Where’s former president Donald Trump’s most pressing criminal investigation? There’s little doubt now: It’s in Georgia.
Trump may now be just weeks or even days away from learning whether he’ll be criminally charged for election meddling in the state, according to comments made by a local prosecutor at a court hearing on Tuesday.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis told a judge Tuesday that charging “decisions are imminent” in her long-running investigation of Trump’ s attempts to reverse his 2020 campaign defeat in the Peach State. She argued that a recently-completed Special Purpose Grand Jury report on Trump’s activities should stay secret for now in order to protect the integrity of potential future prosecutions of “multiple” people.
“We are asking that the report not be released, because—you having seen that report—decisions are imminent,” Willis told Judge Robert McBurney. “We have to be mindful of protecting future defendants’ rights.”
Willis’ latest remarks represent some of the strongest public comments she’s made yet indicating that her office may be about to bring a criminal case against a former U.S. president for the first time in history. Trump is being investigated by state prosecutors in Georgia and New York, and by a federal special counsel in Washington D.C. But Willis’ comments suggest her team is moving faster, and is closer to reaching a final charging decision, than any other.
Her office argued Tuesday that the report should remain sealed until she has made a public announcement about whether she plans to bring criminal charges or not, even though the 26 members of the Special Purpose Grand Jury voted to release the report to the public when they completed their investigation in January.
Judge McBurney said he needed more time to deliberate, and that he would announce his decision in the coming days. He cautioned that he would give both sides time to appeal his decision before the report is published.
“No one’s going to wake up with the court having disclosed the report on the front page of a newspaper,” he said.
Willis launched her investigation after Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021 and urged the state official to help Trump “find” enough votes to win, even though President Joe Biden carried Georgia by 11,779 votes. The call was tape-recorded and then leaked to the media, including the Washington Post.
“All I want to do is this,” Trump told Raffensperger. “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.”
“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.”
Trump has repeatedly denied all wrongdoing. On Monday, he took to his social media company, Truth Social, to defend his call to Raffensperger as “perfect” and repeat his false assertion that he won the state of Georgia.
“Many people, including lawyers for both sides, were knowingly on the line,” Trump wrote. “I was protesting a RIGGED & STOLEN Election.”
Willis can still seek an indictment of Trump or his allies regardless of whether, or when, the report is made public.
Willis’ team has already informed almost 20 people that they are likely to be charged, including a group of over a dozen so-called “fake electors” who signed a document falsely declaring Trump the winner of the state of Georgia, and also Trump’s longtime attorney Rudy Giuliani. She has not publicly staked out a position about whether her office believes Trump broke the law.
The report is likely to include a summary of the panel’s findings, along with specific charging recommendations or avenues for further investigation. The Special Purpose Grand Jury heard from 75 witnesses during its seven-month investigation, Willis said Tuesday. The panel subpoenaed testimony from top members of Trump’s inner circle, including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, GOP South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
Trump’s attorneys did not appear at the hearing on Tuesday, but released a statement noting Trump was never called to testify in the probe.
“The grand jury compelled the testimony of dozens of other, often high-ranking, officials during the investigation, but never found it important to speak with the President,” the statement from Trump’s attorneys said. “Therefore, we can assume that the grand jury did their job and looked at the facts and the law, as we have, and concluded there were no violations of the law by President Trump.”
Willis’ investigation is separate from a federal probe of Trump’s attempts to stay in power despite losing the 2020 election, which is now being led by Special Counsel Jack Smith. Smith is also investigating whether Trump broke the law by bringing highly sensitive government documents marked classified to his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach.
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