Do Democrats have time to impeach Trump again?

Former justice department inspector says president’s ‘best defence would be insanity’ 

Gino Spocchia
Monday 04 January 2021 19:28 GMT
Trump threatens Georgia election official to ‘find’ votes
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Donald Trump was recorded pressuring Georgia’s state secretary to “find 11,780 votes” to overturn the presidential election in his favour, in a leaked telephone conversation that could land the US president in a second impeachment trial.

Democrats called for the impeachment process after the audio was released by the Washington Post on Sunday, with congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others leading the calls.

She told reporters that the president’s attempt to overturn the presidential race was an attack on the election and “absolutely” impeachable, while Kamala Harris - the vice president-elect - added that Mr Trump's actions represented "a bald-faced, bold abuse of power by the president."

Mr Trump, who refuses to accept his loss to president-elect Joe Biden, was recorded telling Brad Raffensperger - a Republican - that “we won the state. There's nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you've recalculated.”

In reality, Mr Biden has been certified as the winner of both the presidency and the state, and was found to have swung Georgia after two recounts.  

But with little more than two weeks until Mr Trump departs Washington DC, legal experts have said a second impeachment trial would be difficult to stage, despite the president’s latest actions.

His first impeachment, which ended with his acquittal by the US Senate in February 2020, lasted almost five months from the initial enquiries carried-out by the House.  

“The logistics of holding impeachment proceedings in the final two weeks of a presidency are admittedly hard to pull off,” said the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics watchdog in a statement on Sunday.

Despite that, the watchdog added that “if this isn’t impeachable conduct, then literally nothing is”.

“What Trump did on that phone call is absolutely an impeachable offence and one that we should draw a line in the sand over for future presidents,” said Brian Klass, professor of global politics at UCL.

“[But] there’s a debate to be had", said Mr Klass, who added that “something” needed to be done despite the political implications.  

Should a second impeachment process prove to be too difficult, some legal experts suggested that Mr Trump could also be tried under state law for the phone call.

Both the “solicitation of election fraud” and “conspiracy to commit election fraud” are crimes under Georgia state law, and so there was a possible breach by the president, according to  Anthony Michael Kreis, professor at Georgia State University.

“There’s just no way that if you read the code and the way the code is structured, and then you look at what the president of the United States requested, that he has not violated this law — the spirit of it for sure,” said Mr Kreis, who spoke to Politico.

There is also the possibility that federal laws were broken by Mr Trump, according to the

A former justice department inspector, Michael R. Bromwich, added that Mr Trump also appeared to have broken federal laws, which block “the procurement, casting, or tabulation of ballots that are known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent under the laws of the State in which the election is held”.

“Unless there are portions of the tape that somehow negate criminal intent, ‘I just want to find 11,780 votes’ and his threats against Raffensperger and his counsel violate 52 U.S. Code § 20511,“ said Mr Bomwich, who added that “His best defence would be insanity.”

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