A court hearing on Tuesday will mark one of the most significant developments in a Georgia probe into whether Donald Trump and his allies committed a crime in their efforts to overthrow the 2020 presidential election. Here’s everything you need to know about this hearing and what to expect next.
What exactly is happening on Tuesday?
Since May of last year, a special purpose grand jury in Fulton County, Ga., has been investigating whether Donald Trump committed a crime under state law when he attempted to overturn the 2020 election by pressuring state officials to try to kill Joe To topple Biden’s victory in the state.
The grand jury completed its work earlier this month. There will be a hearing on Tuesday to determine whether the grand jury report should be released. The special grand jury – composed of 23 jurors and three alternates – has recommended that their report be made public.
Why is this investigation such a big deal?
Trump and his allies have yet to face criminal penalties for their efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The Fulton County investigation could mark the first time charges have been brought against Trump and allies over those efforts. The US House of Representatives committee investigating the Jan. 6 attacks also filed a criminal referral to the Justice Department, which is also investigating Trump’s actions after the 2020 election.
What is a Special Purpose Grand Jury?
A special jury is composed to examine a topic and has no time limit. Unlike a normal grand jury, it can subpoena witnesses but cannot indict anyone. Instead, it gives prosecutors a recommendation on whether to press charges.
A regular grand jury sits for a set amount of time and hears a variety of cases. Eventually she can press charges.
Will we know if Trump will be charged with a crime on Tuesday?
Not necessarily. The special grand jury likely made a recommendation on whether to indict Fani Willis, a Democrat who is serving as Fulton’s district attorney in her first term. Willis can go to a regular grand jury and plead charges. Tuesday’s hearing could provide some insight into Willis’s thoughts on how to proceed.
Why is this all taking place in Fulton County, Georgia?
After the 2020 election, Donald Trump and his allies made repeated efforts to trick Georgia state officials into attempting to overturn the 2020 election. Many of these actions took place in Atlanta, which is located in Fulton County.
Those efforts included Trump’s infamous phone call to Georgia’s Foreign Minister Brad Raffensperger, urging him to overturn the election. “All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is another one we have because we won the state,” Trump told Raffensperger, who dismissed the request.
In 2020, Trump campaign officials also appeared at a Georgia law hearing and made false allegations of fraud.
Willis has also told Rudy Giuliani, who has played a key role in spreading election misinformation in Georgia and elsewhere, that he is a target of their investigation. Other targets are reportedly those who participated in Georgia’s attempt to send rigged presidential elections to Congress. Those targets include David Shafer, the chairman of the Georgia GOP, and Burt Jones, a 2020 Republican senator who is now the state’s lieutenant governor.
Willis’ investigation also reportedly includes a call from Senator Lindsey Graham to Raffensperger, in which Graham asked if Raffensperger had the power to refuse mail-in ballots. Willis is also investigating efforts to remove BJ Pak, the former US attorney with jurisdiction over Atlanta, who refused to back Trump’s efforts to overthrow the election.
What criminal charges could Trump face?
There are a number of charges that could be available to prosecutors, legal experts have noted. Georgian law prohibits willfully soliciting, ordering or inducing anyone else to engage in electoral fraud. Another state law makes it a crime to interfere with an election official in the performance of his official duties.
Willis can also face RICO – Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations – charges against Trump and his allies. Relying on RICO, Willis was able to bring charges against multiple defendants at the same time, showing that they were part of a broader conspiracy to interfere in the election. Willis has used the law in the past, hiring an attorney who specializes in RICO cases to help with the Trump investigation.
Who testified before the special grand jury?
Senior elected officials both nationally and in Georgia have appeared before the panel. Testimony was heard from Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Raffensperger, as well as Giuliani, Graham and Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff. The latter three went to court to prevent their appearance. All three were unsuccessful.