Was former President Donald Trump’s infamous phone call to a state of Georgia official evidence of a crime?
Not according to Trump’s attorney Drew Findling. And to get his point across, Findling draws a comparison to the rap game.
Findling, who has built a career representing the biggest names in hip-hop such as Cardi B, Migos and Gucci Mane, argues that there is a connection between prosecutors’ controversial use of rap lyrics to serve criminal charges against Hip hop stars, and Trump’s infamous phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which Trump said he wanted to “find” enough votes to win Georgia in the 2020 election.
And that connection, according to Findling, is: context.
“If we look at the big picture, we find that there is no criminal case,” Findling told VICE News during an exclusive interview at his home late last year. “And that’s one of the reasons we got involved in this case when we were asked to do it.”
The hour-long Trump-Raffensperger call is central to Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ wide-ranging investigation into attempts by Trump and his allies to reverse his 2020 Georgia election defeat. The inquiry is now nearing its conclusion after a special jury last month recommended indicting over a dozen people, “possibly” including Trump, according to the panel’s foreman. Willis said in late January that fee decisions were “imminent.”
Some of Trump’s lines from that call, which was recorded and leaked to the Washington Post, among others, have been spilled through the media, particularly the part where Trump told Raffensperger he wanted to “find” enough votes to match Biden’s 11,779 votes overcome.
About halfway through the call, Trump said, “So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, that’s one more than we have because we won the state.”
But focusing on just a few lines from the call is misguided, Findling argues — for the same reason that prosecutors miss the mark by relying on a few words that hip-hop artists use on their albums to back criminal charges against rap stars.
“First of all, prosecutors don’t know a thing about lyrics,” Findling told me. “They take out eight or nine words. They take out something that lasts a few seconds and say, “Aha, that’s evidence of wrongdoing.” Likewise, nobody ever talks about the full 62 minutes. Nobody ever talks about the circumstances surrounding those 62 minutes.”
Findling declined to delve deeper into the details of the Trump case or what the all-important additional information about the call might be. However, in August, shortly after being assigned to handle the case, he told the New York Times that the talks between Trump and Raffensperger amounted to an attempt to “negotiate a solution” to a civil matter.
Such a statement would interpret the phone call, in which several lawyers from both sides were on the line, as an attempt to mediate in the election campaign – and not, as Trump’s critics believe, as an attempt by an incumbent president to steal a lost election.
It remains to be seen whether Willis will agree with Findling’s view of the call or treat it as evidence for a future indictment against the former president. Now that the special grand jury has completed its report and made recommendations, Willis must decide whether to pursue criminal charges with a regular grand jury.
But she has made it clear that she views the use of lyrics in a criminal charge as fair game – as Willis recently did against Young Thug.
Her office’s sweeping indictment against the rapper, whose real name is Jeffery Lamar Williams, along with over two dozen others for alleged gang activity, cited his lyrics. That includes the time he rapped, “I killed his husband in front of his mother,” in 2021. Williams has pleaded not guilty.
“No one ever talks about the circumstances of those 62 minutes”
In August, Willis said at a press conference, “I think if you decide to admit your crimes in one fell swoop, I’ll use it.”
She added: “I have legal advice. Don’t confess to crimes against rap lyrics if you don’t want them used, or at least get the hell out of my county.
The Special Purpose grand jury put a special focus on the appeal, foreman Emily Kohrs told reporters last week.
“We definitely started the first phone call, the call to Secretary of State Raffensperger that was so publicized,” Kohrs told the New York Times, before noting that Trump is “potentially” among names recommended for criminal charges become.
Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong and that the call to Raffensperger was “perfect”.