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In Georgia scandal, Trump's troubles are just getting started

Trump told Georgia's Secretary of State he wanted someone to "find" votes to flip the state in his favor. Now that same office is investigating Trump.
Image: Brad Raffensperger
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference, in Atlanta on Nov. 11, 2020.Brynn Anderson / AP

As 2021 got underway, Donald Trump faced a rather dramatic scandal stemming from his post-election lobbying efforts in Georgia. Though it would soon be overshadowed by the deadly insurrectionist attack on the Capitol that he helped inspire, the Republican's Georgia controversy was far more than a one-day flare up.

As regular readers know, the trouble 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.

As we discussed soon after, the public heard a recording of 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. By some measures, it was among the most scandalous recordings ever made of an American president.

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 some observers questioned whether such efforts were legal. Politico recently published a report noting that Trump's antics "could run afoul of federal and state criminal statutes, according to legal experts and lawmakers."

Officials in Atlanta are thinking along similar lines. NBC News reported yesterday:

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's office has opened an investigation into former President Donald Trump's Jan. 2 phone call urging Raffensperger to overturn the state's election results.... Raffensperger's office confirmed that it had opened the inquiry after it received a complaint about Trump's conduct.

Once the investigation is complete, Raffensperger's office will report its findings to the state board of elections, which is run by Republicans. Depending on the report's conclusions, it would fall to that panel to decide whether to refer the matter to the state attorney general's office -- which, incidentally, is also run by a Republican -- for possible prosecution.

If this sounds familiar, it's not your imagination. The New York Times reported a few weeks ago that prosecutors in Georgia "appear increasingly likely to open a criminal investigation" into the former president's efforts, and the Fulton County district attorney "is already weighing whether to proceed."

The new investigation from the Georgia Secretary of State's office will apparently be a parallel probe examining the same alleged misconduct.

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 list continues to grow.