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Former President Trump’s infamous Georgia phone call is coming back to haunt him.
The Georgia Secretary of State’s office has launched an investigation into Trump’s notorious call to local election officials in early January, during which Trump pressured them to help reverse his defeat.
The probe presents the absurd vision of the Georgia Secretary of State investigating a phone call to … the Georgia Secretary of State. But the formal launch of an investigation is also potentially very bad news for Trump: It brings the matter one step closer to the local criminal prosecutor’s office.
Investigators’ findings will be presented to the state’s election board, which will then decide whether to formally refer the matter to the local district attorney’s office or the state Attorney General’s office for potential prosecution.
The office’s investigation is technically “fact-finding and administrative in nature,” Walter Jones, a spokesman for the Georgia Secretary of State, told VICE News Monday evening. “Any further legal efforts will be left to the Attorney General.”
Legal experts have said Trump may have broken both federal and state criminal statutes when he hectored and berated Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find enough votes to allow Trump to win the state in an early January phone call. Trump also incessantly repeated groundless conspiracy theories, railed about dead people voting, and switched between cajoling, begging, and threatening.
The call was tape recorded and then leaked to the media, including The Washington Post.
“All I want to do is this,” Trump told Raffensperger. “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.”
Legal analysts have pointed to a state law against knowingly soliciting election fraud, saying Trump may have crossed the line. But a Trump spokesman insisted the call was absolutely appropriate.
“There was nothing improper or untoward about a scheduled call between President Trump, Secretary Raffensperger and lawyers on both sides,” Jason Miller, a Trump senior advisor, told The New York Times. “If Mr. Raffensperger didn’t want to receive calls about the election, he shouldn’t have run for secretary of state.”
The state election board that will make the decision about whether to refer the matter to prosecutors is led by Raffensperger as chairman and includes two Republicans and two Democrats. It remains unclear whether Raffensperger may decide to recuse himself from the final vote as a witness.
A local prosecutor’s office is taking the phone call “seriously as a potential case,” as it considers election fraud charges against Trump, an unnamed source told CNN. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is expected to make a public announcement on the case, one way or another, sometime this month, CNN reported the source saying.
In January, one member of the state election board called for Trump to be investigated for potentially violating state laws, including the statute barring conspiracy to commit election fraud.
David Worley, a local Georgia Democrat on the board, sent a letter to other members asking for an investigation.
“To say that I am troubled by President Trump’s attempt to manipulate the votes of Georgians would be an understatement,” Worley wrote.
“Among our responsibilities is to determine whether probable cause exists to refer potential civil and criminal violations of the Code to the Georgia Attorney General and local District Attorneys.”