Federal and/or state law enforcement should get to the bottom of this, requiring both parties to the conversation, and any witnesses, to preserve evidence. Stephen I. Vladeck, an election law guru and University of Texas law professor, tells me, “At least as relayed in the Post story, Sen. Graham appears to have been attempting to convince Secretary Raffensperger to alter the valid results of Georgia’s election — in a manner that may run afoul of numerous provisions of Georgia election law.” He adds, “At the very least, it’s a serious matter that might warrant further investigation — and that is grossly unbecoming of any United States senator, let alone the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
Depending on the facts — and we do not definitively know what occurred — any number of laws might be implicated.
Federal law (18 U.S.C. Section 242) provides: “Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.” In addition, 18 U.S.C. 1038(c) states that it is a crime to conspire to violate voting rights.
There are also state laws that may be relevant. Georgia law GA Code § 21-2-604 (2016) provides:
(a) (1) A person commits the offense of criminal solicitation to commit election fraud in the first degree when, with intent that another person engage in conduct constituting a felony under this article, he or she solicits, requests, commands, importunes, or otherwise attempts to cause the other person to engage in such conduct.(2) A person commits the offense of criminal solicitation to commit election fraud in the second degree when, with intent that another person engage in conduct constituting a misdemeanor under this article, he or she solicits, requests, commands, importunes, or otherwise attempts to cause the other person to engage in such conduct.
The underlying felony at issue could be one of many actions that would in essence misrepresent or falsify a vote count.
There is also a Georgia law, GA Code § 21-2-597 (2016), that provides: “Any person who intentionally interferes with, hinders, or delays or attempts to interfere with, hinder, or delay any other person in the performance of any act or duty authorized or imposed by this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”
The alleged behavior is serious, unseemly and raises legitimate questions. Whether or not any of these or other laws were broken must be investigated, but Graham’s actions have called into question his willingness to uphold the sanctity of elections.
“For the chairman of the Senate committee charged with oversight of our legal system to have reportedly suggested that an election official toss out large numbers of legal ballots from American voters is appalling,” says Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington Executive Director Noah Bookbinder. “Not only is it wrong for Sen. Graham to apparently contemplate illegal behavior, but his suggestion undermines the integrity of our elections and the faith of the American people in our democracy.” He alleges, “Under the guise of rooting out election fraud, it looks like Graham is suggesting committing it. That is unacceptable, and Sen. Graham should step down from his chairmanship immediately.”
Democrats, including lawyer Marc E. Elias, who has batted down Trump’s serial, baseless lawsuits, called for an ethics investigation.
What we do know is the Republicans’ lack of respect for election results, and willingness to propound all sorts of far-fetched conspiracy theories, have already seriously undermined trust in the election and whipped their base up into a fury. It’s time to stop. The election is over.