A special grand jury was seated in Atlanta Monday to join a criminal investigation into whether Donald Trump attempted to overturn the state’s results in the 2020 presidential election.
Against the backdrop of heightened local security, 200 prospective panelists reported to the Fulton County courthouse where District Attorney Fani Willis and a local judge selected 26 people to serve on a panel that will have the authority to subpoena witnesses and documents central to the investigation launched 15 months ago.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, during a public portion of the proceeding, briefly outlined the panel’s mission but made no specific reference to the former president.
McBurney said only that panel would seek possible evidence of “an unlawful attempt to disrupt the election.”
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While the special panel will have authority to subpoena witnesses and documents and ask their own questions, it will not have the power to make charging decisions. At the end of the investigation, the panel is required to issue a report in which it can recommend criminal charges. The actual charging decision falls to the district attorney.
“You might recommend the contrary – that there is no there there,” McBurney told the panelists. “That’s what this is about.”
The special grand jury may sit for one year, but Willis has said that she expects to make a decision by the end of this year.
Investigators have interviewed about 50 witnesses, Willis spokesman Jeff DiSantis told USA TODAY. Another 30 could require grand jury subpoenas, while 60 others may be sought for additional voluntary interviews, he said.
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The case is one of several pending against Trump. New York authorities are investigating his real estate business, a special U.S. House committee is investigating his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and federal authorities are investigating possible links to rioters in that attack.
The Georgia investigation focuses on a call Trump made Jan. 2, 2021, to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, urging him to “find 11,780 votes” for him to win the state. President Joe Biden was certified the winner of Georgia.
“And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated,” Trump told the officials.
Trump has repeatedly defended his actions, calling the contact with Raffensperger “perfect” while repeating baseless, false claims for widespread voter fraud in Georgia.