When it comes to possible criminal prosecution of the defeated former president for seeking to overthrow the 2020 election, most attention has understandably focused on the Justice Department. As the American people’s chief prosecutor, the department is conducting a massive investigation and prosecution effort of those involved in the coup effort.

But it is a mistake to ignore the critical role that others play in upholding the rule of law and deterring future coups.

The Associated Press reports: “The prosecutor weighing whether Donald Trump and others committed crimes by trying to pressure Georgia officials to overturn Joe Biden’s presidential election victory said a decision on whether to bring charges could come as early as the first half of this year.” Fani Willis, district attorney for Fulton County, Ga., says she is “making solid progress, and she’s leaning toward asking for a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid the investigation.”

Her potential case focuses on Trump’s attempt to pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 votes — just enough to change the outcome of the election in the state. The investigation also examines, the AP reports, “a November 2020 phone call between U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Raffensperger, the abrupt resignation of the U.S. attorney in Atlanta on Jan. 4, 2021, and comments made during December 2020 Georgia legislative committee hearings on the election.” And it includes Trump’s statements at a campaign rally calling on Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to change the outcome and his various calls to Georgia officials in December.

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A spokesman for Trump has dismissed the investigation as a “witch hunt,” but Trump should be nervous. Several factors make the Georgia case arguably easier to prosecute.

In a phone call on Jan. 2, President Trump insisted he won the state and threatened vague legal consequences. Here are excerpts from the call. (Obtained by The Washington Post)

The prosecutor has Trump on tape implicitly threatening the secretary of state, saying that failure to find extra votes would be “a criminal offense” and “a big risk” to Raffensberger and his lawyer. Moreover, then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who was on the call, was likely present for any discussion leading up to it, as were Trump’s lawyers, who would not be able to invoke attorney-client privilege if the court determines it was a criminal conspiracy.

The prosecutor can also question Graham about any conversation he had with Trump or Trump aides in advance of his call. (Why did Graham pick Georgia? Did he have any factual basis to question the outcome?) Moreover, the prosecutor can speak to Byung J. Pak, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia who quit days after the Trump-Raffensperger call. Frankly, it is rare for any criminal case to have this much direct evidence available.

Unlike the federal case concerning instigation of a violent insurrection, Trump’s direct participation is not at issue in Georgia. While intent is still a hurdle for prosecutors in the Georgia case, the nature of Trump’s demand suggests he was not seeking an accurate vote count, but a count that would make him the winner. As constitutional scholar Laurence H. Tribe previously opined, “It’s very hard to understand that conversation any other way when he says ‘you and your lawyer’ are going to be in basically criminal trouble if you don’t somehow, ‘find’ one more vote than the number by which I lost to Biden, according to your count.” Trump’s demand, Tribe says, was “really strong-arming extortion, a violation of the election laws.”

Tribe is not alone in spotting a solid basis for prosecution. Former federal prosecutor Joyce White Vance tells me, “The key evidence necessary to prove election interference is the taped phone call of Trump asking Georgia’s secretary of state to find him 11,780 votes.” She acknowledges, “Yes, the prosecution will still have to prove his state of mind, knowing that he was seeking fraudulent, not legitimate, votes.” Vance’s prosecutorial experience tells her that “it seems likely the Fulton County DA will be able to get there.”

The trickiest issue for the DA is determining which if any state laws Trump may have violated. The possible charges, according to a group of legal scholars writing for the Brookings Institution, include “criminal solicitation to commit election fraud; intentional interference with performance of election duties; conspiracy to commit election fraud; criminal solicitation; and state RICO violations.” Each of these crimes contains elements that the prosecutor would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor will also have to overcome a possible immunity defense and demonstrate that Trump’s arm-twisting "were well outside the scope of his responsibilities.”

No case is a slam dunk, but given the overwhelming evidence and the availability of so many legal theories, the DA may well find a basis for prosecution. It will then be up to her judgment whether she has a case she can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Just as the U.S. attorney general has sworn to enforce the laws of the United States, she has taken an oath to enforce Georgia’s laws — and that oath does not have a “but it will set off a political firestorm” exception. As remarkable as it may be, a single state district attorney may have the best shot to hold Trump criminally liable and deter future failed candidates from trying to overthrow an election again.