Matthew Sanderson Comments on Difficulty to Prosecute Trump Over Raffensperger Call in NBC News
President Donald Trump's phone call Saturday urging Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to overturn the state's election results might have violated federal and state election laws, but it would be difficult to prosecute, legal experts said Monday.
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But while some former prosecutors said that they believed the call should be investigated and that it is prosecutable, Matthew Sanderson, an election lawyer in Washington, D.C., said the criminal intent requirements would make a case difficult to prosecute.
"Another 'perfect phone call' from President Trump. We started 2020 talking about a phone call, and now we're beginning 2021 the same way," said Sanderson, a Republican, referring to the call Trump had with Ukraine's president in 2019, which led to his impeachment.
Prosecutors, however, "would need to demonstrate he knows he lost the election," Sanderson said, adding, "I think that's a tough case to bring against an individual who seems pathologically unable to recognize his own loss."
The criminal statutes are meant to address things like shredding ballots and making payoffs, not conversations a candidate has with election officials, Sanderson said. An unsuccessful prosecution, meanwhile, could be some "vindication for the president," he said.
Trump "committed an act against the public trust" that was "egregious," but "it doesn't fit the structure" of the criminal laws, Sanderson said.
While the state statute "offers prosecutors a little more flexibility," he said, "I highly doubt this has legs on that front."
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