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Trump’s GA phone call was a significant attack on democracy; it's likely criminal as well.

4 min read
President Trump Holds a News Conference

Speaking of criminal behavior, protesters left placards and votive candles at Josh Hawley’s house, which he called vandalism by antifa.

Four criminal laws that Trump may have violated

There is no evidence that Georgia lost or otherwise miscounted its ballots, a point that Raffensperger made repeatedly during the call. So, in pressuring Raffensperger to “find” nearly 12,000 fake votes, Trump seemingly attempted to deprive the residents of Georgia of a fair and impartial election, and he did so by trying to procure false, fictitious, or fraudulent ballots.

Still, this statute requires federal prosecutors to prove that Trump had a particular state of mind when he pressured Raffensperger to rig the election. To convict Trump, prosecutors would have to prove that the outgoing president sought to have ballots counted that were “known by [Trump] to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent under the laws of the State in which the election is held.”

Thus, Trump’s lawyers could argue that Trump genuinely believed the various conspiracy theories that he touted during his call with Raffensperger, and that Trump thought there actually are thousands of lawful ballots that Raffensperger could “find.” To overcome this argument, prosecutors would have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Trump knew he lost the election and that any “found” ballots would be fraudulent.

If Trump were convicted under this statute, he could be imprisoned for up to five years.

Another federal law makes it a crime to “conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person … in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” Trump was joined on the call by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and at least two lawyers. Thus, to the extent that he conspired with them to attempt to strip even a single Georgia voter of a constitutional right to vote, Trump could potentially be imprisoned for up to 10 years.

Georgia state law may also criminalize Trump’s attempt to overthrow an election. The state’s law makes it a crime to willfully tamper “with any electors list, voter’s certificate, numbered list of voters, ballot box, voting machine, direct recording electronic (DRE) equipment, or tabulating machine.” And while Trump did not directly tamper with the vote count in Georgia, state law also makes it a crime to, “with intent that another person engage in conduct constituting a felony,” solicit another person to commit such a felony. A person convicted of soliciting a felony in Georgia “shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than three years” (although the penalty can be higher if they solicit a crime punishable by life in prison or by death).

Georgia law also specifically makes it a crime to engage in “criminal solicitation to commit election fraud.”

Another federal law makes it a crime to “willfully fail or refuse to tabulate, count, and report such person’s vote,” although it is less likely that Trump could be prosecuted under this statute. While Georgia law makes it a crime to solicit another person to commit any felony, federal law only criminalizes solicitation of a “felony crime of violence” — meaning that the crime must involve “the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against property or against the person of another.”…

So to reduce the effects of false information, people should try to reduce its visibility. Everyone should try to avoid spreading false messages. That means that social media companies should consider removing false information completely, rather than just attaching a warning label. And it means that the best thing individual social media users can do is not to engage with false information at all.…

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