Friday, February 3, 2023

Trump’s political fate could be decided by a Georgia grand jury

Even as Donald Trump prepares to ramp up his campaign to retake the White House, the political and personal fate of the former US president may be decided even before the secretive workings of a grand jury in Georgia.

The 23-member panel convened to consider whether Trump and others committed a crime by attempting to reverse his defeat in Georgia, when it appeared the state could decide the outcome of all 2020 presidential elections. , was dissolved on Monday after presenting its findings and taking the call. that they be made public.

If the grand jury report recommends an indictment, Atlanta County District Attorney Fannie Willis will face the most important decision of her career: whether, for the first time in American history, a former president should be charged with a criminal offense.

That could put Trump behind bars in Georgia when he is expected to be on the campaign trail. Unless he is already serving time as a result of a federal investigation into his efforts to pressure election officials in several other states to rig the vote and join the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

A judge has set a hearing for later this month to consider arguments on whether the grand jury report should be released while Fulton County District Attorney Willis weighs his findings.

In November, a day before Trump announced he was running for the White House again, the Brookings Institution in Washington released a report concluding that Trump was “at substantial risk of being prosecuted” in Georgia, in which officials to improperly influence the government, forgeries and criminals. Solicitation. The report indicated that Trump could also be prosecuted under organized crime laws written to combat mob lynching.

Norman Eisen, lead author of the Brookings report and former White House special adviser on ethics and administration reform, said he believes there is a “high probability” of impeachment against Trump.

“The evidence is compelling and the law is very favorable to Georgia prosecutors,” he said. “I think the (special grand jury) report is the most likely to lead to prosecution of Trump and his accomplices.”

Eisen said the federal case is not that long, but the congressional committee probing the events of January 6 made a “strong case” for impeachment against Trump.
He indicated that the prosecution of a former president would be “significant”.

“But, of course, so was Trump’s decision to lead the coup attempt. That was important in a very negative way. It’s important as a defense of the rule of law and American democracy,” Eisen said.

Georgia prosecutors have warned at least 18 other people who are targets of the investigation and could be charged, including Trump’s close aide and lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who, among other things, In addition the testimony was accused of spreading conspiracy theories. before the Georgia legislature.

Willis launched his investigation into “a coordinated, multi-state scheme by the Trump campaign to influence the outcome” just weeks after the former president left office. The investigation initially focused on a recording in which Trump pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger into fabricating nearly 12,000 votes out of thin air to undermine Joe Biden’s victory.

Trump'S Political Fate Could Be Decided By Georgia Grand Jury - 3000-2
Fulton County District Attorney Fannie Willis, center, and members of her team in May 2022. Photo: Ben Gray/ Associated Press

Willis expanded the investigation as more evidence emerged that Trump and his allies tried to rig the results, including naming a bogus list of 16 voters to replace legitimate members of the state’s electoral college. Fake voters included David Schaefer, chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, and Republican members of the state legislature, who were warned they could risk prosecution.

The Fulton County District Attorney notified state officials that his office is investigating multiple charges against Trump and others, including criminal solicitation to commit voter fraud, willful interference with the performance of election functions, conspiracy and fraud. Conviction can carry significant prison terms.

Fulton Superior Court approved the special grand jury appointment last year at Willis’ request. As jurors began their work, they considered the results of an investigation into a former president.
“I don’t want them to think I’m naive or don’t understand the gravity of the situation,” Willis told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I understand the seriousness of the situation… but it is just like any other case. You just have to do your due diligence.

Special grand juries are rare in Georgia. Unlike normal people, they cannot make accusations. But they can meet for longer periods and have wider powers of summons. Willis acknowledges that if he is to build a case against a divisive political figure like Trump, and persuade a jury in a criminal trial, the evidence will have to be rock-solid, and that will take time and depth.

Willis made good use of the powers of the grand jury. He called several witnesses, including several of Trump’s closest aides and lawyers. Some resisted their subpoenas, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, who appealed to the US Supreme Court in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid testifying.

The star witness was Raffensperger, a Republican who voted for Trump and oversaw his state’s elections. When the numbers stacked up against the president in Georgia, Trump knew whom to contact.

Raffensperger spoke for several hours in front of a special grand jury in June. Georgia’s secretary of state has made no public comment on his testimony, however, in his book, Integrity Counts, Raffensperger described receiving a call from Trump on January 2, 2021, while sitting in his kitchen with his wife Tricia . Put the President on speakerphone.

Raffensperger had an idea of ​​what was in for. Trump had already tweeted “insults and threats against me and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp.” For an hour, the president tried to persuade Raffensperger to cancel the vote.
“So, we’ve spent a lot of time on this and if we can go to some numbers, I think it’s pretty clear that we won. We won a very important victory in Georgia,” Trump said on the call.

Raffensperger said he wanted to interrupt and disagree, but he did not out of respect.
Trump continued: “I just want to find 11,780 votes … because we won the state.”

Raffensperger told the press that he “couldn’t do it because the data didn’t support it.”
Trump tried to ensure that the ballot boxes were stuffed and other irregularities by claiming the vote was rigged. Then the President said: “It is all very dangerous when you talk about the fact that there is no crime. I think it is very dangerous for you to say that.”

Raffensperger understood it for what it was.
“I felt then – and still believe today – that this was a danger,” he wrote. “Others clearly thought so, as some of Trump’s more hardline supporters reacted as if it was their duty to carry out the threat.”

Raffensperger said he and his wife had received death threats.
Willis had more than a witness’s word. Raffensperger recorded the call, providing powerful and irrefutable evidence.

The Fulton County District Attorney brought several witnesses before the grand jury, including then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and Graham, who called Raffensperger to suggest the cancellation of some absentee ballots. ,

Giuliani could be questioned about false testimony he gave before Georgia lawmakers a month after the presidential election, claiming that voting machines were rigged and that thousands of teenagers under voting age cast their votes. Was put A New York court suspended his license to practice law last year for his “apparently false and misleading statements regarding the results of the Georgia presidential election.”

Willis also collected evidence about efforts to coerce a Fulton County poll worker and her daughter into falsely claiming voter fraud by stuffing ballots, according to a United States attorney in Atlanta under pressure from Trump officials. sudden resignations to more rigorously investigate alleged voter fraud; and a computer services company hired by one of Trump’s lawyers that illegally copied sensitive voter data from voting machines.

Those who have worked with Willis say Trump is unlikely to back down from prosecuting them, should he see fit. She is known for being a fan of organized crime laws, which she used to prosecute public school teachers who were involved in a cheating scandal.

If Willis decides to pursue the case, he must convene a regular grand jury with the authority to hand down an indictment.

Trump, boasting as ever, dismissed threats to his freedoms. He described his interactions with Raffensperger as “perfect” and the hearings as a “witch hunt”. He called the investigation of Willis “politically vilified” and “racist”, possibly because he is African-American.

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