President Donald Trump is being accused of committing “truly an impeachable offense” over the weekend after the Washington Post published audio in which Trump appeared to tell a top Georgia official to “find” the votes necessary to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the Peach State.
What did Trump say in the leaked audio?
The Post published a brief, four-minute excerpt of what the newspaper reported was an hour-long phone conversation between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
During the phone call, Trump repeatedly claimed that he won Georgia, which Raffensperger refuted.
“The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry,” Trump said. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.”
Raffensperger responded, “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong.”
At another point, Trump said, “So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.”
According to the Post, Trump also issued a “vague threat” to Raffensperger and his general counsel, saying that if they did not locate ballots in Fulton County that Trump claimed had been illegally destroyed, the state officials were opening themselves to criminal consequences.
“That’s a criminal offense,” Trump said. “And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer.”
What was the reaction?
The audio triggered new accusations against Trump, even by former top U.S. officials who suggested that Trump had engaged in criminal behavior during the phone call.
Neal Katyal, who served as acting solicitor general in the Obama administration, claimed on MSNBC that Trump sounded like a “mafia boss” on the call with Raffensperger.
“I’ve heard the extraordinary excerpts that the Washington Post has and, at least based on those excerpts, it sounds like Donald Trump is talking like mafia boss, and not a particularly smart mafia boss at that. This is the way that people in organized crime rings talk, and you see it there,” Katyal said.
Katyal claimed Trump’s actions on the call amount to “really, truly an impeachable offense.”
“This is, you know, the heart of what the abuse of power that our founders worried about so much — it’s, you know, the idea that a government official can use the powers of his office to try and stay in office and try and browbeat other officials that disagree with them,” Katyal said.
“So, one question is whether or not a high crime and misdemeanor was committed, certainly the tape makes it sound like it has. The second is whether or not there has been a criminal offense and the federal code 52 U.S.C. 20511 prohibits a federal official from interfering in a state election process,” he explained.
According to Katyal, the Department of Justice should take immediate action and open an investigation into Trump.
"This is the way that people in organized crime rings talk," @neal_katyal says of President Trump's language in his call trying to pressure Georgia's secretary of state to overturn the election results. pic.twitter.com/bnmxYY38as
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 3, 2021