Nearly two years have passed since Donald Trump lost his re-election bid, refused to budge, and instead launched an all-out campaign to stay in the White House.
Since then, numerous investigations and public hearings have investigated the actions of the then president and his team for evidence of criminality, including the House committee hearings investigating the attack on the US Capitol.
But away from the bright lights and dramatic live broadcasts of those hearings, a potentially more important investigation is underway in Georgia, one that may offer the best chance of criminal charges being brought against the former president.
This week, a special grand jury investigating possible criminal interference in the results of the 2020 Georgia presidential election subpoenaed top members of the legal team that advised Trump after the vote. Among this group were Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Cleta Mitchell, Kenneth Chesebro and Jenna Ellis. Senator Lindsay Graham, a Trump ally, was also included.
Court documents allege “a coordinated multi-state plan by the Trump campaign to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.” A 23-person grand jury met in May and has already heard numerous witnesses.
Although the subpoenas do not necessarily imply that the recipients are subjects of investigation, they represent the closest a criminal investigation into election interference has come to Trump and his inner circle.
The investigation from which they arose was launched in February 2021 by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. It focused on Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of the Georgia election, an effort that included his infamous January 2 phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which he asked him to “find” 11,000 votes. .
This week’s subpoenas are the clearest sign yet that the investigation is making progress, according to Norman Eisen, a former special counsel for the House Judiciary Committee during the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump and a senior fellow for governance studies at Brookings.
“I think this is a sign that the prosecutor is moving fast, she is driving hard and there is a lot of legal risk for Trump and his associates,” he said. The independent.
He added that the Georgia investigation was the “greatest single legal threat” to Trump and his fellow passengers.
“To have the prosecutor who has the best-fitting state law, some of the best evidence, including the smoking gun tape from January 2, and who has the character and experience to prosecute the president. So yeah, I think he is,” he added.
The investigation could have a profound impact on the future not only of Trump and his allies, but of the United States as well. Trump has indicated that he plans to run again in 2024 and he is likely to win the Republican nomination. One thing that could derail those plans is criminal charges for election interference.
Democrats and democracy advocates have been frustrated with the Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland for not moving fast enough with their investigation into 2020 election interference. The department has also given no public indication that it is considering a case against Trump.
The January 6 committee findings have only fueled those frustrations. But Garland, a former federal judge who vowed to restore the Justice Department’s independence after four tumultuous years under the Trump administration, has remained cautious.
Ms. Willis, who is leading the Georgia investigation, does not face the same considerations. On Wednesday, she refused to rule out subpoenaing Trump.
“Anything is possible,” he said. nbc newsadding that he hopes the grand jury in Atlanta will issue additional subpoenas to more Trump associates.
She continued, “I think people thought we went into this as some kind of game. This is not a game at all. What I am doing is very serious. It is a very important job. And we will do our due diligence and make sure that we look at all aspects of the case.”
The grand jury heard testimony from several witnesses who had direct contact with Trump and his associates after the election, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which first reported the citations. Among those witnesses was Brad Raffensperger, who was a primary target of Trump’s lobbying campaign.
All of the Trump allies cited this week played a role in that campaign. Giuliani pushed false claims that poll workers took “suitcases” of ballots and tampered with election machines in his testimony before Georgia lawmakers in late 2020.
The subpoena issued to him said that he “possesses unique insight into the communications between himself, former President Trump, the Trump campaign, and other known and unknown individuals involved in the coordinated multi-state efforts to influence the results of the November 2020 election.” 2020 in Georgia. and in other places.”
Perhaps most relevant to a possible criminal indictment against Trump is the subpoena issued to Cleta Mitchell, an attorney who was involved in the January 2021 phone call with Raffensperger.
His citation read: “During the phone call, the witness and others made allegations of widespread voter fraud in the November 2020 election in Georgia and pressured Secretary Raffensperger to take action in his official capacity to investigate unsubstantiated allegations of fraud.”
Lindsay Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, called Raffensperger and his team twice to reexamine some of Georgia’s absentee ballots.
Graham’s attorneys, Bart Daniel and Matt Austin, said in a statement shared with news outlets Wednesday that the Republican senator “plans to go to court, contest the subpoena and hopes to prevail.”
“This is all politics. Fulton County is participating in a fishing expedition and working in conjunction with the January 6 Committee in Washington,” they wrote.
“As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Graham was fully within his rights to discuss with state officials the processes and procedures related to the administration of the elections.”
Eisen said the subpoenas may yet reveal new information about the effort to nullify the 2020 election.
“To the extent that some of the subpoena recipients choose to cooperate, there is still more to learn. Look at the January 6 committee. They have had audience after audience with startling new revelations. I think there is no information to be learned about the conspiracy to attack the 2020 election, how it unfolded, and in particular how it hit Georgia,” he said in a statement to the independent on the phone this week.
Aunna Dennis, executive director of the Democratic nonprofit organization Common Cause Georgia, said she was “encouraged” by the grand jury’s progress.
“The coordinated attempts by former President Donald Trump and his associates to dismiss and ignore the will of Georgian voters during the 2020 election cannot be swept under the rug,” he said. the independent via email this week.
“Georgia cannot continue to be a testing ground for sensationalist propaganda attempts that are designed to deter voters from the polls. We need to know that those who violated our laws in their dangerous attempts to cling to power are held accountable. The transparency in this investigation into possible criminal misdeeds has bolstered my hopes that justice will finally be served,” she added.
Wherever the subpoenas lead, the latest legal developments seem to have rankled Trump.
“I did NOTHING wrong in Georgia, but others did. They cheated in the 2020 presidential election, and those are the ones who should be investigated (and prosecuted)! Letter to follow,” he wrote Thursday on his Truth social network.