Raffensperger testifying before federal prosecutors Wednesday

Georgia secretary of state is also calling for increased penalties for those found guilty of election tampering.
Nick Akerman served as an assistant special prosecutor in the Watergate investigation. He talks about Donald Trump's various legal problems.
Published: Jun. 27, 2023 at 9:22 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 28, 2023 at 10:23 AM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) -Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is testifying Wednesday before federal prosecutors Wednesday in connection with Donald Trump’s alleged attempts to interfere in the state’s 2020 presidential election.

Raffensperger, CBS News has confirmed, will meet with investigators from the office of Jack Smith, the U.S. Justice Department’s special counsel who is heading up Trump’s federal indictment on the former president’s alleged mishandling of classified documents.

This would be Raffensperger’s first interview with the Justice Department, according to the Post.

On Monday, Raffensperger urged members of the state General Assembly to increase to increase the penalties for tampering or attempting to tamper with voting machines.

Currently, criminals who attempt to interfere with the lawful operation of a voting machine, and who are found guilty of a felony under Georgia law, are only subject to one to 10 years of jail time and a maximum penalty of $10,000.

Raffensperger wants lawmakers to increase the penalties to a $1 million fine and a minimum of 10 years in jail.

“Voting is the foundation of our democracy, and those who attempt to interfere with that fundamental right should be subject to higher penalties,” Raffensperger said Monday. “A felony with a short sentence or small fine is not sufficient justice for those who attempt to interfere with our democracy.

“Extremist groups that seek to invalidate the security of our elections should face serious legal consequences for their actions,” Raffensperger - who has gained national attention for resisting then-President Donald Trump’s pressure in 2021 to overturn the state’s election results - said. “The integrity of our elections is fundamental to American democracy. Part of ensuring security is deterring criminal actors, and the other part is prosecuting those criminals to the fullest extent of the law.”

Raffensperger’s comments comes as Atlanta, Georgia and the nation awaits several expected indictments from Fani Willis, the Fulton County DA who has been investigating Trump’s alleged 2020 election interference for more than a year.

Last year, Willis opened a criminal investigation “into attempts to influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia General Election.” Months later, a special grand jury with subpoena power was seated in May 2022. In court filings, she alleged “a multi-state, coordinated plan by the Trump campaign to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere,” a contest that eventually saw Joe Biden become the first Democrat to win Georgia since Bill Clinton in 1992.

In an April 24 letter, Willis warned Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat of “charging decisions” coming this summer in connection with her investigation; she also notified Fulton County deputies she will announce charges from her investigation sometime between July 11 and Sept. 1.

Willis also has notified Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville her office plans to work remotely during the first three weeks of August and asking no trials be scheduled during that time.

Fulton County deputies were in Miami earlier this month as Trump appeared in federal court in his latest round of legal challenges.

The deputies were there to observe how local law enforcement authorities were preparing before, during and after Trump’s arraignment, when he became the first ex-president in history to be criminally charged by the federal government he once oversaw.

Trump has already become the nation’s first ex-president in history to face criminal charges. Earlier this year, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg charged the 45th president with alleged hush money payments made to porn actress Stephanie Clifford and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, whom he feared would go public with claims that they had extramarital sexual encounters with him.

A Manhattan grand jury has been probing Trump’s involvement in a $130,000 payment made in 2016 to the porn actor Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public about a sexual encounter she said she had with him years earlier.

Willis has said her grand jury heard from 75 witnesses. Some of the more notable figures were Gov. Brian Kemp; Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr; Raffensperger; former lieutenant governor Geoff Duncan; former White House official Mark Meadows; former U.S. House speaker and Georgia congressman Newt Gingrich; and Republican South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Trump has accused Willis of conducting a “strictly political witch hunt.” Trump announced his 2024 White House candidacy last November.

Last year, Raffensperger told a congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that Trump’s claims of 2020 election fraud “were false.”

Raffensperger, along with Gabriel Sterling, the office’s chief operating officer, appeared before the Democrat-led House Select Committee’s nationally televised public hearings. Raffensperger told the committee that the 2020 election went “remarkably smooth,” with average ballot-casting wait times between two to three minutes statewide. “I felt we had a successful election,” he said.

Last week, Georgia’s State Election Board closed its investigation into alleged malfeasance during the 2020 election at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta. According to a statement from Raffensperger’s office, numerous allegations made against the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections, and specifically, two election workers, were false and unsubstantiated.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has attacked both Bragg’s and Willis’ investigations. Any conviction from Bragg, Florida Special Counsel Jack Smith, or Willis would not prevent Trump from running for or winning the presidency in 2024.

Earlier this year, Willis said she plans to make a “historical decision” this summer from her special grand jury investigation into whether Trump and his allied tried to influence Georgia’s 2020 presidential election results.

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