Georgia DA opens criminal probe of Trump call urging secretary of state to find votes

Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference on election results in Atlanta, Georgia, December 2, 2020.

Elijah Nouvelage | Reuters

The top prosecutor in Fulton County, Georgia, has opened a criminal investigation of a January phone call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger by then-President Donald Trump, who urged the official to “find” him enough votes to overturn his election loss to Joe Biden.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis in a letter to Raffensperger and other state government officials said that “this matter is of high priority,” and that her office would begin requesting subpoenas to be issued by the next grand jury in the county when it begins meeting in March.

Those subpoenas can be for testimony, or documents and other evidence.

Willis’ letter asked the officials to preserve documents related to Trump’s highly unusual call.

Raffensperger’s office confirmed to CNBC that it received the letter Wednesday but declined to comment further.

The letter comes as the Senate is conducting an impeachment trial of Trump that could end with the ex-president being banned from ever running for the White House again.

The letter says the request is part of a criminal probe that “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 government bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election’s administration.”

The letter was sent two days after Raffensperger’s office opened its own investigation of Trump’s Jan. 2 phone call to the secretary of state.

In this Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, file photo, Fulton County Deputy District Attorney Fani Willis makes her closing arguments during a trial in Atlanta.

John Bazemore | AP

In that call, Trump told Raffensperger, “All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes.”

That was the number of votes Trump needed to overtake Biden’s lead in Georgia, one of several states where Trump needed to reverse his Electoral College loss.

At the time, Trump and his allies were promoting a series of baseless claims that he had lost the election due to widespread ballot fraud in states including Georgia.

The government advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washingon said Wednesday that it had sent a criminal complaint about that call last month to the DA’s office “laying out multiple laws Donald Trump appeared to violate by pressuring” Raffensperger “to overturn the results of Georgia’s presidential election.”

“They are now doing exactly that,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder.

“Trump’s conduct violates not only the law, but the foundation on which our democracy is built,” Bookbinder said. “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.”

The call to Raffensperger occurred four days before Trump urged supporters at a rally near the White House to help him fight to overturn the election results by getting Congress or Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to confirm Biden’s win.

After that rally, thousands of Trump supporters rioted outside and then inside the U.S. Capitol, where Congress was meeting in a joint session to confirm the results.

Five people died in connection with the riot, including a Capitol Police officer.

Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on a charge of inciting the riot.

His trial in the Senate began Tuesday with a debate over whether a former president could be tried after leaving office.

Evidence in the case is being presented today.

Hannah Miao contributed to this report.

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