DA opens criminal probe into Trump attempt to overturn Georgia’s election

By Greg Bluestein and Christian Boone

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATLANTA — Fulton County, Georgia’s top prosecutor has launched a criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to reverse his election defeat in Georgia, sending letters to state officials urging them to preserve documents related to his demand that Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “find” enough votes to overturn the outcome.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat recently elected to the office, sent notices to Raffensperger, Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Attorney General Christopher Carr that urged them to keep documents that could be used as part of a criminal investigation into whether he violated state law.

“This letter is notice that the Fulton County District Attorney has opened an investigation into attempts to influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia General Election,” read the letter, dated Wednesday, from Willis’ office.

“This investigation includes, but is not limited to, 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.”

The Jan. 2 call with Raffensperger factors directly into the second impeachment trial of Trump that began in the U.S. Senate this week. House impeachment managers say Trump’s attempts to undermine the vote in Georgia showed his willingness to incite an insurrection during the mob that attacked the Capitol days later.

The former president’s call to Raffensperger was just one part of his efforts to undo his election defeat.

He repeatedly urged Gov. Brian Kemp to call a special session to overturn his defeat, pressed then-U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue to block the Electoral College certification in Congress and urged a state investigator to find fraud during a count of absentee ballots. He also trumpeted state legislators who demanded Kemp take more strident action to overturn the results.

Kemp and Raffensperger, along with other top state officials, repeatedly pushed back on Trump’s attempts and said there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Courts at every level have dismissed challenges by Trump and his allies seeking to overturn the election results.

Separately, Raffensperger’s office opened an investigation Monday into Trump’s call. The investigation was prompted by a complaint from George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf III, according to a case initiation document.

The call to Raffensperger, first reported by The Washington Post and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, quickly yielded sharp fallout on the campaign trail and came days before the Democratic sweep of the Jan. 5 runoffs that flipped control of the chamber.

At the time, legal experts said Trump could potentially be prosecuted under Georgia law that bans the solicitation of election fraud by urging Raffensperger to “find” votes to sway the outcome of the race. Anthony Kreis, a constitutional law professor at Georgia State University, said Trump “wanted to use his position of influence and authority to alter official election results.”

“The law is designed precisely to prevent this kind of undue pressure on our elected officials,” Kreis said.

Watchdog groups who had urged Willis to seek criminal charges applauded the decision on Wednesday.

“Trump’s conduct violates not only the law, but the foundation on which our democracy is built,” said Noah Bookbinder of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “He may have been able to evade facing criminal charges as president, but he is no longer president.”