House Democrats ask FBI to open criminal probe of Trump after leaked phone call

Politics
Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu

FILE – In this Jan. 27, 2020, file phoot President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. The most improbable of presidents, Donald Trump reshaped the office and shattered its centuries-old norms and traditions while dominating the national discourse like no one before. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WTVO/AP) — Two Democratic members of Congress are asking FBI Director Christopher Wray to open a criminal probe of President Donald Trump after a recording was released of a phone call in which he asked Georgia’s Secretary of State to overturn his state’s election results.

“As members of Congress and former prosecutors, we believe Donald Trump engaged in solicitation of, or conspiracy to commit, a number of election crimes,” Reps. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., wrote in a letter to Wray on Monday, according to NBC News. “We ask you to open an immediate criminal investigation into the president.”

The phone call with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Saturday was the latest step in an unprecedented effort by a sitting president to press a state official to reverse the outcome of a free and fair election that he lost. The president, who has refused to accept his loss to Democratic president-elect Biden, repeatedly argued that Raffensperger could change the certified results.

“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump said. “Because we won the state.”

Georgia counted its votes three times before certifying Biden’s win by a 11,779 margin, Raffensperger noted. “President Trump, we’ve had several lawsuits, and we’ve had to respond in court to the lawsuits and the contentions,” he said on the call. We don’t agree that you have won.”

Audio snippets of the conversation were first posted online by The Washington Post. The Associated Press obtained the full audio of Trump’s conversation with Georgia officials from a person on the call.

The president used the hourlong conversation to tick through a list of claims about the election in Georgia, including that hundreds of thousands of ballots mysteriously appeared in Fulton County, which includes Atlanta. Officials have said there is no evidence of that happening.

The Georgia officials on the call are heard repeatedly pushing back against the president’s assertions, telling him that he’s relying on debunked theories and, in one case, selectively edited video.

At another point in the conversation, Trump appeared to threaten Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the secretary of state’s legal counsel, by suggesting both could be criminally liable if they failed to find that thousands of ballots in Fulton County had been illegally destroyed. There is no evidence to support Trump’s claim.

“That’s a criminal offense,” Trump says. “And you can’t let that happen.”

Others on the call included Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and attorneys assisting Trump, including Washington lawyer Cleta Mitchell.

Legal experts said Trump’s behavior raised questions about possible election law violations.

Biden senior adviser Bob Bauer called the recording “irrefutable proof” of Trump threatening an official in his own party to “rescind a state’s lawful, certified vote count and fabricate another in its place.”

“It captures the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump’s assault on American democracy,” Bauer said.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in that chamber, said Trump’s conduct “merits nothing less than a criminal investigation.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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