Though the attack on the U.S. Capitol quickly overshadowed it, Donald Trump faced a meaningful controversy two weeks ago stemming from his post-election lobbying efforts in Georgia. It started in earnest on Saturday, Jan. 2, when Trump told Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) he wanted someone to "find" enough votes to flip the state in his favor.
By some measures, it was among the most scandalous recordings ever made of an American president. As we discussed soon after, the public heard Trump, desperate to claim power he didn't earn, exploring ways to cheat, begging others to participate in his anti-democracy scheme, and even directing some subtle threats at the state's top elections official.
It came on the heels of a separate call Trump made to Georgia's lead elections investigator in December, directing him to "find" non-existent evidence of fraud.
It wasn't long before many observers questioned whether such efforts were legal. Politico published a recent report noting that Trump's antics "could run afoul of federal and state criminal statutes, according to legal experts and lawmakers, who expressed alarm at Trump's effort to subvert democracy with less than three weeks left in his term."
They weren't the only ones wondering about possible presidential crimes. The New York Times reported late Friday:
Prosecutors in Georgia appear increasingly likely to open a criminal investigation of President Trump over his attempts to overturn the results of the state's 2020 election, an inquiry into offenses that would be beyond his federal pardon power. The new Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis, is already weighing whether to proceed, and among the options she is considering is the hiring of a special assistant from outside to oversee the investigation, according to people familiar with her office's deliberations.
The article added that the Democratic member of Georgia's state election board intends to seek a referral to the district attorney's office, seeking an investigation into Trump's recent call to Raffensperger.
Michael Moore, a former U.S. attorney in Georgia, told the Times, "If you took the fact out that he is the president of the United States and look at the conduct of the call, it tracks the communication you might see in any drug case or organized crime case."
Moore added he believed there had been "a clear attempt to influence the conduct of the secretary of state, and to commit election fraud, or to solicit the commission of election fraud."
About a week after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 race, the New York Times Magazine published a lengthy report on Individual 1 -- a moniker the Republican picked up as a co-conspirator in the Michael Cohen case -- detailing the many areas of Trump's "potential criminal liability" once he leaves office.
The trouble areas included Trump's alleged financial crimes, alleged campaign-finance-law violations, alleged obstruction of justice, and alleged public corruption. More recently, Trump's lawyers expressed concern that he could be prosecuted for inciting an insurrectionist attack on his own country's Capitol.
Now, evidently, we can add his post-election efforts in Georgia to the list.
To be sure, Trump is reportedly weighing the possibility of trying to pardon himself, but let's not forget that some of the potential charges involve state crimes -- in New York as well as Georgia -- for which a presidential pardon would be no use.