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Monday, 4 January 2021

Legal experts say Trump broke law by pressuring Georgia's Republican Secretary of State to 'recalculate' and 'find' 11,780 votes: President goes on a Twitter spree against Dems but IGNORES leaked phone call scandal

 Legal experts say President Donald Trump broke Georgia law when he pressured Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to 'find' enough votes to overturn Joe Biden's election victory in the state in a leaked phone call. 

Audio of the hour-long Saturday phone call was published Sunday by the Washington Post, capturing Trump berating Raffensperger and Gov Brian Kemp to do anything they could to change the outcome of the Georgia election.  

He told the Republican officials: 'So look. All I want to do is this – I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state. There's nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you've recalculated.'


Several legal experts have come forward to argue that Trump's plea constituted a violation of Georgia's law for criminal solicitation of election fraud. 

'The president asked, in no uncertain terms, the secretary of state to invent votes, to create votes that were not there,' Anthony Michael Kreis, a professor at the Georgia State University College of Law, told Politico. 

'Not only did he ask for that in terms of just overturning the specific margin that Joe Biden won by, but then said we needed one additional vote to secure victory in Georgia.' 

The Post did not reveal its source for the audio, but experts noted that under Georgia law only one party in a conversation needs to consent to a recording, meaning that whoever turned on their microphone would not be legally liable. 

The recording sparked uproar among Democrats, including calls for impeachment or for Trump to resign. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris called it 'the voice of desperation' and a 'bald-faced, bold abuse of power by the president'. 

Some political commentators compared the call to the Watergate tapes that led to the fall of past US president Richard Nixon.

Carl Bernstein, one of the reporters who helped bring down Nixon's presidency, called it 'the ultimate smoking gun tape.'

Trump went on a Twitter rampage in apparent response to his detractors just after midnight, retweeting a string of videos in which his allies in Congress and the media defended his relentless efforts to overturn the results. 


Legal experts say Donald Trump (pictured) broke the law when he pressured Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to 'find' enough votes to overturn Joe Biden's win during an extraordinary leaked phone call on Saturday
Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger

Legal experts say Donald Trump (left) broke the law when he pressured Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (right) to 'find' enough votes to overturn Joe Biden's win during an extraordinary leaked phone call on Saturday

Trump went on a Twitter rampage in apparent response to his detractors just after midnight, retweeting a string of videos in which his allies in Congress and the media defended his relentless efforts to overturn the results

Trump went on a Twitter rampage in apparent response to his detractors just after midnight, retweeting a string of videos in which his allies in Congress and the media defended his relentless efforts to overturn the results 

Both Kreis and Jed Shugerman, a professor at the Fordham University School of Law, noted that Trump would not be able to pardon himself if he was formally accused over the phone call because the case would be in state court, not federal. 

Kreis first voiced his legal concerns with the phone call on Twitter, writing: 'The most damaging part of the call is when Trump says that the Secretary of State should just say he "retabulated" the numbers. 

'It reveals that he isn't blowing off steam or sincerely seeking out the truth. His only demand is to have votes tossed or invented to fabricate a win.

Anthony Michael Kreis, a professor at Georgia State University's College of Law, was among those accusing Trump of breaking state law

Anthony Michael Kreis, a professor at Georgia State University's College of Law, was among those accusing Trump of breaking state law 

Jed Shugerman, a professor at the Fordham University School of Law, agreed that Trump 'arguably' broke the law

Jed Shugerman, a professor at the Fordham University School of Law, agreed that Trump 'arguably' broke the law

Andrew Weissman, a veteran attorney who spent 20 years with the Department of Justice, tweeted similar concerns

Andrew Weissman, a veteran attorney who spent 20 years with the Department of Justice, tweeted similar concerns

'Between that and "we need" the number of votes Biden won by plus one is just an astonishing demand. There's no way to read this other than a blatant attempt to pressure Georgia officials to lie and alter legitimate election results with a wink and a nod to a looming consequence.' 

Shugerman agreed, tweeting that Trump 'arguably' violated both state and federal law by 'criminally soliciting election fraud'. 

He added: 'Reminder: A presidential pardon has no effect on state criminal charges. Trump cannot pardon himself for the violation of Georgia state criminal law in his soliciting election felonies by Georgia state officials.'  

Kreis told Politico: 'If I'm the president of the United States and my pardon power is not — does not extend to state acts, I don't think that in the last few days of my term that I would want to be engaging in activities that even remotely subject me to the possibility of state criminal prosecution.' 

Andrew Weissman, a veteran attorney who spent 20 years with the Department of Justice, tweeted: 'Trump's statement shows he knows what the law is and he is doing precisely what it forbids: seeking to cause submission of false election results, and threatening folks to do that to book. Federal and state crimes.' 

Meanwhile the head of the Georgia Republican Party, David Shafer, came out to defend the president on Twitter, saying that the call served as a 'confidential settlement discussion' of two lawsuits Trump had filed against Raffensperger in state and federal court.   

'The audio published by @TheWashingtonPost is heavily edited and omits the stipulation that all discussions were for the purpose of settling litigation and confidential under federal and state law,' Shafer tweeted. 

Contrary to Shafer's assertion, the Post's transcript of the call does make mention of the litigation. And the confidentiality argument was thwarted by Trump himself when he tweeted about the call earlier on Sunday. 

Shafer also tweeted a link to a story declaring that Trump acted properly on the call, arguing that the transcript showed clear evidence of voter fraud - which was presented by Trump and repeatedly refuted by Raffensperger. 

Chair of the Georgia Republican Party David Shafer came out to defend the president on Twitter, saying that the call served as a 'confidential settlement discussion' of two lawsuits Trump had filed against Raffensperger in state and federal court

Chair of the Georgia Republican Party David Shafer came out to defend the president on Twitter, saying that the call served as a 'confidential settlement discussion' of two lawsuits Trump had filed against Raffensperger in state and federal court

Shafer also tweeted a link to a story declaring that Trump acted properly on the call, arguing that the transcript showed clear evidence of voter fraud - which was presented by Trump and repeatedly refuted by Raffensperger

Shafer also tweeted a link to a story declaring that Trump acted properly on the call, arguing that the transcript showed clear evidence of voter fraud - which was presented by Trump and repeatedly refuted by Raffensperger

In what the Post described as an incoherent conversation full of ramblings by the president, Trump repeated again and again that there was no way he could have lost the election in Georgia.  

'The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry,' Trump said on the call. 'And there's nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you've recalculated.'

'Well, Mr President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong,' Raffensperger responded. 

The Biden campaign quickly seized on the president's comments, calling it proof of his 'assault on democracy'.   

'We now have irrefutable proof of a president pressuring and threatening an official of his own party to get him to rescind a state's lawful, certified vote count and fabricate another in its place,' Biden Senior Advisor Bob Bauer said. 

'It captures the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump's assault on American democracy.' 


Harris reacted to the call during a campaign event for Georgia's Democratic senate hopefuls Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in Savannah on Sunday.  

'[Trump] called the Senate race in Georgia illegitimate … illegal and invalid … suggesting that the people of Georgia are trying to commit a crime,' she said.

'They filed six lawsuits — not one, not two — six lawsuits trying to challenge your voice in that election. And they failed every time. And the people's voice remains standing.' 

'We know, were there not powerful people trying to mess with folks' right to vote, we would be talking about Governor Stacey Abrams,' Harris added, referencing claims that Abrams would have won the gubernatorial election in 2016 if it weren't for voter suppression by then-Secretary of State Kemp.  

Kemp was notably silent on the phone call between Raffensperger and Trump on Saturday.  


Vice President-elect Kamala Harris ripped into President Donald Trump on Sunday after a leaked phone call captured him pressuring Georgia's Republican secretary of state to 'find' enough votes to overturn her and Joe Biden's victory

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris ripped into President Donald Trump on Sunday after a leaked phone call captured him pressuring Georgia's Republican secretary of state to 'find' enough votes to overturn her and Joe Biden's victory

Shortly after news of his call broke Trump took to Twitter to repeat his calls of voter fraud in the presidential election.  

'Sorry, but the number of votes in the Swing States that we are talking about is VERY LARGE and totally OUTCOME DETERMINATIVE!' he wrote. 

'Only the Democrats and some RINO'S would dare dispute this - even though they know it is true!'

'The Swing States did not even come close to following the dictates of their State Legislatures,' he continued in a second tweet. 'These States 'election laws' were made up by local judges & politicians, not by their Legislatures, & are therefore, before even getting to irregularities & fraud, UNCONSTITUTIONAL!'

Later on Sunday night Trump retweeted a string of news segments with people defending his efforts to overturn the election results, including a Fox News interview with Florida Rep Matt Gaetz.  

Throughout the call, Raffensperger rejected Trump's assertions about the election, claiming he was relying on debunked theories – even as the president flattered, begged and threatened with vague consequences.

At one point, Trump said Raffensperger was taking a 'big risk' by not acting to overturn the results.

Raffensperger also asserted in the call that Joe Biden's 12,779-vote victory in Georgia was fair and accurate.

Trump responded by calling Raffensberger a 'child' and saying he was 'either dishonest or incompetent' for believing fraud didn't take place. 

The president rattled off a list of different - and unfounded - instances of fraud, including the claim that votes for Biden were counted three times. 

'Brad, why did they put the votes in three times? You know, they put 'em in three times,' Trump said.

Raffensperger replied: 'Mr. President, they did not. We did an audit of that and we proved conclusively that they were not scanned three times.'

At another point Trump suggested that Raffensberger and his general counsel Ryan Germany could be subject to criminal liability if they failed to find that thousands of ballots cast in Fulton County had been illegally destroyed - despite no evidence supporting that allegation. 

Trump suggested that Raffensberger and his general counsel Ryan Germany (pictured) could be subject to criminal liability if they failed to find that thousands of ballots cast in Fulton County had been illegally destroyed - despite no evidence supporting that allegation

Trump suggested that Raffensberger and his general counsel Ryan Germany (pictured) could be subject to criminal liability if they failed to find that thousands of ballots cast in Fulton County had been illegally destroyed - despite no evidence supporting that allegation

'That's a criminal offense,' Trump said. 'And you can't let that happen. That's a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer.' 

Trump grew desperate as he attempted to get Germany to validate the Fulton County theory. 

'Do you think it’s possible that they shredded ballots in Fulton County?' Trump asked. 'Cause that's what the rumor is. And also that Dominion took out machines. That Dominion is really moving fast to get rid of their, uh, machinery. Do you know anything about that? Because that's illegal.'

Germany replied: 'No, Dominion has not moved any machinery out of Fulton County.'

Trump pushed back: 'But have they moved the inner parts of the machines and replaced them with other parts?'

'No,' Germany said.  

'Are you sure? Ryan?' Trump pleaded again. 

'I'm sure. I'm sure, Mr. President,' Germany said.


Trump was joined on the call by several of his most loyal allies, including White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and conservative lawyers Cleta Mitchell and Kurt Hilbert. 

Meadows jumped in at one point to bolster Trump's claim that more than 5,000 dead people voted in the presidential election. 

'The actual number was two. Two. Two people that were dead that voted,' Raffensperger said of the claim.

'I can promise you there are more than that,' Meadows replied.

The call marked the first time that Mitchell, a prominent GOP attorney, was known to be involved in Trump's efforts to overturn the election results.  

Mitchell joined Trump in attacking Raffensberger's handling of the election in a statement to the Post. 

She said Raffensperger's office 'has made many statements over the past two months that are simply not correct and everyone involved with the efforts on behalf of the President’s election challenge has said the same thing: show us your records on which you rely to make these statements that our numbers are wrong'. 

Toward the end of the call Trump acknowledged that he was failing to convince Raffensperger or Germany that the results were fraudulent, saying: 'I know this phone call is going nowhere.' 

After about an hour of back-and-forth, Raffensperger concluded the conversation by saying: 'Thank you, President Trump, for your time.'

Trump was joined on the call by several of his most loyal allies, including White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows (pictured)
Prominent GOP attorney Cleta Mitchell (pictured) was also on the call
Trump campaign lawyer Kurt Hilbert (pictured) was also on the call

Trump was joined on the call by several of his most loyal allies, including White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows (left) and conservative lawyers Cleta Mitchell (center) and Kurt Hilbert (right)

Reports of the call came after Trump tweeted Sunday morning vaguely of the conversation, claiming Raffensperger 'has no clue' about what happened in the election.

'I spoke to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger yesterday about Fulton County and voter fraud in Georgia. He was unwilling, or unable, to answer questions such as the 'ballots under table' scam, ballot destruction, out of state 'voters', dead voters, and more. He has no clue!' Trump posted.

He also tweeted warning Republicans of potential election fraud in Georgia as two Senate runoffs commence to determine control of the upper chamber.

'Republicans in Georgia must be careful of the political corruption in Fulton County, which is rampant. The Governor, @BrianKempGA, and his puppet Lt. Governor, @GeoffDuncanGA, have done less than nothing. They are a disgrace to the great people of Georgia!' he tweeted in reference to the Republican governor.

Raffensberger responded in his own tweet, writing: 'Respectfully, President Trump: What you're saying is not true.'

Reports of the call came after Trump tweeted Sunday morning vaguely of the conversation, claiming Raffensperger 'has no clue' about what happened in the election. Raffensberger tweeted back: 'Respectfully, President Trump: What you're saying is not true'

Reports of the call came after Trump tweeted Sunday morning vaguely of the conversation, claiming Raffensperger 'has no clue' about what happened in the election. Raffensberger tweeted back: 'Respectfully, President Trump: What you're saying is not true'

Representative Ocasio-Cortez told reporters at the Capitol Sunday that Trump's call with Raffensperger is an 'impeachable offense.'  

'I absolutely think it's an impeachable offense and if it was up to me, there would be articles on the floor quite quickly,' she said. 'But he, I mean he is trying to – he is attacking our very election.'

She said she has not listened to the full hour, but has heard parts of the call between Trump and the Georgia secretary of State. 

Rep Hank Johnson (D - Georgia) went further than Ocasio-Cortez, saying that he would introduce a motion in the House on Monday to censure Trump over the call he said was 'far from perfect' and 'a violation of state and federal law'.  

'Tomorrow, I will introduce a resolution of Censure. Trump should resign NOW!' Johnson tweeted.

A House censure does not have any legally binding power but is the highest form of official rebuke the body can serve the president, short of filing articles of impeachment. 

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D - Illinois) on Sunday said that Trump's call is 'more than a pathetic rambling, delusional rant' and 'merits nothing less than a criminal investigation'.  

'[Trump's] disgraceful effort to intimidate an elected official into deliberately changing and misrepresenting the legally confirmed vote totals in his state strikes at the heart of our democracy and merits nothing less than a criminal investigation,' Durbin said.

'The President is unhinged and dangerous. Those who encourage and support his conduct, including my Senate colleagues, are putting the orderly and peaceful transition of power in our nation at risk.'

Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (pictured) called Trump's attempts to pressure Raffensberger 'an impeachable offense'
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (pictured) said the call 'merits nothing less than a criminal investigation'

Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (left) called Trump's attempts to pressure Raffensberger 'an impeachable offense' while Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (right) said the call 'merits nothing less than a criminal investigation'

Rep Hank Johnson (D - Georgia) said he would introduce a motion in the House on Monday to censure Trump over the call he said was 'a violation of state and federal law'

Rep Hank Johnson (D - Georgia) said he would introduce a motion in the House on Monday to censure Trump over the call he said was 'a violation of state and federal law'

Senior Biden Advisor Bob Bauer said the call 'captures the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump's assault on American democracy'

Senior Biden Advisor Bob Bauer said the call 'captures the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump's assault on American democracy'

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