ATLANTA — As the criminal investigation into Donald J. Trump by Manhattan prosecutors appears to have stalled, the separate investigation into whether the former president and his allies illegally influenced Georgia’s 2020 election results took a significant step forward Monday made since 23 people were selected to serve on a special investigative grand jury.
The panel will focus solely on “whether there were unlawful attempts to interfere with the administration of the 2020 election here in Georgia,” Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert CI McBurney said before 200 would-be jurors who entered a downtown courthouse Atlanta law enforcement agencies had been called.
The special grand jury’s ability to subpoena witnesses and documents will help prosecutors, who have met opposition from some potential witnesses who have refused to testify voluntarily. The panel will have up to a year to issue a report advising District Attorney Fani T. Willis on whether to pursue criminal charges.
Some legal experts have said the probe could be dangerous for Mr Trump, who asked in a phone call in January 2021 Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to put Mr Trump ahead of his Democratic rival Joseph R. Biden Jr. in Georgia’s presidential election tally.
The Georgia grand jury is formed after a criminal investigation in Manhattan appears to have come to a standstill. Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan District Attorney, is said to be concerned about the strength of the New York case, which focuses on whether Mr Trump exaggerated the value of assets in financial statements. People close to the investigation have told the New York Times that the investigation could lose momentum if other witnesses don’t cooperate.
In the Georgia case, in an analysis published by the Brookings Institution last year, a group of legal experts wrote that the call to Mr. Raffensperger and other post-election moves by Mr. Trump put the former president at “significant risk” of criminal charges in Georgia, including extortion, Solicitation of voter fraud, willful disruption of voting duties and conspiracy to commit voter fraud.
The investigation is also likely to look at Trump allies who have interfered in Georgia election administration matters, including Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani; Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; and Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s former chief of staff. The investigation is within the jurisdiction of the Fulton County District Attorney because many of the acts at issue took place in Fulton County or involved phone calls with officials in Fulton County, which include the State Capitol Building in downtown Atlanta and numerous government offices.
In addition to calling Mr. Raffensperger, Mr. Trump has publicly described how he called Governor Brian Kemp after the election and asked him to call a special election to “get to the bottom of a major election integrity issue.” Georgia.” Mr. Trump also called Chris Carr, the attorney general, asking him not to oppose a lawsuit challenging the results of elections in Georgia and other states, and Mr. Raffensperger’s lead investigator to ask her to admit “dishonesty.” of choice to find.
Investigations into such matters are already underway, Judge McBurney said in court on Monday. “But now is the time for 26 members of our community to participate in this investigation,” he said, referring to the 23 jurors and three alternates.
Judge McBurney asked prospective jurors to announce a potential conflict if they were satisfied that a crime had definitely been committed in connection with the 2020 election — or if they were satisfied no crimes had occurred at all. About 25 reported having had such a conflict.
The special grand jurors issue subpoenas, hear testimonies and review documents. Sessions are confidential and juries are not allowed to discuss proceedings outside of their sessions. However, the judge noted that witnesses could speak publicly about the proceedings if they so wished.
In January, a majority of Fulton County Superior Court justices approved Ms. Willis’ request for a special grand jury, allowing it to meet for up to a year beginning May 2. After the panel makes prosecution recommendations, it will be up to Ms. Willis, a Democrat, to return to a regular grand jury to hear criminal charges.
Anthony Michael Kreis, a law professor at Georgia State University, said the grand jury convocation was a sign that prosecutors recognized the complexity, sensitivity and uniqueness of the case. Among other things, Ms. Willis has raised the possibility that Mr. Trump and his allies violated the state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO. Like the RICO federal law that targeted the mafia and other organized crime networks, Georgia’s state racketeering law is a tool that can be used to prosecute a wide range of groups involved in patterns of criminal behavior. Proving this case would require a thorough investigation of multiple moving parts.
These may include a phone call from Mr. Graham to Mr. Raffensperger asking if absentee ballots could be discarded in counties with a high rate of questionable ballot signatures; a visit by Mr. Meadows to a suburb of Atlanta to oversee an election review there; and post-election appearances Mr. Giuliani made before state legislative committees calling for the appointment of an alternative pro-Trump list of voters.
“There’s a lot more to it than just making calls,” says Kreis, adding that the case involves “underdeveloped” areas of law.
“We don’t have many allegations or potential allegations that anyone broke Georgia law by calling for voter fraud because you would have to be pretty insane to go to the Secretary of State’s office and demand a change in the voting tables.” said he called. “These are things so outrageous it’s almost unbelievable.”
Mr. Trump faces more legal challenges after his year-long presidency, all of which are gaining in importance as he appears to be positioning himself for another presidential bid in 2024.
The Trump investigation
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Numerous requests. Since former President Donald Trump left office, there have been many investigations and investigations into his business and personal affairs. Here is a list of ongoing ones:
In addition to an investigation in Manhattan, New York Attorney General Letitia James is poised to file a civil suit in her investigation into fraudulent and deceptive business practices by the Trump Organization, her associates in court said. A judge recently found Mr. Trump disdainful in the case for failing to fully comply with a subpoena and began fining him $10,000 a day.
Westchester County prosecutors are investigating financial matters related to a golf course owned by Mr. Trump’s company. And a federal grand jury has been set up to investigate the Jan. 6 attack by Trump supporters on the US Capitol.
Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Mr. Trump, has described the Fulton County investigation as a politically motivated “witch hunt.”
In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last month, Ms Willis said she would wait until after the May 24 Georgia primary to bring witnesses before the special jury to avoid appearing that she was trying to test the influencing state policy.
Mr. Kemp, Mr. Raffensperger and Mr. Carr, all Republicans, face high-profile key challenges from candidates who have repeated Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud in the state and who have received Mr. Trump’s endorsement.
Mr Trump planned to hold a “telephone rally” Monday night for Mr Kemp’s opponent, former Senator David Perdue, who has falsely claimed Mr Kemp “allowed radical Democrats to steal our election”.
Security at the downtown courthouse was tight Monday as roads surrounding the court complex were closed to traffic and there was a heavy law enforcement presence inside and outside the buildings.
In January, Ms. Willis wrote to the FBI that her office had received communications from “persons dissatisfied with our obligation to perform our duties,” and asked the FBI to provide “Intelligence and federal agents” to the courthouse. Ms Willis said safety concerns were “escalated” by comments from Mr Trump at an event in Texas where he called the prosecutors who were targeting him “vicious, horrible people” who were “racist” and “mentally ill.” ‘ and wrongly aimed at him.
Ms Willis noted that Mr Trump called for large-scale protests in Atlanta and elsewhere if prosecutors illegally prosecuted him.