ATLANTA (AP) – A Georgia prosecutor is expected to seek a grand jury indictment in the coming weeks in his investigation into efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the former president’s 2020 election loss.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis began investigating more than two years ago, shortly after a recording was released by a January 2021 phone call Trump addressed Georgia’s secretary of state.
Willis has strongly hinted that any charges would come between July 31 and August 18. One of two grand juries seated July 11 is expected to hear the case.
If Trump is indicted by a Georgia grand jury, that would add one growing list of legal problems while campaigning for president. Trump is ready to go to trial in New York in March to stand in the eyes fees in connection with hush-money payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign. And he has another trial scheduled for May on federal charges related to his handling of classified documents. He has pleaded not guilty in those cases.
The Ministry of Justice is also investigating Trump’s role in the attempt to halt the certification of 2020 election results leading up to the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. Trump said he has been told that he is a target of this study, which probably has some overlap with the one in Georgia.
Details of the Georgia investigation that have become public have fueled speculation that Willis is building a case under the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which would allow her to charge several people in a potentially comprehensive scheme.
Here are six investigative threads Willis and her team explored:
THE PHONE IS RINGING
The Georgia investigation was prompted by Phone call January 2, 2021 Trump addressed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Trump suggested the state’s top elections official could help “find” the votes needed to put him ahead of Democrat Joe Biden in the state.
“All I’m going to do is this: I’m just going to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump is heard saying on a recording of the call that was leaked to news outlets. “Because we won state.”
Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong and has repeatedly said the call was “perfect.”
Trump also called other top government officials in his quest to reverse his 2020 election loss, including Governor Brian Kempthen Speaker of the House David RalstonAttorney General Chris Carr and top investigator in the Foreign Minister’s office.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, too called Raffensperger shortly after the November election. Raffensperger said at the time that Graham asked if he had the power to reject certain absentee ballots, which Raffensperger has said he interpreted as a suggestion to throw out legally cast ballots.
Graham has denied wrongdoing and said he just wanted to learn about the signature verification process.
Biden won Georgia by a margin of less than 12,000 votes. Just over a month after the election, on 14 December 2020, a group was 16 Georgia’s Democratic voters met in the Senate chamber of the state Capitol to cast the state’s Electoral College votes for him. They each marked paper ballots that were counted and confirmed by a roll call.
That same day, in a committee meeting room at the Capitol, 16 prominent Georgia Republicans — a lawmaker, activists and party officials — met to sign a certificate falsely declaring Trump won and declaring himself the state’s “duly elected and qualified” voters. They sent that certificate to the National Archives and the US Senate.
Georgia was one of seven battleground states that Trump lost where Republican bogus voters signed and submitted similar certificates. Trump allies in the US House and Senate used these certificates to argue for delaying or blocking the certification of the election during a joint session of Congress.
Fulton County prosecutors have said in the lawsuits that they believe Trump associates worked with state Republicans to coordinate and execute the plan.
The multi-state effort was ultimately unsuccessful. Despite public pressure from Trump and his supporters, then Vice President Mike Pence on January 6, 2021, refused to introduce the unofficial pro-Trump voters. After attack on the US capital brought the certification process to a screeching halt, lawmakers certified Biden’s victory in the early hours of January 7, 2021.
It has at least eight of the fake voters since reached immunity agreements with Willis’ team. And a judge last summer barred Willis from prosecuting another, Lt. Burt Jones, due to a conflict of interest.
FALSE CLAIM OF ELECTORALITY
Republican state lawmakers held several hearings at the Georgia Capitol in December 2020 to investigate alleged problems with the November election. During these meetings, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and other Trump allies made unproven allegations of widespread election fraud.
They alleged that election workers counting absentee ballots at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta had asked outside observers to leave and then pulled out “suitcases” of illegal ballots and began scanning them. Trump allies played clips of surveillance videos from the arena to support their claims. State and federal officials investigated and said there were no signs of voter fraud at the site.
Some Trump allies also said thousands of ineligible people — including people convicted of felonies, people under 18, people who had voted in another state — had cast ballots in Georgia. The Secretary of State’s office has denied these claims.
ALLEGED ATTEMPTS TO PRESS ELECTION WORKERS
Two of the poll workers seen in the State Farm Arena surveillance video, Ruby Freeman and her daughter Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, said they faced relentless harassment online and in person as a result of the allegations made by Trump and his allies.
Giuliani last week admitted that statements he made about the two election workers were false.
In a bizarre episode described by prosecutors in court cases, a woman traveled from Chicago to Georgia and met with Freeman on Jan. 4, 2021. The woman initially said she wanted to help Freeman, but then warned that Freeman could go to jail and tried to pressure her into falsely confessing to committing voter fraud, prosecutors wrote in the lawsuits last year.
ELECTIVE EQUIPMENT ACCESS
Trump-allied attorney Sidney Powell and others hired a computer forensics team to copy data and software on election equipment in Coffee Countyabout 200 miles southeast of Atlanta, according to invoices, emails, security videos and testimony produced in response to subpoenas in a long-running lawsuit.
The then-county Republican Party chairman—who also served as a mock elector—greeted them when they arrived at the local elections office on January 7, 2021, and some county election officials were also present during the day-long visit. The secretary of state’s office has said this amounted to “alleged unauthorized access” to election equipment, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into it at the secretary of state’s request.
Two other men who have been active in efforts to challenge the 2020 election results also visited Coffee County later this month and spent hours inside.
US ATTORNEY RESIGNATION
U.S. Attorney BJay Pak, the top federal prosecutor in Atlanta, abruptly terminated two days after Trump called Raffensperger and a day after a recording of that call was made public. During that conversation, Trump called Pak a “never-Trumper,” implying that he did not support the president.
In December 2020, then-US Attorney General William Barr asked Pak to investigate allegations by Giuliani and other Trump allies of widespread election fraud. Pak, who had been appointed by Trump in 2017, reported back that he had found no evidence of such fraud.
In August 2021, Pak told the US Senate Judiciary Committeewho investigated Trump’s actions after the election, that he resigned on January 4, 2021, after learning from Justice Department officials that Trump did not believe enough was being done to investigate allegations of election fraud and wanted him out as US attorney .