this investigation and showing that no one is above the law.”

Willis said that she will request grand jury subpoenas for the investigation when the next Fulton County grand jury meets in March.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

By james vines

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