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Georgia District Attorney Opens Criminal Investigation Into Election Interference

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., has opened a criminal investigation into, quote, "attempts to influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia general election." That's according to a letter sent by the DA to the office of Georgia's secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger. You might remember former President Donald Trump called Raffensperger last month, asking him to find enough votes to overturn the election results and declare him the victor in the state. Georgia Public Broadcasting's Stephen Fowler obtained the DA's letter, and Stephen joins us now. Thanks for being here.

STEPHEN FOWLER, BYLINE: Always a pleasure.

MARTIN: So, Stephen, what does this letter say explicitly? Does it mention this Trump call?

FOWLER: So these letters were sent to Governor Brian Kemp, Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, Attorney General Chris Carr and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, asking them to preserve things like email messages or any sort of records related to the 2020 general election because there is an investigation being opened into attempts to influence the administration of the election. Now, it's looking into things like potential solicitation of election fraud, conspiracy, racketeering. And while it doesn't mention Trump by name, there's a pretty, pretty big chance that I've been told from sources that this is about Trump's call to the secretary of state asking him to overturn the election results.

MARTIN: You actually at the time got a recording of that phone call. Remind us, what was communicated during that?

FOWLER: Well, it was an hour-long call where the president of the United States at the time was asking Georgia's top election official to find him enough votes to erase about a 12,000-vote deficit and declare him the victor of Georgia's 16 electoral votes. He pushed a lot of fraud claims that just weren't true and other conspiracies and things. And Raffensperger, who is a Republican, pushed back on those things and said that Georgia's numbers were true and correct. In fact, Georgia's votes were counted three different times, Rachel.

MARTIN: So I don't have to tell you, Stephen, Georgia has been the center of so much turmoil over election administration, many baseless claims about fraud and irregularities there. How has all of this affected the work of administering elections and the people who do it?

FOWLER: Well, we've seen people retire. We've seen poll workers say they're no longer going to work. We saw one election official voluntarily do an audit of the January 5 Senate runoff because he needed his voters to trust that the system was correct. We've also seen calls for Secretary Raffensperger to resign. We've had elections officials threatened with Internet posts. And now Republicans in the state are enacting a bunch of laws. There are bills that they're proposing to do to completely change the way we vote in Georgia because they say there was fraud that just wasn't addressed.

MARTIN: Well, what's the toll or is there a toll? I should reframe. Is there a toll that this is taking on Georgia's Republican Party?

FOWLER: Absolutely. You have one wing of the party that is trying to move on and look ahead to a contentious 2022 governor's race that could decide control of who's going to control the government for a while. And then you've got another wing that's still holding on to President Trump and his calls for election fraud. And you even had the official state party say that the election just can't be trusted. So it's definitely a big intraparty conflict there.

MARTIN: Georgia Public Broadcasting's Stephen Fowler. Thank you, Stephen. We appreciate your reporting, as always.

FOWLER: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF AND SO I WATCH YOU FROM AFAR'S "THE VOICELESS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.