Saturday, October 1, 2022

Georgia to set up special grand jury to investigate Trump election probe

ATLANTA ( Associated Press) — When potential grand jurors show up at an Atlanta courthouse on Monday, they’ll find a television camera in the room and shut off the streets outside — prompting intense public interest in the investigation into whether former President Donald Trump and others The state that is investigating illegally tried to pressure Georgia officials to reverse Joe Biden’s presidential election victory.

Fulton County District Attorney Fannie Willis has taken the unusual step of requesting a special grand jury to investigate, and that panel’s selection begins Monday.

The sitting of a grand jury – even a rare special grand jury – is a routine process that is usually of little interest to the public. But the hunger for any news about the case has prompted the court to make room for at least some parts of the grand jury selection to be broadcast to the public.

Although there will be cameras in the room, they will not be allowed to show them to potential grand jurors.

Read more: Georgia prosecutor investigating possible interference in 2020 election calls for special grand jury

An investigation into possible attempts to influence the 2020 general election in Georgia began early last year. Willis asked the County Superior Court chief justice in January to include a special grand jury. She wrote in a letter that her office contained information indicating a “reasonable likelihood” of “potential criminal disruption” to the administration of that election.

The Chief Justice’s order said that the special grand jury has to sit for one year starting from Monday. Unlike a regular grand jury, which hears many different cases and may issue indictments, a special grand jury focuses on investigating a single subject and produces a report on its findings.

The district attorney then decides whether to seek indictment from a regular grand jury.

Former Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter, who convened a special grand jury nearly 15 years ago, said the procedure for a special grand jury sitting is largely the same as for a regular grand jury sitting. It is made up of 16 to 23 people called from the county master jury list.

The judge will make sure the potential grand jury members are eligible — over 18, Fulton County residents and not convicted of a felony — and will then hear from those who seek pardons for one reason or another.

Unlike jury selection for a trial, where two sets of lawyers are trying to remove biases and prejudices, there is no defense attorney in the process because no one has yet been charged. Anyone who tunes in to watch shouldn’t expect to hear potential grand jurors question their political leanings or their opinion on Trump at large.

“There is no excuse for bias or prejudice,” Porter said. “In this case, I would suspect that if someone came wearing a MAGA hat, they would probably forgive them. But the investigation of their prejudices or prejudices is very limited in the selection of a grand jury.”

After the special grand jury is seated, the cameras must be released – all grand jury proceedings are secret. But Willis indicated in his letter to the chief justice that one reason for wanting a special grand jury is to issue summons to witnesses who have refused to cooperate without one.

Willis has confirmed that his team is investigating a January 2021 phone call in which Trump implored Georgia Secretary of State Brad Riffensperger to “find” the votes needed to win the state. It has also said that they are looking into the November 2020 phone call between US Sen. Lindsey Graham and Raffensperger, the US Attorney’s sudden resignation in Atlanta on January 4, 2021, and comments made during the December 2020 Georgia legislative committee hearings . Election.

A Trump spokesman had previously dismissed the investigation as a politically motivated “witch hunt”. Graham has also denied wrongdoing.
In a separate investigation in New York, Trump is appealing to be held in contempt of court for applying a subpoena to his testimony and failing to turn over documents in a civil investigation, which is the state’s The attorney general’s office says he has falsified the evidence. The value of skyscrapers and other properties for more than a decade.

Trump’s lawyers argue Attorney General Letitia James is using a civil investigation to collect information that could be used against the former president in a parallel criminal investigation overseen by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Both James and Bragg are Democrats.

Bragg says the criminal investigation is ongoing, despite the ups and downs in the investigation’s leadership. So far, this has only resulted in tax fraud allegations related to fringe benefits against the Trump Organization and its longtime finance chief Alan Weiselberg. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak contributed reporting.

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