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Trump lobbied an election investigator in Georgia in a separate call, legal experts say could be an obstacle – The Washington Post – Tell It Like It News

Attempts by the president to intervene in an ongoing investigation could constitute an obstacle to justice or other criminal violations, legal experts said, although they warned that a case could be difficult to prove.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had initiated the investigation following allegations that Cobb election officials had improperly accepted ballot papers with signatures that did not match those on file – claims that state officials ultimately concluded did not no merit.

In an interview with the Washington Post on Friday, Raffensperger confirmed that Trump had called on December 23. He said he was unfamiliar with the details of what the president said in the conversation with his chief investigator, but said it was inappropriate for Trump to try to intervene in the case.

“It was an ongoing investigation,” Raffensperger said. “I don’t think an elected official should be involved in that process.”

The Post hides the name of the investigator, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment, due to the risk of threats and harassment aimed at electoral officials.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

Since election day, Trump has made at least three calls to government officials in Georgia in an effort to subvert President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, starting with a conversation with Governor Brian Kemp (right) in early December to berate him for have certified state election results.

The president is furious at both Raffensperger and Kemp, who refused to echo his claims that the election was rigged. He complained that they betrayed him after approving both 2018 elections. At a demonstration Wednesday in Washington, just before his supporters looted the Capitol, he personally attacked them on stage, calling the two men “corrupt”.

While Congress was supposed to certify Joe Biden’s victory, President Trump gave a speech full of falsehoods. (The Washington Post)

Trump’s call to the chief investigator came more than a week before he spent an hour on the phone with Raffensperger, prompting him to overturn the vote. In that January 2 conversation, the president alternately scolded the secretary of state, tried to flatter him, begged him to act, and threatened him with vague criminal consequences if his fellow Republican refused to prosecute his false claims, for example. one point warning that he was taking “a big risk”.

Legal experts said Trump’s call to the secretary of state may have violated state or federal laws that prohibit soliciting election fraud or prohibiting participation in a conspiracy against people exercising their civil rights.

Trump’s previous call to the chief investigator could also carry serious criminal implications, according to several former prosecutors, who said the president may have violated anti-corruption laws or interfered with an ongoing investigation.

“Oh my God, obviously this is a stumbling block, however you cut it,” said Nick Akerman, former New York federal attorney and once a member of the Watergate prosecution team, responding to a description of Trump’s conversation. with the investigator.

Akerman said he would be “shocked” if Trump did not commit a crime of obstruction under Georgia’s statutes. He said the fact that the president took the time to identify the investigator, obtain a phone number and then call “shows that he is trying to influence the outcome of what is going on.”

However, such cases can be difficult to prove, and legal experts have said that the decision to prosecute Trump, even after leaving office, would be politically tense.

Robert James, a former attorney from DeKalb County, Georgia, said proving the obstruction will depend on what Trump said and the tone he used, as well as the clarity of the president’s intentions.

Without audio from the call, it would be harder to prove wrongdoing, he said. The subsequent phone call with Raffensperger is more overwhelming, he said, due to the power of the audio that was made public.

“He says, ‘Go find me grades.’ This can clearly be interpreted as asking someone to break the law, ”James said.

In the wake of the siege of the Capitol by Trump supporters, Democratic House leaders said on Friday that they were preparing impeachment articles that they planned to vote as soon as next week. While they primarily focused on Trump’s role in inciting a violent crowd to storm the Capitol, a draft circulated Friday also cited Trump’s call to Raffensperger as an example of “earlier efforts to subvert and hinder” the certification of the US election. 2020.

Hear the full phone call from January 2nd. This audio has been edited to remove the name of a person about whom the president makes unfounded accusations. (Obtained from the Washington Post)

Raffensperger briefly mentioned Trump’s December call to the lead investigator in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” ​​earlier this week. But the details of the conversation had not previously been reported.

During the call, Trump sounded very similar to when he was talking to Raffensperger, according to the person familiar with the discussion, going from flattery to frustration and back again.

It was one of a series of personal speeches by Trump and his allies in Georgia since the November election. The president is obsessed with his defeat in the state and has expressed disbelief to aides that he could have lost while other Republicans have won.

It is unclear how the president tracked down the chief election investigator. Prior to his Jan.2 phone call to Raffensperger, Trump had tried to reach the secretary of state at least 18 times, but the calls had been directed to press interns who thought it was a joke and didn’t realize the president was in. line, as previously reported by The Post. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows eventually arranged the conference call between Trump, Raffensperger, and their aides.

That conversation followed previous requests to state officials from Trump’s allies.

In mid-November, Senator Lindsey O. Graham (RS.C.) contacted Raffensperger to ask if ballot papers from entire counties could be thrown if a check found high rates of mismatched signatures in those jurisdictions.

Raffensperger told The Post at the time that Graham seemed to suggest finding a way to legally cast ballots. Graham denied it, calling that characterization “ridiculous”.

Then, at the end of December, Meadows traveled to Cobb County to see for himself how the ballot signature was being verified.

Meadows said he wasn’t trying to interfere with the investigation, he just wanted to “talk outside the tweets,” Jordan Fuchs, the deputy secretary of state, said at the time.

Meadows was not allowed to enter the room where the audit was taking place, Fuchs said, but he was able to peek through the door window.

Trump called the chief investigator the following day.

Raffensperger announced the audit on Dec. 14 after allegations emerged that ballot papers were accepted in Cobb County without proper verification of voter signatures on envelopes.

There was no evidence of widespread anomalies in signature matching in Cobb or elsewhere in Georgia. Raffensperger ordered the audit, he said, because his office is pursuing all allegations of election irregularities.

“Conducting this verification in no way suggests that Cobb County was not following election procedures correctly or conducting signature matching correctly,” said Chris Harvey, Raffensperger’s election director at the time. “We chose Cobb County for this verification because it is known for having one of the best polling offices in the state and starting Cobb will help us undertake a statewide signature verification.”

Had a large number of mismatched envelope signatures been discovered, it would have been impossible to match those envelopes with the ballots contained in them, which are separated to protect voter privacy as required by the Georgia Constitution.

Ultimately, Raffensperger’s investigative team, working alongside the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, found only two mismatched signatures among the more than 15,000 examined during the audit in Cobb County. The audit concluded on December 29, six days after the president called the chief investigator.

Trump was thrilled with the outcome of the investigation when he spoke to Raffensperger on January 2.

“Why can’t we have professionals doing it instead of high-ranking amateurs who will never find anything and don’t want to find anything?” the president said, according to audio obtained by The Post. “They don’t want to find, you know they don’t want to find anything. One day you will tell me why, because I don’t understand your reasoning, but one day you will tell me why. “

Alice Crites, Paul Kane and Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.

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