Blockbuster Washington Post Story on Trump Phone Call, with Comments from Ned Foley and Me

Amy Gardner with a huge scoop:

President Trump urged fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in an extraordinary one-hour phone call Saturday that legal scholars described as a flagrant abuse of power and a potential criminal act.

The Washington Post obtained a recording of the conversation in which Trump alternately berated Raffensperger, tried to flatter him, begged him to act and threatened him with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue his false claims, at one point warning that Raffensperger was taking “a big risk.”…

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.”

He later added: “So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.”…

Additionally, Trump’s apparent threat of criminal consequences if Raffensperger failed to act could be seen as an attempt at extortion and a suggestion that he might deploy the Justice Department to launch an investigation, they said.

“The president is either knowingly attempting to coerce state officials into corrupting the integrity of the election or is so deluded that he believes what he’s saying,” said Richard H. Pildes, a constitutional law professor at New York University, who noted that Trump’s actions may have violated several federal statutes.

But Pildes said Trump’s clearer transgression is a moral one, and he emphasized that focusing on whether he committed a crime could deflect attention from the “simple, stark, horrific fact that we have a president trying to use the powers of his office to pressure state officials into committing election fraud to keep him in office.”

Edward B. Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University, said the legal questions are murky, and it could be difficult to prove that Trump knew he was encouraging illegal behavior. But Foley also emphasized that the call was “inappropriate and contemptible.”

“He was already tripping the emergency meter,” Foley said. “So we were at 12 on a scale of 1 to 10, and now we’re at 15.”..

“Why don’t you want to find this, Ryan?” he asked of Germany. “What’s wrong with you? I heard your lawyer is very difficult, actually, but I’m sure you’re a good lawyer. You have a nice last name.”

But he continued to make his case in repetitive fashion, until finally, after roughly an hour, Raffensperger put an end to the conversation: “Thank you, President Trump, for your time.”

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