Georgia election officials formally launch investigation into Trump phone calls

·2 min read

The Georgia State Election Board has formally launched an investigation into former President Donald Trump's phone calls to state election officials in which he sought help to overturn the results of the election after President Joe Biden's narrow victory was certified twice.

The investigation, which follows a formal complaint filed by a law professor alleging that Trump violated the law during those calls, marks the first formal investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the election in the state.

Walter Jones, a spokesperson for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's office, confirmed the investigation to ABC News on Monday. “This is a State Election Board investigation,” he said. “We received a complaint and are treating it the same way we would all complaints. Any further legal efforts will be left to the attorney general."

In Trump’s first call to Georgia officials, made in December amid an ongoing audit, he had asked a chief investigator in Raffensperger’s office to "find the fraud," telling them they would be a "national hero" for it, according to an individual familiar with the matter. In another call on Jan. 2, Trump repeatedly demanded that Raffensperger "find" the exact number of votes -- 11,780 -- he needed to be the victor in the Peach State, according to a recording of the call obtained by ABC News.

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The Fulton County District Attorney's office, which is weighing whether to open a criminal investigation into the matter, did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Investigations by the State Election Board can take months to complete, but it marks a major development on the eve of Trump’s second impeachment trial. The single article of impeachment against the president, which accuses him of inciting the deadly riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, briefly mentions the phone call with the secretary.

Trump’s impeachment lawyers defended Trump’s actions on the call in a brief submitted to the House the last week and denied that “President Trump acted improperly in that telephone call in any way.”

The complaint, which was filed by George Washington University Law Professor John F. Banzhaf, alleges Trump may have violated three Georgia state laws, including conspiracy to commit election fraud, criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, and intentional interference with performance of election duties.

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“Many prominent and knowledgeable attorneys have concluded … that the evidence which is now currently and publicly available already meets the very high criminal standard of proving each and every element of the crimes beyond any reasonable doubt,” Banzhaf wrote in the complaint.

The emailed complaint was sent to the board, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. Banzhaf asked the board to adopt a motion to refer a criminal investigation to Carr and Willis’s offices to pursue.

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