House Democrats ask FBI to open criminal investigation into Trump call with Georgia elections chief
WASHINGTON - Two House Democrats made a criminal referral to the FBI after a recording of President Donald Trump's hour-long call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was made public, in which he pressured the Republican official to "find" enough votes to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state’s presidential election.
Rep. Ted Lieu of California and Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York made the request in a letter on Monday to FBI Director Christopher Wray calling for an investigation into possible violations of federal and state election laws.
"The evidence of election fraud by Mr. Trump is now in broad daylight," the two Democrats wrote. "The prima facie elements of the above crimes have been met."
RELATED: Trump, on tape, presses Ga. official to ‘find’ him votes
In a recording of the conversation, Trump pressured the secretary of state to "find" enough votes to reverse his loss in Georgia, repeatedly citing disproven claims of voter fraud.
"All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have," Trump can be heard saying in the recording. "Because we won the state."
Georgia counted its votes three times before certifying Biden's win by a 11,779-vote margin, Raffensperger noted.
"President Trump, we’ve had several lawsuits, and we’ve had to respond in court to the lawsuits and the contentions," Raffensperger 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. FOX 5 Atlanta obtained the full audio of Trump’s conversation with Georgia officials from a person on the call.
Lieu and Rice, both former prosecutors, wrote that they believe Trump "engaged in solicitation of, or conspiracy to commit, a number of election crimes." The Democrats cited two federal laws and a Georgia state law which they believe the president violated.
President Donald Trump walks to the Oval Office while arriving back at the White House on Dec. 31, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Trump's renewed intervention and the persistent and unfounded claims of fraud came nearly two weeks before he leaves office and two days before twin runoff elections in Georgia that will determine political control of the U.S. Senate.
RELATED: What to expect as Georgia counts votes in tight Senate runoff races
The president used Saturday's phone 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.
"It was pretty obvious pretty early on that we’d debunked every one of those theories early on," Raffensperger told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday, "but President Trump continues to believe them."
Also during 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 can be heard saying. "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. Trump lost the Electoral College to Biden by 74 votes, and even if Georgia, with its 16 votes, were to end up in his column, it would have no impact on the result of the election.
The call was the first time Raffensperger and Trump spoke, though the White House had tried 18 previous times to set up a conversation, according to officials.
Other Democrats and a few Republicans condemned Trump's actions, including Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a member of the GOP House leadership team who deemed the call "deeply troubling."
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.
Trump said in a tweet earlier Sunday that he had spoken with Raffensperger. He attacked how Raffensperger conducted Georgia’s elections, tweeting, "He has no clue!" and he said the state official "was unwilling, or unable" to answer questions.
Raffensperger’s Twitter response: "Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out."
Various election officials across the country and Trump's former attorney general, William Barr, have said there was no widespread fraud in the election. Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, key battleground states crucial to Biden’s victory, have also vouched for the integrity of their state elections.
Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the Supreme Court, which has three Trump-nominated justices.
This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.