The veteran prosecutor, who ousted former boss Paul Howard in last year’s Democratic primary, asked officials to keep documents related to Trump’s efforts to reverse the outcome of the Georgian elections.
“This investigation includes, among other things, potential violations of Georgian law prohibiting solicitation of voting fraud, false testimony to state and local government agencies, conspiracy, extortion, violation of the oath of office and any involvement in violence or threat-related violence the election administration, ”Willis wrote.
Calling it a “high priority matter”, Willis said the next Fulton County Grand Jury will meet in March. “This office will initiate subpoenas from the grand jury as necessary at this time.” She said investigators had “no reason to believe that a Georgian official is a target of the investigation”.
The January 2 appeal with Raffensperger goes straight to the second impeachment trial against Trump, which began this week in the U.S. Senate. The House impeachment executives claim Trump’s attempts to undermine the Georgia vote showed his willingness to spark a riot and spurred a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol days later.
ExploreImpeachment managers say Trump’s behavior toward Georgian officials was “outrageous”
The former president’s appeal to Raffensperger was only part of his efforts to undo his narrow electoral defeat in Georgia, which the Democrats captured in a White House vote for the first time since 1992.
He repeatedly called on Kemp to convene a special session to overturn his defeat, urged then-US Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue to block electoral college certification for Joe Biden’s win in Congress, and called on a state investigator during an absence count scam to find ballot papers. He also trumpeted state lawmakers urging Kemp to take more action to reverse the results.
Kemp and Raffensperger, along with other senior state officials, consistently pushed back Trump’s attempts, saying there was no evidence of widespread electoral fraud. Courts at all levels have rejected challenges from Trump and his allies trying to reverse election results.
The office of Georgian Foreign Minister Brad Raffensperger on Monday launched its own investigation into then-President Donald Trump’s call to “find” votes to reject the results of Georgia’s presidential election. (Alyssa Pointer / Constitution of the Atlanta Journal / TNS)
Image credit: TNS
Image credit: TNS
Separately, Raffensperger’s office opened an investigation into Trump’s call on Monday. The investigation was sparked by a complaint from George Washington University’s law professor John Banzhaf III under a case-initiating document. In an interview with ABC News earlier this month, Raffensperger said the Fulton prosecutor’s office was the “appropriate place” for a criminal investigation.
Fulton County was also the site of much of the election fraud alleged but never proven by Trump and his supporters in Georgia. In his call to Raffensperger, Trump claimed that “250 (thousand) to 300,000 ballots were mysteriously thrown into the rolls, much of it related to Fulton County, which had not been verified.”
In fact, there was no secret. Most of these ballots, as expected and widely reported, were sent in and counted after the ballots cast on election day.
Trump also claimed that “hundreds of thousands” of signatures on Fulton County ballot papers were forged. This would be impossible, however, as Georgia’s largest county, a reliable bastion for democratic votes, only sent 147,000 ballot papers. And a claim that a Fulton polling officer fed ballots through a tabulator three times has been invalidated by several recounts, including one by hand, which showed no discrepancy between the ballots.
“We checked that,” Raffensperger told Trump. “It has been conclusively proven that they weren’t scanned three times.”
Legal opinions were mixed as to whether Trump’s behavior was criminalized.
“The vitriolics and the romp – I’m sorry to say we got used to it, but we expected it,” Atlanta attorney Lee Parks, who has represented Republicans on multiple franchise cases, told the AJC in January . “I think you just take a deep breath. We are sad that it happened and we are embarrassed that it came from the president. But I don’t think there is any civil or criminal liability. “
And, as Parks noted, Trump didn’t end up getting what he wanted.
However, Bennett L. Gershman, a law professor at Pace University, said Willis was under an obligation to investigate possible criminal activity in her jurisdiction. Prosecutors and local prosecutors in New York are also investigating the former president on allegations of financial inadequacy involving the Trump organization.
The case in Fulton County could be stronger, Gershman said Wednesday, as a tape of the call was in place with Raffensperger.
“I think there is a good chance we will see criminal charges,” he said. “These are serious allegations.”
Then-President Donald Trump, shown at a rally in Dalton last month, made numerous allegations of election fraud in Georgia, but did not prove any of them. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
Photo credit: Curtis Compton / firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit: Curtis Compton / email@example.com
Anthony Kreis, a professor of constitutional law at Georgia State University, said Trump “wanted to use his position of influence and authority to change the official election results.”
Kreis said recent evidence that Trump threatened Kemp and other state officials “not to obey his commandments” could also sway the investigation.
“The Fulton County investigation will put the call into a larger context to clarify Trump’s intent. I think this has generally shown that Trump knew or should have known what the truth is – but he continued to put undue pressure on Georgian officials, “Kreis said.
In her letter, Willis said she was investigating these possible “election administration-related threats,” a hint to a false claim Trump made that the Secretary of State could be prosecuted if he did not investigate the case to the President’s satisfaction.
The call to Raffensperger, first reported by the Washington Post and the AJC, quickly had a sharp impact on the campaign and came days before the January 5th Democratic run-off election that took control of the U.S. Senate .
Guard dog groups who had urged Willis to file criminal charges welcomed their decision on Wednesday.
“Trump’s behavior is not only against the law, but also against the foundation on which our democracy is built,” said Noah Bookbinder of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “He may have managed to evade criminal charges as president, but he is no longer president.”
If Willis files charges, Trump has no legal immunity. Like any other citizen, he must stand before a court without the protection of his previous office.
This opens up the very real possibility of a former president of the United States being prosecuted by a first-time district attorney – another precedent, Gershman said, for a president who despises them.
Willis was asked to respond to critics accusing her of being a political opportunist and said she was already occupying her dream job.
“I’m not trying to make a name for myself,” she said