A Georgia prosecutor’s office has confirmed it has opened a criminal investigation into “attempts to influence” the outcome of last year’s US general election.
Officials did not mention former president Donald Trump by name, but Mr Trump has come under intense criticism for a call he made to the state’s top elections official last month.
Mr Trump pressed secretary of state Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the state.
During the January 2 phone call, Mr Trump repeatedly argued that Mr Raffensperger could change the certified results, an assertion the secretary of state firmly rejected.
“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Mr Trump said. “Because we won the state.”
In letters to Mr Raffensperger, as well as the state’s governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis informs them that an investigation has been opened and that all records related to the administration of the election should be preserved, particularly those that may be evidence of attempts to influence the actions of people administering the election.
Jeff DiSantis, a spokesman for Ms Willis, said he could not name the subjects of the investigation, but said in an email that “the matters reported on over the last several weeks are the matters being investigated”.
In her letters, Ms Willis also remarked that officials “have no reason to believe that any Georgia official is a target of this investigation”.
The initiation of a criminal investigation comes just two days after Mr Raffensperger’s office opened an administrative investigation into the call prompted by a third-party complaint that alleged Mr Trump had violated Georgia law.
Investigators with the secretary of state’s office who look into such complaints typically present their findings to the state election board, which then decides how to proceed.
If the board believes there is evidence that a crime has occurred, it could take action ranging from issuing a letter of reprimand to referring the case to Georgia’s attorney general or to a local district attorney.