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Law And Order

Trump's loaded request that Georgia 'find' him enough votes to win could have legal repercussions

President Trump's covertly recorded phone conversation with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Saturday afternoon probably won't help Trump politically as he tries to press Republicans into his ill-fated crusade to overturn his loss to President-elect Joe Biden. But it also appears to have broken one or several laws.

It's not clear if Trump will face any legal consequences, though.

"Legal experts say the combination of Trump's request to 'find' a specific number of votes — just enough to put him ahead of Biden — and his veiled reference to criminal liability for Raffensperger and his aides could violate federal and state statutes aimed at guarding against the solicitation of election fraud," Politico reports. "The potential violations of state law are particularly notable, given that they would fall outside the reach of a potential pardon by Trump or his successor."

"It seems to me like what he did clearly violates Georgia statutes," Atlanta criminal defense lawyer Leigh Ann Webster told The Washington Post, citing a state law that makes it illegal for anyone who "solicits, requests, commands, importunes, or otherwise attempts to cause the other person to engage" in election fraud. Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis agreed, telling Politico "there's just no way that if you read the code and the way the code is structured, and then you look at what the president of the United States requested, that he has not violated this law."

Lawyers who believe Trump broke federal laws said it would be difficult to prosecute him, The New York Times reports. Trump's call was clearly "inappropriate and contemptible," but prosecutors would have to prove Trump knew he was committing or encouraging illegal behavior, Ohio State University law professor Edward Foley told the Post. That said, Trump "was already tripping the emergency meter," he added. "So we were at 12 on a scale of 1 to 10, and now we're at 15."

Republican former Federal Election Commission chairman Trevor Potter told the Times there's actually "a good argument that Trump is seeking to procure a fraudulent vote count by stating that he needs exactly 11,780 votes and is threatening the secretary of state if he does not produce them," but "even if the Biden Justice Department thinks they have a good case, is that how they want to start off the Biden presidency? That is a policy decision."