Declaring that newly leaked audio of President Donald Trump's call with Georgia's secretary of state "makes Nixon's 'smoking gun' tape sound tame," Democratic Congressman Don Beyer on Monday demanded a criminal investigation into the outgoing incumbent and any officials who have assisted his desperate last-ditch effort to overturn the results of the November election.
"The recording released yesterday establishes beyond a doubt that Donald Trump used the power of his office to threaten election officials, and to coerce them into committing criminal acts to overturn the election results," Beyer of Virginia wrote in a series of tweets, referring to an hour-long call in which the president pressed Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to overturn President-elect Biden's victory.
Throughout the conversation, Trump reiterated a litany of familiar and false claims about "voter fraud" and claimed that Raffensperger's refusal to act on the baseless allegations is "criminal."
"So look. All I want to do is this," Trump said. "I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state."
Beyer noted that Trump's call with Raffensperger was not the first time the president has pressured an elected official to use their power to subvert the will of the public and undo his decisive loss. Last month, as Common Dreams reported, Trump called Pennsylvania's Republican House Speaker twice demanding that he take action to overturn Biden's victory in the key battleground state.
"Trump has held numerous meetings and calls with election officials and lawmakers in other states where he has attempted to negate election results," Beyer noted Monday. "Those conversations should be examined by investigators to determine whether Trump engaged in additional criminal acts."
Beyer goes on to specifically single out White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows—who took part in Trump's Saturday call with Raffensperger—and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) as officials "who may have been party to criminal acts intended to change election results." In a post-election interview in November, Raffensperger identifiedGraham as one of a number of Republicans who pressured him to find ways to overturn Trump's defeat in the days after the November contest.
"Trump must be held accountable for his illegal acts and his attacks on the Constitution," Beyer concluded. "Nothing less than a criminal investigation will serve."
Beyer joins a growing chorus of Democratic lawmakers demanding that Trump be held to account for attempting to invalidate the results of the 2020 presidential election, an effort that came days before Congress is set to meet Wednesday to officially cetify Biden's Electoral College victory. More than 150 Republican lawmakers—a dozen senators and 140 House members—are expected to object to the certification.
On Monday, Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) sent a letter urging FBI Director Christopher Wray to "open an immediate criminal investigation into the president," noting that "the evidence of election fraud by Mr. Trump is now in broad daylight."
"As members of Congress and former prosecutors, we believe Donald Trump engaged in solicitation of, or conspiracy to commit, a number of election crimes," the lawmakers wrote. "Given the more than ample factual predicate, we are making a criminal referral to you to open an investigation into Mr. Trump."
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the number two Democrat in the Senate, is also calling for a "criminal investigation" into what he called Trump's "disgraceful effort to intimidate an elected official into deliberately changing and misrepresenting the legally confirmed vote totals in his state."
"Those who encourage and support his conduct, including my Senate colleagues, are putting the orderly and peaceful transition of power in our nation at risk," Durbin said in a statement late Sunday.
Legal experts argued that Trump's remarks in his call with Raffensperger could amount to violations of both state and federal law. David Worley, an Atlanta lawyer and the lone Democrat on Georgia's state election board, told the Washington Post that "it's a crime to solicit election fraud, and asking the secretary to change the votes is a textbook definition of election fraud."
In a column for The Nation on Monday, Jeet Heer argued that while Trump's last-ditch push to overturn the November election has "no real chance of success," the lame-duck president's authoritarian and likely unlawful behavior warrants a forceful response.
"Trump is diminishing in political power with every passing day and there is no need to make unrealistic claims about his ability to overturn the election," wrote Heer. "Still, attempted crimes by a president require retribution. Even if he's only an irritant, Trump deserves to be swatted down."