Georgia’s investigation into Trump and the 2020 election, explained
While the Congressional Committee probing Jan. 6 is holding public hearings and the Justice Department continues to secure the convictions of hundreds of people who violated the Capitol, a grand jury in Atlanta has been asked to focus efforts on former President Donald Trump. meeting behind closed doors. And his allies overturned Joe Biden’s election victory in Georgia.
The Georgia investigation intensified this summer, drawing closer to Trump’s inner circle and potentially posing a clear legal threat to Trump, who is likely to face other investigations into his campaign to overturn the 2020 presidential election. , which culminated in the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
Here’s what you need to know about it.
How did this investigation begin and who is running it?
The special grand jury convened in May at the request of Fulton County District Attorney Fannie Willis, which includes Atlanta, and she is leading it. It will aid in the ongoing investigation launched by Willis in February 2021 into the conduct of Trump and his aides after the 2020 election.
“It’s an investigative grand jury, a little different than a regular grand jury that hears every felony under the sun,” Tamar Hallerman, a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which has focused the investigation, told Vox earlier in July. “It’s focused on this one particular case. The whole idea is that they can really specialize and do a deep dive on everything to reverse Georgia’s election results.”
Special grand juries are relatively rare in Georgia and are often used in intensive, long-running investigations such as those attempting to overturn the presidential election in Georgia.
Willis is a first-term district attorney who was elected in 2020 as a Democrat in Georgia’s largest jurisdiction. She is a career prosecutor, previously known for her role in a plan to prosecute teachers at Atlanta public schools for cheating on standardized tests. Willis has gained national attention recently for indicting rapper Young Thug on a series of gang-related charges.
What is the Georgia Grand Jury investigating?
The grand jury is exploring whether Donald Trump and his allies violated Georgia state law in their efforts to reverse the former president’s 2020 loss to the state. Those efforts included his infamous phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Riffensperger on January 2, 2021, in which Trump said he wanted to “get 11,780 votes.”
It also includes efforts by the Trump campaign to create a slate of fake voters in Georgia by transmitting fake electoral votes to Congress for authentication. Last week, Willis sent a letter to all 16 bogus voters in the state informing them that they were considered “targets” of the investigation, meaning they were being viewed as potential subjects of indictment, not only as a witness. He had earlier summoned them in June.
From whom has the grand jury heard so far?
In addition to summoning fake voters, the grand jury has sought the testimony of a variety of figures, from a former Kanye West campaigner who allegedly tried to pressure an election worker to make untrue claims about voter fraud. It was to Brian Kemp. The state’s Republican governor, who was the subject of an unbelievable pressure campaign by Trump to act on his behalf.
Most recently, it sought testimony from a variety of figures in Trump’s inner circle, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.
“It’s major,” Hallerman said at the time. “This shows for the first time that the DA is piercing Donald Trump’s inner orbit. Previously, she stayed at the state and local levels and kept it Georgia-focused.
Both Graham and Giuliani have tried to avoid testifying. A New York judge ordered Giuliani to testify in person in August after he failed to resist his summons at a court hearing. Graham is in an ongoing legal battle over whether he can be forced to testify. As a result, he said on Monday that he is yet to be served with a summons.
What if they find Trump or someone else committing a crime?
They can accuse him of that crime – even if it’s Donald Trump.
“Georgia has a law that prohibits criminal solicitation to commit electoral fraud” [as well as] Georgia has a racketeering statute that is broader than the federal racketeering law,” Hallerman said. This creates opportunities for Georgia prosecutors to pursue prosecutions that would not be possible under federal statutes.
In particular, Trump’s infamous phone calls to Raffensperger could be considered soliciting fraud and the state’s racketeering statute could broadly encompass Trump’s coordinated efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Is this more likely to result in trouble for Donald Trump than a Justice Department investigation?
Presumably, because Willis, as a district attorney with authority to prosecute only under state laws, DOJ investigators do not have the same limitations under federal laws and policies.
He is not bound by the DOJ’s policies regarding pre-election investigations and being vigilant in pursuing prosecutions. She also doesn’t carry the same political baggage as Attorney General Merrick Garland, who will ultimately decide whether to prosecute Trump under federal law. Garland was appointed by President Joe Biden, whom Trump could face again in 2024. Willis is a freely elected local official.
Even though Garland is looking into whether Trump violated federal law and Willis whether he violated Georgia law, both Trump and others are still prosecuted for similar actions under the dual sovereignty doctrine. which allows both the state and the federal government to prosecute in parallel. As long as the act is an offense under both state and federal law, it serves the same purpose.
Is it related to the work of the committee of 6th January?
Technically not. The investigations are completely different. But the events they are investigating are connected, so there is significant overlap in their efforts. Trump’s campaign to reverse the election result in Georgia was unsuccessful, and, the committee has argued, the failure prompted him to make a final attempt to reverse the election on January 6, 2021.
Georgia’s witnesses in other similarly located states are disproportionately portrayed in the committee’s public hearings. A June hearing featured witnesses almost entirely from Georgia, in which Riffensperger and his former top aide Gabriel Sterling appeared on a panel, while two former state election activists, Shay Moss and Ruby Freeman, appeared at the same hearing. Appeared on the second panel.
The Peach State has attracted inconsistent attention from the panel because of ample evidence of malpractice – it is the only state with phone recordings of Trump pressuring a top election official – and because so many figures who opposed the efforts, such as Raffensperger and Sterling was the Republican who actually voted for Trump.
The evidence discovered and publicly revealed by the committee is likely to be of great help to Willis in proving Trump’s state of mind, and that he knew or should have known that he had indeed lost the 2020 election.
Has there been a major setback in the Willis investigation?
Yes, an incident happened this week that created legal hurdles and made it easy for the investigation to be seen as a partisan witch hunt, which could undermine its credibility.
This week a judge ruled that Willis cannot go after one of the state’s 16 fake voters. In a ruling, a local county court judge ruled that Willis could not pursue criminal charges against himself or coerce testimony and documents from state Sen. Bert Jones, the Republican for lieutenant governor in the midterm. are candidates. Instead, Willis must defer to an independent outside group to appoint another DA to investigate Jones.
The decision came after Willis hosted a fundraiser for Charlie Bailey, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, before the runoff in his primary, which created much conflict. In the decision disqualifying Willis, the judge wrote, “An investigation of this importance, warrants public attention and touches many political nerves in our society, not burdened with legitimate doubts about the district attorney’s motives.” Maybe. The district attorney should not be apolitical, but he gets investigated.”
what happens next?
Under Georgia law, a special grand jury can sit for up to one year. However, it is unlikely that it will take that long. However, the grand jury report for this fall’s midterm election will not become an “October surprise”. A judge said in late July that he would block the release of the report closer to the election.
Willis has also indicated his desire to summon Trump before a grand jury, which will almost certainly spark a major legal battle. However, no final decision has been taken regarding the compelling testimony from the former president.