District attorney in Georgia asks for a special grand jury for Trump election probe
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is weighing whether Donald Trump and others committed crimes by trying to pressure Georgia officials to overturn Joe Biden's election win.
A MARTINEZ, HOST:
For months, a district attorney in Georgia has been investigating whether former President Donald Trump and his allies committed crimes when they tried to overturn the 2020 election there. Now she asked a judge to call a special grand jury.
Sam Gringlas with member station WABE in Atlanta has been following this.
Sam, let's start off with some background. What exactly is this district attorney investigating?
SAM GRINGLAS, BYLINE: So Fani Willis is the DA here in Fulton County, where Atlanta is, and her investigation stems in large part from that infamous January 2021 call that Trump made to Georgia's secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger. Trump asked him to help overturn the results of the presidential election in Georgia, which Trump lost. But he asked Raffensperger to quote, "find 11,780 votes." Raffensperger refused. But Willis has said her office has reason to think that the election was subject to what she called criminal disruptions.
Here's what Willis told WABE in September.
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FANI WILLIS: We will put the facts that are learned literally - 'cause I'm old-school - up on a wall, what those facts are. We will see if the elements of a crime are met. If they are, I will present a case to the grand jury.
MARTINEZ: OK, so what is a special grand jury, and why does the DA want one?
GRINGLAS: A huge reason Willis wants a special grand jury is subpoena power. She says her office has been basically having trouble getting witnesses and potential witnesses to talk without that subpoena. And she said Secretary of State Raffensperger is one of the people who has not agreed to talk. On Fox News last night, Raffensperger called the investigation politically motivated.
This is Page Pate. He's a trial attorney here in Georgia. And I think he explains really well what Willis is looking for.
PAGE PATE: Not only does she need to show that former President Trump made this call and made those statements. She needs to get in some evidence of, what was his intent? So I think, especially if she really wants to move forward with the prosecution, she wants more than just his voice on a phone call.
GRINGLAS: The other thing is that regular grand juries sit for about two months, and they hear a whole bunch of different cases. A special grand jury would be devoted just to this one investigation, and it could go on for as long as they need.
MARTINEZ: So could this special grand jury actually charge Trump or his allies with something, anything?
GRINGLAS: No. A special grand jury actually can't indict anyone.
But Gwen Fleming - she's a former district attorney in Georgia - says they're still really important.
GWEN FLEMING: What it can do is issue a final report that would effectively be a roadmap as to all of the evidence it reviewed and be able to make recommendations as to which charges, if any, would be appropriate based on that evidence.
GRINGLAS: And then after that, prosecutors have to decide whether to take the case to a regular grand jury and seek charges for, say, things like conspiracy to commit election fraud.
MARTINEZ: OK. Has Donald Trump said anything?
GRINGLAS: Yes. Trump put out a statement yesterday, saying his call with Raffensperger was perfect and the special grand jury should instead investigate voter fraud - again, no proof of widespread voter fraud. But as you can tell, the ghost of 2020 is everywhere in Georgia - at the state legislature, on the campaign trail. Our state's Republican governor and Secretary of State Raffensperger are both facing Trump-backed primary challenges because Trump says they didn't do enough to help him overturn the election in Georgia.
MARTINEZ: That's WABE politics reporter Sam Gringlas. Thanks a lot.
GRINGLAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.