Georgia grand jury convenes in Trump election probe

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Prosecutors began Monday whittling down a group of 200 Fulton County residents to the 23 they need to serve on a special grand jury that will investigate whether former President Donald Trump should be charged for his attempts to pressure Georgia officials to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost. Three more people will be chosen as alternates.

Judge Robert McBurney encouraged potential grand jurors to identify themselves with a “conflict” when they reach a conclusion about Trump’s crime.

“Because this grand jury will be investigating a specific situation, the 2020 election here in Georgia, it’s important that the grand jury be comprised of individuals who bring an open mind to the process,” McBurney said.

Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis asked for a panel to form a special grand jury in January because there was “information indicating that there is a reasonable possibility” that the election could be disrupted by criminal acts. “

Willis spoke briefly Monday and thanked those present for their service.

Willis has said in interviews that the investigation includes a January 2, 2021 phone call in which Trump told Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, “I just want to find 11,780 votes.” Trump lost the state to Joe Biden by that margin — an outcome that was affirmed by several recounts.

Special grand jury are uncommon. They are more focused on one investigation and can be impaneled longer than other grand juries that may consider charging recommendations for multiple investigations.

This grand jury will have an investigatory focus that is appropriate to the complexity and circumstances of the case, Willis stated in her January request.

Willis stated in her January request that “a significant amount of witnesses and potential witnesses have refused to cooperate” with the investigation, despite a subpoena.

McBurney stated to jurors that they can anticipate a long and difficult service, possibly even more than one year. They will meet occasionally, sometimes less frequently. He indicated that they might not have their first hearing until June.

Willis said in an April 19 interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she will wait until after the state’s May 24 primaries to issue subpoenas to public officials. Willis stated to the newspaper that she doesn’t want anyone saying “oh, she did this because she wanted to influence the outcome this upcoming election.”

Willis notified at least four state officials of her investigation in February 2021, sending document preservation notices to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Attorney General Chris Carr.

Trump said in a January 20 statement that “My phone call to the Secretary of State of Georgia was perfect. A Trump spokesperson claimed Friday that an “illegal ballot trading ring” had influenced Georgia’s election outcome. This was referring to unproven claims often made Trump and his supporters.

“A grand jury should be opened for the massive voter fraud in Georgia in 2020,” said Liz Harrington, the Trump spokesperson.

Graham Kates

Graham Kates, an investigative reporter for CBS News Digital, covers criminal justice, privacy and information security. Contact Graham at KatesG@cbsnews.com or grahamkates@protonmail.com

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