Special grand jury in Georgia state to hear evidence against Trump

Fulton County prosecutor investigating former US president says special jury 'may make recommendations on criminal prosecution'

Former US president Donald Trump in full campaign mode. AFP

Judges have approved a request for a special grand jury from the Georgia prosecutor who is investigating whether former president Donald Trump broke the law by trying to pressure state officials into throwing out Joe Biden's presidential election victory.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis last week sent a letter to county superior court Chief Judge Christopher Brasher asking him to impanel a special grand jury.

Mr Brasher issued an order on Monday saying the request was considered and approved by a majority of the superior court judges.

The special grand jury is to be seated on May 2 for up to a year, his order says.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney is assigned to supervise and assist the jury.

Ms Willis wrote to Mr Brasher that her office “has received information indicating a reasonable probability that the state of Georgia’s administration of elections in 2020, including the state’s election of the President of the United States, was subject to possible criminal disruptions".

She said her office “opened an investigation into any co-ordinated attempts to unlawfully alter the outcome of the 2020 elections in this state".

The special grand jury “shall be authorised to investigate any and all facts and circumstances relating directly or indirectly to alleged violations of the laws of the state of Georgia, as set forth in the request of the district attorney", the order says.

Ms Willis this month told AP that its scope included, but was not limited to, a January 2, 2021, phone call between Mr Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and a November 2020 phone call between US Senator Lindsey Graham and Mr Raffensperger.

It also included the abrupt resignation of the US attorney in Atlanta on January 4, 2021, and comments made during December 2020 Georgia legislative committee hearings on the election.

Mr Trump last week described his call to Mr Raffensperger as “perfect” and said he did not say anything wrong. Mr Graham has also denied any wrongdoing.

Special grand juries, which are not used often in Georgia, can help in the investigation of complex matters.

They do not have the power to return an indictment but can make recommendations to prosecutors on criminal prosecutions.

Ms Willis wrote in her letter that the special grand jury is needed because it can serve for longer than a normal grand jury term, which is two months in Fulton County.

It also would be able to focus on this investigation alone, allowing it to dedicate its time to the complex facts and circumstances.

And having a special grand jury would mean the regular seated grand jury would not have to deal with this investigation in addition to their regular duties, Ms Willis wrote.

Her investigation became public last February when she sent letters to top elected officials in Georgia instructing them to preserve any records related to the general election, particularly any evidence of attempts to influence election officials.

The probe includes “potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local government bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election’s administration", the letters said.

Updated: January 25, 2022, 1:01 AM