President Trump’s demand for action to overturn the result of the election in the state of Georgia raised questions about whether he violated election fraud statutes, lawyers said, though a charge is unlikely.
In a New York Times report by Eric Lipton, the call by President Trump on Saturday to Georgia’s secretary of State raised the prospect that trump may have violated laws that prohibit interference in federal or state elections, but lawyers said on Sunday that it would be difficult to pursue such a charge.
The recording of the conversation between Trump and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger of Georgia, first reported by The Washington Post, led a number of election and criminal defense lawyers to conclude that by pressuring Raffensperger to “find” the votes he would need to reverse the election outcome in the state, Trump either broke the law or came close to it.
“It seems to me like what he did clearly violates Georgia statues,” said Leigh Ann Webster, an Atlanta criminal defense lawyer, 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.
At the federal level, anyone who “knowingly and willfully deprives, defrauds or attempts to deprive or defraud the residents of a state of a fair and impartially conducted election process” is breaking the law.
Matthew T. Sanderson, a Republican election lawyer, said that while it did appear that Trump was trying to intimidate Raffensperger, it was not clear that he violated the law.
That is because while Mr. Trump clearly implied that Raffensperger might suffer legal consequences if he did not additional votes for the president in Georgia, Trumo stopped short of saying he would deliver on the threat himself against Raffensperger and his legal counsel, Ryan Germany, Sanderson said.
“You know what they did and you’re not reporting it,” the president said during the call, referring to his baseless assertions of widespread election fraud. “That’s a criminal — that’s a criminal offense. And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer. And that’s a big risk.”
Michael R. Bromwich, a former Justice Department inspector general and lawyer who represented clients that have been critical of Trump, said he believed Mr. Trump violated federal law.