Jury selection is underway for a Georgia grand jury expected to consider charges against Donald Trump and his allies for attempting to overturn the results of that state’s 2020 presidential election.
Fulton County District Attorney’s Office Fani Willis has led investigations into the former president and his allies for more than two years after Mr Trump pressured state officials to deny the findings.
Ms Willis began investigating Mr Trump shortly after he called Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the state’s top election official, urging it to find “11,870 votes” – just enough what then-President Trump needed to get Joe beating Biden in the state.
A special grand jury previously heard testimony from 75 witnesses, including aides and former attorneys for Mr Trump. That jury concluded its report in January with recommendations for prosecutors to file charges that will soon be considered by the newly installed grand jury.
The investigation is one of several facing the former president, who is also the subject of a special investigator investigation by the US Department of Justice into his attempts to undermine the election.
He also faces 37 federal charges for alleged mishandling of dozens of sensitive government documents and has been indicted in New York City on fraud related to hush money payments to cover up potentially damaging stories about his affairs leading up to the 2016 election.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly dismissed all charges and investigations against him as political “witch hunts” in multiple jurisdictions and called the Democrat-elected prosecutor in Atlanta, who is black, “racists” and “mad Marxists.”
He has similarly characterized prosecutors in Manhattan, where he was found guilty of sexual assault, faced a $250 million attorney general’s lawsuit, and faced more than 30 counts of falsifying business records.
Ms Willis has previously hinted possible grand jury indictments could come in August.
What’s happening now?
The new Fulton County grand jury, which includes Atlanta and the surrounding suburbs, is expected to begin July 11.
Two panels of judges, selected in a downtown Atlanta courthouse, are composed of 26 contestants each. One of these bodies will deal with the Trump investigation.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who previously served on the special grand jury collecting evidence in the investigation, will preside.
What happened to the special grand jury?
About a year into her investigation, Ms. Willis took the unusual step of requesting a special grand jury to rely on her subpoena powers to compel testimony from witnesses who would otherwise be unwilling to speak to prosecutors.
This special grand jury met in May 2022 and completed its work in January 2022.
The list of witnesses included former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, US Senator Lindsey Graham and former Senator Kelly Loeffler, as well as five members of Mr Trump’s legal team including Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis and the “wrong voter”- Architect John Eastman Other.
In all, the grand jury heard about 75 witnesses before dissolving in January.
On Jan. 24, as a judge heard debate over whether the grand jury’s report should be made public, Ms. Willis said a decision by her office on whether to file criminal charges was “imminent.”
A partially released special grand jury report found that after interviewing poll officials, analysts and poll workers, the jury unanimously agreed that “no widespread fraud took place” in the Georgia elections.
Fani Willis (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
It also includes a recommendation that prosecutors should bring charges against “one or more” witnesses who are likely to have committed perjury, and that it will ultimately be up to their office “to bring charges if they find sufficient cause.” The publicly released files do not contain the names of witnesses, names of persons recommended for prosecution, or other recommended charges.
Who could be charged in this case?
Last year, Ms Willis’ office sent out letters warning several people – including bogus voters and Mr Giuliani – that they could face charges in the case.
She may also be considering a broader set of charges Ms. Willis has professionally brought against dozens of others. The state’s RICO racketeering statute, normally used to combat organized crime, has been used by her office in indicting more than two dozen people associated with a sprawling Atlanta hip-hop empire, as well as 38 suspected gang members and 25 educators accused of defrauding Atlanta public school system.
The RICO Act allows prosecutors to bring charges against multiple individuals who they believe have committed different crimes while working toward a common goal.
How common are regular grand juries?
Typically, two grand juries sit in each two-month court session in Fulton County. They usually meet every week – one on Mondays and Tuesdays and the other on Thursdays and Fridays. Their work takes place behind closed doors and is not accessible to the public or news media.
What are you going to do?
Under Georgian law, in most criminal cases, a grand jury indictment is required to prosecute someone. When prosecutors present a case, they try to convince the jury that there is a probable cause that one or more individuals committed crimes and to get the jury to agree to an indictment against them.
For each case, prosecutors read or explain the possible charges and then call witnesses or present other evidence. Any witness who testifies must take an oath to tell the truth.
In Georgia, the only witnesses the grand jury often hears from are law enforcement officers, including prosecutor investigators. They can share with the jury what they learn from their investigation, including suspect or witness testimony and other evidence they have.
Grand Jury members may question witnesses.
Generally, a person named as a defendant in a possible indictment cannot be called to testify before the grand jury.
After a case is presented, members of the grand jury meet to discuss the case and decide whether to vote for a “genuine bill” or a “no bill” charge, with the former meaning probable cause to believe that a person has committed a crime. A “No Bill” means the jury did not believe a person committed a crime or that there was insufficient evidence to charge them.
An indictment will then be brought in open court.
Additional coverage from the Associated Press