Given recent headlines regarding the Trump-Raffensperger phone call regarding GA election results, experts like Preet Bharara indicate criminal conduct. If this is true,

  • What exactly would a prosecutor charge? State? Federal?
  • Would Trump be vulnerable to Federal prosecution of the phone call after he leaves office?

I would think that the proper venue for POTUS to stake any claim would be in the judiciary system (courts)?

I am not a lawyer, however, I do enjoy learning the lingo. Thank you for the thoughtful response.


1 Answer 1


What exactly would a prosecutor charge? State? Federal?

It depends on whether it is a state or federal prosecutor. It appears that the president has at least flirted with violating both federal and state law, in which case he may be charged by both the federal and state prosecutors, each one laying charges under the relevant body of law.

Would Trump be vulnerable to Federal prosecution of the phone call after he leaves office?

Yes, if the facts support such a prosecution. It's not clear to me that the conversation constituted an unambiguous violation of the federal statute, but I have no knowledge of any precedent that might inform such a determination.

  • 4
    Ruth Marcus has an interesting opinion piece on this (paywalled) in WaPo. The use of the word "willingly" in 52 U.S.C. § 20511 might be key, because it means Trump would have to know what he was doing was illegal. Also, the fact (I think I can say "fact" there) that he lives in an alternate reality might be useful to his defense if he were prosecuted -- he might actually believe he won the state, despite having no genuine reason to. Jan 5, 2021 at 10:04
  • 16
    Would claims of such a belief be subject to some sort of reasonableness standard? If "I thought it wasn't wrong" were a universal get out of jail free card, no one would ever be convicted of anything.
    – Nobody
    Jan 5, 2021 at 14:37
  • 7
    I think it's worth pointing out this is political, not just legal, issue. There has never been a situation where a president was prosecuted for crimes while in office before, and doing so may set a precedent. There is concern that such a precedent could start a trend of political parties threatening to prosecute a president for things they did in office as a threat to bully him with going along with their demands. As such many are hesitant to prosecute even if a crime was committed, and thus a situation where it's ambiguous if a crime was committed is unlikely to be prosecuted.
    – dsollen
    Jan 5, 2021 at 15:23
  • 3
    @dsollen I guess Watergate is the precedent: Nixon would have been prosecuted for things he did in office, had it not been cancelled by Ford's pardon. Whether the lesson is "ex-Presidents are subject to prosecution" or "ex-Presidents should be pardoned to avoid the political headache", I don't know :-) Jan 5, 2021 at 16:53
  • 4
    @Acccumulation The text is knowingly and willfully deprives, defrauds, or attempts to deprive or defraud the residents of a State of a fair and impartially conducted election process... They don't have to know it's against the law, but they have to know they're defrauding the residents of a State. I suppose the argument is that if someone believes they're arguing against fraud, then it's not a violation.
    – Joe
    Jan 5, 2021 at 21:07

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .