ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia prosecutor said Wednesday that she has opened a criminal investigation into “attempts to influence” last year’s general election, a step that comes just weeks after President Donald Trump asked a top official to find enough votes to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the state.
In a Jan. 2 call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Trump repeatedly argued that the state’s top elections official could change the certified results of the presidential election, an assertion the secretary of state firmly rejected.
“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.”
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat elected to the job in November, did not specifically mention Trump in the letters announcing her investigation. But the former president has been under intense criticism for the call. Willis spokesman Jeff DiSantis told The Associated Press that while he could not name the subjects under investigation, “the matters reported on over the last several weeks are the matters being investigated.” In her letters, Willis also remarks that officials “have no reason to believe that any Georgia official is a target of this investigation.”
The letters, sent to Raffensperger, Gov. Brian Kemp, the lieutenant governor and the attorney general, instruct the four Republican officials to preserve all records related to the election, particularly those that may contain evidence of attempts to influence elections officials.
Senior Trump adviser Jason Miller decried the district attorney’s announcement, saying “the timing here is not accidental given today’s impeachment trial.”
“This is simply the Democrats’ latest attempt to score political points by continuing their witch hunt against President Trump, and everybody sees through it,” Miller said.
Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said the watchdog group last month sent a criminal complaint to Willis’ office outlining laws that it said Trump appeared to have broken on his call with Raffensperger. The group asked Willis to begin a criminal investigation.
“Trump’s conduct violates not only the law, but the foundation on which our democracy is built,” Bookbinder wrote in an emailed statement. “He may have been able to evade facing criminal charges as president, but he is no longer president. We applaud Fulton County District Attorney Willis for launching this investigation and showing that no one is above the law.”
Willis’ letters note the investigation is looking into “potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local government bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election’s administration.”
The district attorney added that she will request grand jury subpoenas for the investigation when the next Fulton County grand jury meets in March.
Earlier this week, Raffensperger’s office opened an administrative investigation after a third party filed a complaint alleging that Trump’s call to Raffensperger violated Georgia laws.
Investigators with the secretary of state’s office who look into such complaints typically present their findings to the state election board, which then decides how to proceed. If the board believes there’s evidence that a crime occurred, it can take action ranging from issuing a letter of reprimand to referring the case to Georgia’s attorney general or to a local district attorney such as Willis.