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Probe into Georgia phone call threatens fresh trouble for Trump

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Georgia’s secretary of state has opened an investigation into former US president Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the state’s 2020 election results.

The investigation comes after Mr Trump was recorded in a January 2 phone call pressuring Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to overturn the results based on false voter fraud claims.

“The Secretary of State’s office investigates complaints it receives,” said Walter Jones, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, describing the investigation as “fact finding and administrative”.

“Any further legal efforts will be left to the attorney general,” he said.

Legal experts said Mr Trump’s phone calls might have violated at least three state election laws: Conspiracy to commit election fraud, criminal solicitation to commit election fraud and intentional interference with performance of election duties.

The felony and misdemeanour violations are punishable by fines or imprisonment.

In the January 2 phone call, Mr Trump urged Mr Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, to “find” enough votes to overturn his Georgia loss.

The transcript quotes Mr Trump telling Mr Raffensperger: “All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes,” which is the number Trump needed to win.

“We won the state, so tell me, Brad, what are we going to do?” Mr Trump said, according to a leaked audio recording published by The Washington Post.

“We won the election and it is not fair to take it away from us like this. Under law you’re not allowed to give faulty election results, you’re not allowed to do that and that is what you have done. This is a faulty election result.”

Mr Trump made another call in December to Georgia’s chief elections investigator, Mr Raffensperger’s office said.

Also early in December, the former president described Mr Raffensperger as an “enemy of the people”, prompting an emotional plea from Georgia Republican Gabriel Sterling to dial down the rhetoric following the US presidential election.

“Mr President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia,” Mr Sterling said.

“We’re investigating; there’s always a possibility, I get it. You have the rights to go to the courts. What you don’t have the ability to do – and you need to step up and say this – is stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone is going to get hurt, someone is going to get shot, someone is going to get killed, and it’s not right. It’s not right.”

Additionally, two Democratic members of the US Congress – Kathleen Rice, of New York and Ted Lieu of California – have asked in a January 4 letter to the FBI for a criminal probe into Mr Trump’s call to Mr Raffensperger.

On January 6 – the day of the Capitol riots that led to this week’s historic second impeachment trial – Mr Trump bragged about the call in a speech to supporters: “People love that conversation because it says what’s going on,” he said. “These people are crooked.”

The push for investigations are one illustration of the legal perils facing Mr Trump since he lost the constitutional protections that shield sitting presidents from prosecution.

Mr Trump now faces nearly a dozen legal battles.

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