During the hour-long phone call, which was first obtained by The Washington Post, Trump insisted to Raffensperger that he, rather than Biden, was the winner of the state’s votes. “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,” Trump said on the call, where White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Georgia Secretary of State office’s general counsel Ryan Germany, and various lawyers were all present.
But the suggested number of votes is no coincidence: Biden won Georgia with a 11,779 lead and the state’s election results were recounted. Trump also leaned heavily on conspiracy theories to back up his claim, claiming ballots were burned and shredded and that dead people somehow voted.
Raffensperger pushed back against Trump’s false claims, telling him that “President Trump, we’ve had several lawsuits, and we’ve had to respond in court to the lawsuits and the contentions. We don’t agree that you have won.” As Raffensperger doubled down on Georgia’s fair election process, Trump then implied that there would be legal repercussions if Raffensperger and general counsel Ryan Germany don’t find him the votes, which he claims have been shredded. “It is more illegal for you than it is for them because, you know, what they did and you’re not reporting it,” Trump said. “That’s a criminal, that’s a criminal offense. And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer.”
Politicians from both major parties wasted no time condemning Trump’s call when the audio came to light. Former House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement: “Efforts to reject the votes of the Electoral College and sow doubt about Joe Biden’s victory strike at the foundation of our republic. The Trump campaign had ample opportunity to challenge election results, and those efforts failed from lack of evidence.” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also called Trump’s actions an “impeachable offense,” nothing that “if it was up to me, there would be articles on the floor quite quickly... He's attacking our very election.”
Perhaps it was Ocasio-Cortez’s signalling of impeachment that caused some speculation over just how criminal Trump’s latest actions are. But as much as disdain as Trump’s actions on this phone call have earned him, is it enough to land him in jail?
Technically, it could. House Democrats and former prosecutors Reps. Ted Lieu and Kathleen Rice made a criminal referral to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Monday, writing in a letter that to Wray that "As members of Congress and former prosecutors, we believe Donald Trump engaged in solicitation of, or conspiracy to commit, a number of election crimes.” Lieu also confirmed the letter was sent in a tweet. “We ask you to open an immediate criminal investigation into the president.”
In case there is concern that this particular investigation may fall through, Trump has a veritable party platter of other charges he could be facing in 2021. Should the FBI open an investigation into Trump’s phone call, it would only be one of many other criminal investigations he is subject to once he leaves the White House. From tax evasion to bribery to insurance fraud, the mountain of charges Trump faces is high. The likelihood of Trump, as well as his family members, serving time in prison definitely exists, and that’s one reality he can’t run from, no matter how many lies he spews and theories he digs up.