ATLANTA (AP) — Former President Donald Trump and his supporters were notified by prosecutors, but no warnings were issued by anyone in the Justice Department.
It was from a Georgia prosecutor that indicated she would likely seek criminal charges in a two-year election subversion investigation. In an attempt to block the release of the special grand jury report, Fulton County District Attorney Fanny Willis told the court last week that the decision in the case was “imminent” and that release of the report would be a “future defendant’s” decision. He argued that it could jeopardize his rights.
Willis, a Democrat, didn’t mention Trump by name, but her comments could lead to prosecutors being indicted in any of several current investigations involving the former Republican president. It was the first time I suggested that. The remarks raised hopes that an investigation focused in part on Trump’s phone call with the Georgia secretary of state may end before the ongoing federal investigation.
“You’re going to see an indictment in Fulton County before you see a federal indictment,” said Clark Cunningham, a law professor at Georgia State University.
In addition to the Georgia investigation, Justice Department special counsel is investigating Trump’s role in working with allies to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss and allegations of mishandling classified documents. There is
Trump appears to face the most immediate legal danger from an investigation into a cache of classified materials at his resort in Florida, and the threat remains. It looks complicated, at least politically, by classified records recently uncovered at his home in Delaware and his office in Washington. The Justice Department has appointed another special counsel to investigate the matter.
Willis began investigating her office shortly after the recording of the January 2, 2021 phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was released. In that conversation, the then-President was able to “find” fellow Republican Raffensperger the votes he needed to overturn Trump’s election, which he narrowly lost to Democrat Biden in the state. suggested.
“This is all I want to do. I just want to find 11,780 votes, one more than we have,” Trump said by phone.
Since then, the scope of the investigation has expanded significantly to include, among other things, fake Republican electoral rolls, calls by Mr. Trump and others to Georgia officials in the weeks following the 2020 election, and extensive It contains unsubstantiated allegations of election fraud across the board. .
In an interview, Trump claimed he had done “nothing wrong at all” and that his call with Raffensperger was “perfect.” He said he was “very confident” that he would not be prosecuted.
Trump said of Willis, “She was supposed to stop violent crime and that’s her job.” Don’t go after people for political reasons. ”
It is unclear how Willis’ case will affect the Justice Department’s investigation, or what contacts her team has with federal investigators. and offers little insight into when and how the investigation will end.
But Willis’ comments show that the Georgia investigation, with or without charges, is headed for resolution on a timetable unrelated to what the Justice Department is planning, according to a legal expert. said the house.
Cunningham, a professor at Georgia State University, said Willis’ comments implied that the special grand jury report contained details about people the commission and Wills believe should at least be investigated further. He said that
“Unless potential future defendants are named in the report, she would not talk about how the release of the report would create prejudice against potential future defendants. ” he added.
Attorney General Merrick Garland launched an investigation in November into Trump’s actions leading up to the deadly riot at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and his possession of hundreds of classified documents. Appointed former corruption prosecutor Jack Smith as the overseeing special counsel. Mar-a-Lago Resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
Smith and his prosecution team have issued subpoenas to a grand jury, but have not disclosed when his investigation will end or who may be targeted.
Garland declined to discuss the investigation, saying only that “no one is above the law” and that there are no separate rules for Democrats and Republicans.
FBI agents recently searched Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, and found six items, including classified documents, according to the White House. Confidential records were found in Mike Pence’s Indiana home.
The public disclosure of the Willis lawsuit is, in part, a result of the unusual nature of the Georgia lawsuit.
Willis tried to convene a special grand jury to help her investigation last January. In a letter to the Fulton County Chief Justice, she wrote that her office had provided information indicating a “reasonable likelihood” that the 2020 Georgia election “could be subject to criminal interference.” said received.
A county superior court judge voted to approve the request, and a panel sat in May. A grand jury heard from his 75 witnesses and reviewed evidence gathered by prosecutors and investigators. Among the witnesses who testified were former New York City Mayor and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, and Georgia officials such as Raffensperger and Governor Brian Kemp.
Although the commission had no power to prosecute, its report is presumed to contain recommendations for further action, possibly including possible criminal charges.
The special grand jury disbanded earlier this month after wrapping up its work and completing a report on its investigation. The grand jury recommended that the report be made public.
News outlets, including the Associated Press, insisted on the release of the report.At a hearing last week, Willis said a decision was looming over whether to seek prosecution, and his reasons for opposing the release of the report were: “All It is not appropriate to publish this report at this time, because we wanted to ensure that the people of the court were treated fairly and that future defendants were treated fairly.”
Lawyers for witnesses and others identified as targets have argued that Willis was driven by politics rather than by legitimate concerns that a crime had been committed. , noted the initial willingness to speak to the print and television news outlets.
Danny Porter, a Republican who served as district attorney in neighboring Gwinnett County for nearly 30 years, said Mr. Willis was treading unfamiliar territory. He said the law does not provide prosecutors with much guidance.
Still, Porter said Willis did not appear to have crossed any ethical or legal lines that would call into question the integrity of the investigation.
“Procedurally,” he said.
Tucker reported from Washington. His AP writer Meg Kinnard of Columbia, South Carolina contributed to this report.