The grand jury appears in the investigation into Trump election interference


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While the House of Representatives investigating the January 6 riot at the Capitol is struggling to obtain testimony and White House documents from Donald J. Trump, an Atlanta attorney is about to set a special grand jury in her criminal investigation the electoral interference of the former president and his allies, said a person with direct knowledge of the deliberations.

Fulton County Attorney Fani Willis opened her investigation in February, and her office has consulted with the House Committee, whose evidence could be of significant value to her investigation. However, their progress has been slowed in part by delays in the panel’s fact-gathering. By convening a grand jury dedicated exclusively to allegations of election manipulation, Ms. Willis, a Democrat, would indicate that her own investigation is proceeding.

Her investigation is viewed by legal experts as potentially dangerous for the former president, given the myriad interactions he and his allies have had with officials in Georgia, particularly Trump’s January call from Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger asking him to “11,780 votes Find”. – enough to reverse the state’s election result. The Georgia case is one of two active criminal investigations known to affect the former president and his circle; the other is the Manhattan District Attorney’s examination of his financial affairs.

The investigation against Ms. Willis is ongoing in a state that is at the center of the nationwide partisan war for the vote.

The Biden Justice Department has sued Georgia over an extremely restrictive electoral law passed by the Republican-led legislature, arguing that it discriminates against black voters. At the same time, Trump is aggressively trying to reshape the state’s political landscape by ousting Republicans who he believes are unwilling to go along with his wishes or adopt his false claims of electoral fraud. He is supporting a challenger for Mr Raffensperger in next year’s primary and soliciting potential candidates for running against Republican Governor Brian Kemp. One Trump ally, former Senator David Perdue, is considering such a run, while another, former soccer star Herschel Walker, has an offer in mind for the Senate. (A new governor would not have a direct pardon that is delegated to a state committee in Georgia.)

Rather than convene a special grand jury, Ms. Willis could submit evidence to one of two grand juries that currently sit in Fulton County, a longtime Democratic stronghold that encompasses much of Atlanta. But the county has a huge backlog of more than 10,000 potential criminal cases yet to be considered by a grand jury – a result of the logistical complications posed by the coronavirus pandemic and, as Ms. Willis has argued, her predecessor Paul Howard’s inaction. which she replaced in January.

In contrast, a special grand jury, which under Georgia’s statute would consist of 16-23 members, could focus solely on the potential trial against Mr Trump and his allies. According to a person with direct knowledge of the deliberations, Ms. Willis will soon dare to speak on condition of anonymity, since the decision is not final. Although such a jury could issue subpoenas, Ms. Willis would have to return to a regular grand jury for criminal charges.

Mrs. Willis’ office declined to comment; In an interview with the New York Times earlier this year, she said, “Anything relevant to attempts to disrupt the Georgia elections is under scrutiny.”

Mr Trump’s advisors did not respond to requests for comment; In February, a spokesman called the Fulton County’s investigation “the Democrats’ most recent attempt to gain political points by continuing their witch-hunt against President Trump.”

Mr. Raffensperger made his view of Mr. Trump’s electoral interference clear in a book that was published this month on election day: “For the office of foreign minister, a ‘recalculation’ would mean that we would have to falsify the numbers somehow. The president asked me to do something that I knew was wrong and I wouldn’t, ”he wrote.

About the call from Mr. Trump, Mr. Raffensperger wrote: “I felt then – and still believe today – that this was a threat.”

A 114-page analysis of potential problems in the case was released by the Brookings Institution last month, with authors including Donald Ayer, an assistant attorney general in the administration of George HW Bush, and Norman Eisen, a special investigator for President Barack Obama. The report concluded that Trump’s post-election conduct in Georgia put him at “significant risk of potential government charges” including extortion, electoral fraud, willful interference in the exercise of electoral duties and conspiracy to commit electoral fraud.

Mr Trump’s ongoing comments on the events in Georgia may not help his cause. In September, he held a rally in Perry, Georgia, attended by thousands of supporters, as well as Mr. Walker and Rep. Jody Hice, who competes against Mr. Raffensperger.

At the rally, Mr Trump recalled calling Mr Kemp who declined his requests to intervene.

“Brian, listen,” Trump told the governor. “You have a big problem with electoral integrity in Georgia. I hope you can help us and call a special election and let’s get to the bottom of the matter for the good of the country. “

The Brookings writers alleged that these comments could help prosecutors establish an “intent” to convince lawmakers to commit election fraud – a key hurdle in proving a lawsuit against Mr. Trump.

“I think he made his notoriety worse with these comments,” said Mr Eisen. “The mere fact of his interview with Kemp is evidence of a call to fraud because Trump’s claim was based on falsehood. By further commenting on this at the rally, he offered the prosecutor free entry to the content of this exchange. “

Trump’s offer to undermine the election

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Pressure on state officials to “find votes”. In a taped call, Trump urged the Georgia Secretary of State to “find 11,780 votes” to overturn the presidential election and warned vaguely of a “crime.” And he tried twice to speak to a Republican Party leader in Arizona to reverse Joseph R. Biden’s narrow victory there.

Congressional election results contested on January 6th. With the president continuing to refuse to admit the election, his most loyal supporters declared January 6th, when Congress convened to formalize Mr Biden’s election victory, as a day of reckoning. That day, Mr. Trump delivered an incendiary speech in front of thousands of his supporters, hours before a mob of loyalists forcibly stormed the Capitol.

Mrs. Willis said there was an extortion charge on the table. Such cases are often linked to the prosecution of mob bosses who enforce state law on Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations known as RICO, and Georgia has its own state version of the law.

“I always tell people when they hear the word blackmail they think of ‘The Godfather,'” Ms. Willis said earlier this year, explaining that the concept could extend to otherwise legitimate organizations used to do that Breaking law. “If you have various overt acts for one illegal purpose, you can – you can – get there.”

One of her most famous charges came in 2014 when she was serving as assistant prosecutor against a group of educators involved in an Atlanta public school fraud scandal.

“Fani’s personal experience with RICO cases will be a tremendous asset,” said Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming, author of the Brookings Report and former district attorney for neighboring DeKalb County.

Establishing an extortionate prosecutor in the election case would require prosecutors to detail the organized efforts of Mr. Trump and his allies. One of them, Senator Lindsey Graham, called Raffensperger last November and asked if counties with many questionable ballot signatures could reject all postal votes. On December 3, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, appeared before a subcommittee of the State Senate, reiterating conspiracy theories and pushing for an alternative, pro-Trump electoral list to be nominated. He later made similar motions to a US state committee, saying the Atlanta election officials looked like they were handing out “dope, not just ballots.”

In late December, White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, paid an unannounced visit to Cobb County with intelligence agents in tow to see an ongoing election test. (“It smelled like desperation,” said Gabriel Sterling, a top advisor to Mr. Raffensperger’s “dishonesty” election. He also called Chris Carr, the state attorney general, asking him not to join a Texas attorney general complaint to oppose the election results in Georgia and other states.

Some testimony in Congressional proceedings has already been of interest to state investigators, including that of Byung J. Pak, a former U.S. attorney in Atlanta, who told the committee that he resigned in January after learning that Mr. Trump was planning had to fire him and refuse to spread falsehoods about rampant electoral fraud in Georgia.

Mr Graham’s office declined to comment. Mr Giuliani’s attorney Robert Costello said he did not have time to discuss the case.

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