ATLANTA — A pair of new developments underscored President Donald Trump’s insistent attempts to overturn Georgia’s election results just as Democrats accelerate their push to impeach the Republican for inciting a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol.
Weeks before Trump pressured Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “find” enough votes to flip the election, it was revealed Saturday that he also called a Georgia elections investigator with a similar demand, prompting questions about possible obstruction of justice.
Separately, White House officials urged U.S. Attorney BJay Pak to resign before the consequential Senate runoffs because Trump was angered that the top federal prosecutor for the Northern District of Georgia hadn’t done enough to investigate false allegations of widespread voter fraud that the president and his allies were promoting.
Trump already faces the drumbeat of Democrats — and some Republicans — pushing to rapidly impeach him for a second time with charges that cite the Raffensperger call as part of evidence he should be ousted for office. Now, the two new reports could also factor into the breakneck effort to oust Trump in the final days of his presidency.
The president’s call with the election investigator, first reported by The Washington Post, came on Dec. 23 during a state review of voter signatures on absentee ballot envelopes in Cobb County. That unprecedented review, completed in late December, didn’t find a single fraudulent absentee ballot.
During the call, Trump urged the official to “find the fraud” and promised that the official would become a “national hero,” a senior state official told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday. Legal experts say the president may have violated laws against interfering with an ongoing state investigation by making the call.
Citing unnamed sources, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that Pak’s resignation came at the urging of White House officials who wanted him to more aggressively pursue voter fraud allegations.
State and federal elections officials and politicians have repeatedly debunked conspiracy theories and falsehoods from Trump and his supporters about widespread election fraud, and courts at every level have dismissed challenges to Georgia’s outcome.
Pak, appointed to the position in 2017 by Trump, abruptly resigned last Monday, telling colleagues that “unforeseen circumstances” led to his departure, which had been planned for Jan. 20. He’s declined repeated requests from the AJC to comment.
During the explosive hourlong call with Raffensperger, first reported last week by The Post and the AJC, Trump referred to a “never-Trumper” U.S. attorney.
Those remarks were overshadowed by other developments in the call. Throughout the conversation, Trump berated and badgered Raffensperger to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s roughly 12,000-vote victory in Georgia. Raffensperger politely, but firmly, declined.
The new reports landed as House Democrats circulated a draft of Articles of Impeachment that accuses Trump of inciting “lawless action” and encouraging violence, and invokes earlier efforts to “subvert and obstruct” the vote on Wednesday to certify Biden’s victory in Congress.
“Those prior efforts include, but are not limited to, a phone call on January 2, 2021, in which President Trump urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to ‘find’ enough votes to overturn the Georgia presidential election results and threatened Mr. Raffensperger if he failed to do so,” read the draft, which had been signed by more than 170 House members.
Ga. lawmakers split
Each of Georgia’s six Democratic U.S. House members supports removing Trump from office, either through impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment to force him to step aside. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux has called for “immediate” impeachment proceedings.
The path in the Senate, where Republicans will retain control until Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are sworn in, is murkier.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a memo to fellow Republicans late Friday that outlined a tight timeline that would make it difficult for the chamber to take up the articles of impeachment before Biden takes office on Jan. 20.
It’s not clear whether there is enough support in the closely divided Senate to convict Trump, though some Republicans who voted to acquit him last year are pressuring him to leave office before his term ends. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, told the Anchorage Daily News that “I want him out.” U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., also said he’s open to the debate.
If Trump were to be impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate, he could also be barred from running again for the presidency in 2024.
Meanwhile, six of Georgia’s eight Republican U.S. House members voted to invalidate election results even after the violent mob besieged the Capitol.
U.S. Reps. Rick Allen, Buddy Carter, Andrew Clyde, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Barry Loudermilk and Jody Hice each cast votes against accepting Arizona and Pennsylvania’s electoral votes for Biden. Those votes were quickly overruled by a bipartisan coalition that included two Georgia Republicans: U.S. Reps. Drew Ferguson and Austin Scott.
The same group of Georgia House Republicans also tried to invalidate Georgia’s election, but the effort went nowhere. After the riots, U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler reversed her plans to challenge Georgia’s free and fair elections. And David Perdue’s term ended days earlier.