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Democrats ask FBI Director Wray to open criminal probe into Trump after leaked phone call

Reps. Ted Lieu and Kathleen Rice wrote that they believe Trump "engaged in solicitation of, or conspiracy to commit, a number of election crimes."
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the investigation into Russian election interference, on July 24, 2019.Andrew Harnik / AP file

A pair of House Democrats are asking FBI Director Christopher Wray to open a criminal probe into President Donald Trump after a leaked phone call showed him pleading with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to overturn his state's election.

"As members of Congress and former prosecutors, we believe Donald Trump engaged in solicitation of, or conspiracy to commit, a number of election crimes," Reps. Ted Lieu of California and Kathleen Rice of New York wrote in a letter to Wray on Monday. "We ask you to open an immediate criminal investigation into the president."

During the call, a recording of which was obtained by NBC News, Trump asked Raffensperger "to find" enough votes for him to erase President-elect Joe Biden's margin of victory in the state.

"So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have," Trump said. "Because we won the state."

The phone call, which went on for about an hour, featured Trump repeatedly pushing Raffensperger to alter the vote total while launching a barrage of discredited conspiracy theories at him and his staff. The president went as far as suggesting that should Raffensperger, a Republican, not act in accordance with Trump's wishes, he could be criminally liable.

"The people of Georgia are angry. The people in the country are angry," Trump said in the call. "And there's nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you've recalculated."

Raffensperger and his office's general counsel, Ryan Germany, spent the call swatting down the president's claims — at times telling him his specific allegations of fraud were flat-out wrong.

"Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong," Raffensperger said at one point.

In their letter, Lieu and Rice allege, "The evidence of election fraud by Mr. Trump is now in broad daylight."

"Given the more than ample factual predicate, we are making a criminal referral to you to open an investigation into Mr. Trump," the lawmakers wrote.

The president has spent much of the past two months working to overturn the election results, pressing lawmakers in swing states to disregard the vote totals in their states and backing legal challenges that have fallen short — drawing sharp criticism from Democrats and some Republicans.

But the recording of his conversation with Raffensperger has led to a more severe response from Trump's Democratic opponents. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said Sunday that the president's conduct was "impeachable," while Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said it "merits nothing less than a criminal investigation."

When asked at a House Democratic leadership news conference on Monday whether the House should take any action over the call, Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said he had not read the transcript of the conversation, but, "We're not looking backward, we're looking forward to the inauguration of Joe Biden on Jan. 20.” Jeffries emphasized that House Democrats are focused on addressing the coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis in the new Congress.