Georgia Probe of Donald Trump Call Could Spell Jail Time in Worst-Case Scenario

Former President Donald Trump could face jail time if an investigation into his efforts to overturn the election result in Georgia finds he acted in breach of the law.

The investigation, launched Monday by the office of Brad Raffensperger, Georgia's secretary of state, follows complaints regarding a call from Trump to Raffensperger's office urging him to "find" votes to reverse his loss.

Trump's actions could violate three state laws, according to legal experts, including criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, which can be tried as a felony or misdemeanor and carries a jail term of between one and three years.

A related conspiracy charge may also be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, while a third misdemeanor offence relates to "intentional interference" with another person's "performance of election duties."

After a recording of Trump's call to Raffensperger was leaked on January 3, several complaints were filed.

John F. Banzhaf III, a George Washington University law professor, who put forward one of the complaints, told Newsweek he welcomed the investigation.

"Such a criminal investigation, and prosecution if appropriate, is required and necessary in the public interest," he said. "I am happy to have played a role."

Banzhaf's complaint, thought to be the most thorough put forward to Raffensperger's office, states: "Many prominent and knowledgeable attorneys have concluded... that Donald Trump has committed one or more crimes, including felonies, under Georgia law."

However, Samuel Olens, former Attorney General of Georgia, told Newsweek that while he personally believed a "strong fact pattern exists" for the charge of solicitation, the burden to prove intent was likely too high for a charge to be brought.

"The most likely State [not federal] violation would be O.C.G.A. Section 21-2-604, criminal solicitation to commit election fraud," he said. "If found guilty of intentionally soliciting, requesting, commanding or otherwise attempting to cause the other person to engage in such conduct, it authorizes imprisonment of not less than one nor more than three years.

"Intent is accordingly the critical factor, a very high burden to overcome. While I personally believe a strong fact pattern exists for this offense, I believe a prosecutor is unlikely to bring such an indictment as the burden is so high."

Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump, said in a statement: "There was nothing improper or untoward about a scheduled call between President Trump, Secretary Raffensperger and lawyers on both sides. If Mr. Raffensperger didn't want to receive calls about the election, he shouldn't have run for secretary of state."

Donald Melania Trump Disembark Air Force One
Outgoing President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump disembark Air Force One at the Palm Beach International Airport on the way to Mar-a-Lago Club on January 20, 2020 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Trump faces a possible jail term for a call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger urging him to "find" votes. Noam Galai/Getty