In Georgia, lying by state officials about important matters in their jurisdiction is a criminal offense. The latest indictment alleges that Donald Trump and his associates repeatedly engaged in this behavior during the election challenge. A notable case is highlighted in Act 113 of the indictment, which concerns a phone call between Trump and Georgia’s Foreign Minister Brad Raffensperger. Legal experts, including myself, have focused on this call because of the implicit threat Trump made to Raffensperger and his attorney. However, prosecutors Fani Willis are more concerned about the untruths that were uttered during the call. If you look at the list of Trump’s lies, you realize that they are not only false, but also blatantly absurd. It wasn’t a cunning attempt to overturn the election, but rather a ruthless barrage of blatant lies.
The legal nuances that arise in this case are fascinating. While Willis has yet to prove his intent — since the law requires the falsification of material facts to be done “knowingly and intentionally” — the evidence challenge is simpler compared to Smith’s federal case against Trump. To meet the requirements of federal law, Smith’s charges must demonstrate a connection between each individual Trump lie and a larger criminal plot. On the other hand, Willis only needs to prove that Trump willfully lied to a government official under his jurisdiction about important facts. This is a much easier case to build.
In fact, the allegations of lying are also linked to broader allegations of a criminal conspiracy and a blackmail company. However, as a prosecutor, I can start with the simple argument that Trump lied, in violation of Georgia criminal law. The finding of this landmark case lays the groundwork for the more serious racketeering charges that increase Trump’s legal exposure. Additionally, it’s important to note that presidents cannot pardon state criminal convictions, and even the governor of Georgia does not have direct authority to pardon Trump for his crimes. This increases the danger for Trump in this situation.
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