A leaked phone call between President Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has sparked a “cacophony” of charges by Democrats eager to put the president on trial again.
Democratic Reps. Ted Lieu of California and Kathleen Rice of New York urged FBI Director Christopher Wray to open a criminal investigation into Trump, while Rep. Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat, said a criminal investigation was needed after Trump’s call about the presidential election results in Georgia.
But legal observers are split on whether Trump’s call offers sufficient basis for a federal investigation.
“This comes down to a question of intent, and an argument can be made that Trump’s statement was based on his belief that such uncounted votes already exist,” legal scholar Jonathan Turley told the Washington Examiner. “I do not fault those who read that line in a more incriminating light. At best, it was a deeply troubling and reckless statement from the president.”
He suggested Trump was navigating the bounds of the law, as he has done before. “As we have seen before, this president often seems pulled to the legal borderline on such questions,” Turley said.
On Saturday, days before the Wednesday Electoral College vote count in Congress that will certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win, Trump pressed Raffensberger in an hourlong call to “find” votes sufficient to alter the results of the election in the state. Georgia voted for Biden by a slim margin.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a staunch Trump ally, suggested there was nothing much to see during a Fox News segment on Sunday evening.
The president behaved like the president,” said Gingrich, a former Republican congressman from Georgia.
Biden, whose son Hunter remains under investigation by the Justice Department, has said he hopes to avoid divisive investigations into Trump.
Some think Trump may have left little choice.
“I think there are both federal and state violations here,” Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson said on Monday on Passing Judgment, a legal podcast.
Levinson told Reuters, “The president is openly spitting on federal law,” charging that the call sought to withhold a fair election from voters. “Prosecutors have gone to trial with less.”
However, on her podcast, Levinson told listeners that the case against Trump may not be a slam-dunk.
“Ignorance of at least the circumstances may be a defense,” she said.
The White House made numerous prior attempts to reach Raffensberger’s office before speaking with him on Saturday, with the New York Times reporting that the switchboard made in total 18 other calls to the Georgia secretary of state’s office over the last two months.
Turley told the Washington Examiner that a federal criminal investigation based solely on the president’s statement would surprise him.
“This comes down to a question of intent and the level of clarity needed to justify a criminal investigation,” Turley said. “There is ample reason to condemn this statement but a paucity of proof of intent.”
Current evidence alone “would likely not be sufficient in the Justice Department for a federal investigation,” he said. “It is harder to predict the response of Georgia prosecutors.”
On the call, Trump suggested Raffensberger may be guilty of a “criminal offense” for failing to report election interference, a statement that Beyer called a threat.
“Trump used the power of his office to threaten election officials and to coerce them into committing criminal acts to overturn the election results. This clearly warrants a criminal investigation,” Beyer charged in a statement on Monday, adding that the recording “makes Nixon’s ‘smoking gun’ tape sound tame.”
Beyer is also urging scrutiny of Trump’s phone calls and meetings with officials in other states and of the actions by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, heard on the call on Saturday, and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Turley called Trump’s statement “irresponsible” and “hyperbolic” but said it was no basis for a criminal charge.
“Virtually every Democrat in Congress has made such claims of baseless crimes. The last four years had a cacophony of criminal charges against Trump and his family,” he said.
“I understand that the Fulton County district attorney wants to look at it. Maybe that’s the appropriate venue for it to go,” Raffensberger told ABC’s Good Morning America. He didn’t say whether he thought Trump’s comments were legal.
“I’m not a lawyer. All I know is that we’re going to follow the law, follow the process,” he said. “Truth matters, and we’ve been fighting these rumors for the last two months.”
Author : Washington Examiner
Source : Washington Examiner : Democrats advocate for investigating Trump again after Georgia call