Grand jury chosen to assist decide whether or not Trump interfered in Georgia’s 2020 elections – because it occurred | US politics

Grand jury selected in Trump Georgia investigation

A reckoning for Donald Trump over his efforts to overturn his presidential election defeat in Georgia is a step closer after the seating of a special grand jury in Atlanta.

The city’s Journal Constitution newspaper says a pool of 200 would-be jurors was reduced to 23 and three alternates over a two-hour period on Monday.

Fulton county district attorney Fani Willis. Photograph: John Bazemore/AP

The panel will meet “intermittently” in the coming months, the newspaper says, working with prosecutors on subpoenas for documents, information and the testimony of dozens of witnesses, many of whom have been reluctant to cooperate with the criminal investigation.

As a special, rather than a regular grand jury, it does not have the power to issue indictments.

Fulton county’s district attorney, Fani Willis, announced in January she was seeking a grand jury to look into Trump’s attempts to influence the outcome of the election in the crucial swing state of Georgia, citing a refusal by numerous potential witnesses to talk without a subpoena.

In an infamous call to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, on 2 January 2021, Trump asked officials to “find” 11,780 votes to reverse Joe Biden’s victory. Raffensperger has said he felt the call was a threat to his safety.

Other incidents, such as false claims made by Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani during a legislative hearing, and the abrupt resignation of Georgia-based US attorney Byung Pak, who testified that he faced pressure from Trump, are also the subject of Willis’s 15-month inquiry, the AJC said.

The Georgia investigation is one of numerous legal cases the former president is facing as he mulls whether to launch another run for the White House in 2024.

Updated at 14.56 EDT

Closing summary

It’s a wrap for the first US politics blog of the week, thanks for joining us.

Donald Trump’s legal jeopardy in Georgia came into sharper focus with the seating of a special grand jury in the criminal inquiry looking at his efforts to overturn his defeat in the state to Joe Biden. The panel has the power to issue subpoenas for testimony from previously reluctant witnesses.

Here’s what else we covered today:

  • Three Republican congressmen and Trump acolytes have received letters from the 6 January House panel seeking their cooperation and information about the former president’s wider push to remain in office.
  • The White House gave details of Biden’s trip to an anti-tank missile production factory in Alabama tomorrow, during which he will explain the urgency of his $33bn request to Congress for more military, economic and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.
  • House speaker Nancy Pelosi and a delegation of Democratic lawmakers are returning from weekend talks with Ukraine’s president Voldymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv and Poland’s president Andrzej Duda in Warsaw, as the House prepares to vote on Biden’s request.
  • The US supreme court ruled unanimously that the city of Boston violated a religious group’s right to freedom of speech when it refused permission to fly a Christian flag.
  • New York police veteran Thomas Webster was convicted of assaulting a fellow officer with a flag pole as he joined other Trump supporters in the deadly 6 January riot.
  • Tennessee governor Bill Lee said the state was halting all executions for at least the rest of the year as the state reviews its procedures for lethal injections.
  • First lady Jill Biden is heading to Europe later this week and will spend Mother’s Day with Ukrainian refugees and their children in Slovakia.

Remember you can follow developments in the Ukraine conflict on our live blog here. And please join us again tomorrow.

Amazon warehouse workers in New York overwhelmingly rejected a union bid on Monday, the Associated Press reports, the opposite result from that at another Staten Island facility last month that saw employees embrace the company’s first union representation.

Workers cast 618 votes, or about 62%, against the union, giving Amazon enough support to fend off a second labor win, and raise questions as to whether the first victory was a fluke, the agency said.

According to the National Labor Relations Board, 380 workers, or 38%, voted in favor of the grassroots union. Turnout was 61%, with about 1,600 workers eligible to vote, according to a voter list provided by Amazon.

The result is a massive blow to organizers and could stall a nationwide drive for union representation for Amazon workers.

The outcome is still pending of a union election in Bessemer, Alabama, while more than 400 challenged ballots are analyzed. Hearings to review those ballots are expected to begin in the coming weeks.

Jen Psaki said Joe Biden will be more vocal in the run up to November’s midterm elections, after she was asked if immigration and inflation issues, and the president’s low approval ratings, were weighing on the White House.

But she denied any “course correction” was needed, despite polls predicting Democrats could lose control of both chambers of Congress to Republicans in six months time:

What you can all expect to hear more from the president in the coming months, and more from other Democrats as well, is the contrast of what his agenda represents, what he is fighting for, who he is fighting for, what he is going to do to lower costs to address inflation, what he would propose to address a broken immigration system, and the contrast with the other side.

That is more about the time of year that we’re approaching, less a course correction from ongoing policy work that has been done from the beginning.

The White House is previewing tomorrow’s visit by Joe Biden to a missile manufacturing facility in Alabama that has been supplying weapons to support Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion.

The president will visit the Lockheed Martin plant in Troy in support of his request to Congress for an additional $33bn in military, economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki addresses reporters on Monday.White House press secretary Jen Psaki addresses reporters on Monday. Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

The White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at her afternoon briefing that Biden will deliver remarks about the security assistance the US is providing, including Javelin anti-tank missiles produced at the Troy factory:

[He will be] highlighting the urgency of the request to Congress to pass money quickly to help Ukraine continue to succeed against Russian aggression, and to make sure that the US and our allies can replenish our own stocks of weapons to replace what we have sent to Ukraine.

Psaki said Biden will also speak to the need for Congress to get the bipartisan innovation act to his desk:

Each Javelin missile requires more than 200 semiconductors to make, and boosting domestic chip manufacturing isn’t just critical to making more in America or lowering prices, it’s a vital component of our national security.

Passing the act means America will stay on the cutting edge of new technology. It means stronger, more resilient supply chains, and means outcompeting the rest of the world for decades to come.

Updated at 15.21 EDT

Thomas Zimmer

How can we explain that even those Republicans who openly stand against Donald Trump seem unwilling to support the necessary steps to strengthen democracy?

Earlier this month, Liz Cheney described Russia’s attack on Ukraine as a “reminder that democracy is fragile” and talked about her obligation “to defend our democracy” – yet she doesn’t seem overly concerned with her party’s escalating voter suppression or gerrymandering efforts.

Similarly, Mitt Romney warned his audience at a private fundraiser in mid-March that “preserving liberal democracy is an extraordinary challenge” – yet he helped block legislation in the Senate that would have introduced much-needed national standards for voting rights.

In general, the few Republican lawmakers in Washington who are opposing the worst excesses of Trumpian authoritarianism have been strikingly unwilling to oppose the ongoing Republican attempts to subvert democracy on the state level.

More:

Grand jury selected in Trump Georgia investigation

A reckoning for Donald Trump over his efforts to overturn his presidential election defeat in Georgia is a step closer after the seating of a special grand jury in Atlanta.

The city’s Journal Constitution newspaper says a pool of 200 would-be jurors was reduced to 23 and three alternates over a two-hour period on Monday.

Fulton county district attorney Fani Willis.Fulton county district attorney Fani Willis. Photograph: John Bazemore/AP

The panel will meet “intermittently” in the coming months, the newspaper says, working with prosecutors on subpoenas for documents, information and the testimony of dozens of witnesses, many of whom have been reluctant to cooperate with the criminal investigation.

As a special, rather than a regular grand jury, it does not have the power to issue indictments.

Fulton county’s district attorney, Fani Willis, announced in January she was seeking a grand jury to look into Trump’s attempts to influence the outcome of the election in the crucial swing state of Georgia, citing a refusal by numerous potential witnesses to talk without a subpoena.

In an infamous call to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, on 2 January 2021, Trump asked officials to “find” 11,780 votes to reverse Joe Biden’s victory. Raffensperger has said he felt the call was a threat to his safety.

Other incidents, such as false claims made by Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani during a legislative hearing, and the abrupt resignation of Georgia-based US attorney Byung Pak, who testified that he faced pressure from Trump, are also the subject of Willis’s 15-month inquiry, the AJC said.

The Georgia investigation is one of numerous legal cases the former president is facing as he mulls whether to launch another run for the White House in 2024.

Updated at 14.56 EDT

Amazon is terminating its Covid-19 paid sick leave policy from today, according to a memo to employees seen and reported by CNN.

The online shopping giant is reverting to its pre-pandemic policy of five days excused but unpaid leave following a positive test, the network says. Previously, employees with Covid were entitled to seven days of paid leave.

In the memo, CNN says, Amazon cited the “sustained easing of the pandemic, ongoing availability of Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, and updated guidance from public health authorities”.

Accrued time off can be applied for a Covid-19 related absence, the company said, while Amazon says it will no longer notify workers of positive cases in its facilities unless required by law.

“We are monitoring conditions closely and will continue to adjust our response as appropriate,” the memo said, adding that Amazon would also discontinue its vaccine incentive program.

As CNN notes, the easing of the company’s pandemic-era policies comes amid heightened workplace activism at Amazon and multiple high-profile unionization efforts.

Workers at a Staten Island, New York, warehouse voted to form the company’s first union last month, and the count is under way for unionization at a second facility in the borough.

At a rally in New York, US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said those efforts were “just the beginning”.

Read more:

My colleague Hugo Lowell has more about the request by the House select committee investigating the US Capitol attack to three Republican members of Congress as it seeks to establish the extent of their roles in Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

Mo Brooks.Mo Brooks. Photograph: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters

The panel sent letters requesting voluntary cooperation to Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs and Ronny Jackson, three congressmen who strategised ways to stop certification of Joe Biden’s election win or appeared to have connections to elements involved in the Capitol attack.

Bennie Thompson, the Democratic committee chair, told the Guardian last week the panel wanted to conduct interviews with Republicans so it could consider their testimony for its report, due to be published in September.

The panel opted against issuing subpoenas compelling testimony in the first instance, since that could cause the Republicans to attack, whereas an informal interview might at least yield some information, two sources close to the matter said.

House investigators are expected to issue further letters to Republican members of Congress, the sources said. The Guardian first reported the committee was considering letters to Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert and Paul Gosar, in addition to Biggs and Brooks.

The panel made a particularly expansive request to Biggs, the former head of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, outlining four lines of inquiry that investigators want to pursue with respect to his role in the weeks before 6 January.

Thompson told Biggs the committee wanted to ask him about a crucial 21 December meeting at the White House between Trump and dozens of Republicans, which produced a plan to have the then vice-president, Mike Pence, refuse to certify Biden’s win.

The letter also said the panel wanted to ask what Biggs knew of plans to stage a march from the Ellipse, near the White House, to the Capitol on 6 January, through his purported contacts with the pro-Trump activist Ali Alexander, who led the “Stop the Steal” movement after the 2020 election.

Read the full story here:

Interim summary

It’s lunchtime, and it’s been a busy morning:

  • Three Republican congressmen and Donald Trump acolytes have received letters from the 6 January House panel seeking their cooperation and information about efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s election win.
  • The US supreme court ruled unanimously that the city of Boston violated a religious group’s right to freedom of speech when it refused permission to fly a Christian flag.
  • New York police veteran Thomas Webster was convicted of assaulting a fellow officer with a flag pole as he joined other Trump supporters in the deadly 6 January riot.
  • Tennessee governor Bill Lee said the state was halting all executions for at least the rest of the year as the state reviews its procedures for lethal injections.
  • First lady Jill Biden is heading to Europe later this week and will spend Mother’s Day with Ukrainian refugees and their children in Slovakia.
  • House speaker Nancy Pelosi and a delegation of Democratic lawmakers are heading home after a weekend trip to Europe to talk with Ukraine’s president Voldymyr Zelenskiy and Poland’s president Andrzej Duda.

Please stick with us, there’s plenty more to come.

Updated at 14.10 EDT

Martin PengellyMartin Pengelly

Axios reports that in a forthcoming book, the former defense secretary Mark Esper writes about how Donald Trump wanted to shoot anti-racism protesters in the legs.

Esper reportedly writes that the moment “was surreal, sitting in front of the Resolute desk, inside the Oval Office, with this idea weighing heavily in the air, and the president red faced and complaining loudly about the protests under way in Washington DC”.

Esper was fired by Trump after the 2020 election. His book, A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense in Extraordinary Times, is due out next week.

Trump’s wish to shoot protesters has been reported before, by Michael Bender, then of the Wall Street Journal, in his own Trump book last year.

Here’s our report on that: