WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Georgian State Department on Monday opened an investigation into former U.S. President Donald Trump’s efforts to scrap the state’s 2020 election results. This could lead to a criminal investigation by state and local authorities.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had received calls to open an investigation after Trump was taped into a Jan. 2 phone call pressuring Raffensperger to reverse the state’s election results on unsubstantiated allegations of election fraud.

“The Secretary of State’s office is investigating complaints it receives,” said Walter Jones, a spokesman for Raffensperger’s office, describing the investigation as “establishing and managing facts.”

“All further legal efforts are left to the Attorney General.”

He said the investigation, first reported by Reuters, was prompted by a complaint filed Monday by John Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University.

Banzhaf told Reuters that he spoke to an investigator in Raffensperger’s office on Monday, hours after filing the complaint asking for an investigation into Trump’s possible election nuisance. It was his fourth such complaint to Georgian officials since the Jan.2 call, he said.

Jason Miller, a Trump adviser, said: “A scheduled call between President Trump, Secretary Raffensperger and lawyers on both sides was neither inappropriate nor uncomfortable. If Mr. Raffensperger didn’t want to receive calls about the election, he shouldn’t have run for Foreign Minister. “

Legal experts say Trump’s phone calls may have violated at least three state criminal laws: conspiracy to commit electoral fraud, criminal inducement to commit election fraud, and deliberate interference with voting obligations. Violations of the crime and misdemeanor are punishable by fines or imprisonment.

If Trump were prosecuted, he would likely argue that he genuinely believed the election was against him, the experts said, noting that criminal law in general requires a guilty state of mind or willful intent to commit a crime – and that this possibly the case is a high hurdle to overcome in this case.

FILE PHOTO: Georgian Foreign Secretary Brad Raffensperger provides information on the state of the election and the number of ballots during a press conference at the State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, on November 6, 2020. REUTERS / Dustin Chambers / File Photo / File Foto

On the January 2 phone call, Trump urged Raffensperger, a Republican, to “find” enough votes to reverse his loss in Georgia. Quoting Trump, the transcript says Raffensperger, “I just want to do this: I only want to find 11,780 votes.” This is the number Trump needs to win.

On January 6, the day of the riot in the US Capitol, Trump boasted in a speech to supporters with the call: “People love this conversation because it says what’s going on,” he said. “These people are crooked.”

In addition, two Democratic lawmakers in the US House of Representatives – Kathleen Rice of New York and Ted Lieu of California – wrote to the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Jan. 4 asking for a criminal investigation into Trump’s call to Raffensperger.


The urge to investigate highlights the legal threats facing Trump as he has lost the constitutional protection that protects seated presidents from prosecution.

Trump now faces nearly a dozen legal disputes, including a criminal investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. regarding his business and several civil lawsuits. Trump has described investigations in his family business as politically motivated.

David Worley, the only Democrat on the Georgian electoral committee, had planned to file a motion at the board meeting on Wednesday calling on Attorney General Chris Carr and Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis to open a criminal investigation into Trump’s phone calls to election officials.

Worley said such a move was unnecessary after Raffensperger’s office opened an investigation. “I don’t have to make my application,” Worley told Reuters. “This is the normal thing that should happen when filing a complaint. When a complaint is made, an investigation is opened, that’s how it works. “

Carr and Willis spokesmen did not respond to requests for comment.

Once the Secretary of State’s investigation is completed, the bureau’s investigative department will write a report and submit it to the electoral board, Worley said. The board then decides whether to refer the matter to the attorney general or a local district attorney.

Willis, a Democrat, has had internal discussions about opening a criminal investigation to investigate Trump’s alleged election nuisance, Reuters reported Jan. 28, quoting people familiar with the matter.

In addition to the phone call in January, Trump made another call to Georgia’s chief election investigator in December, Raffensperger’s office said. It was not immediately clear whether the December appeal would be included in the Foreign Minister’s investigation.

“The investigation will go where it needs to go,” said Jones. “It’s not like a prosecutor where you limit yourself to the parameters of the complaint.”

Editing by Jason Szep and Rosalba O’Brien