Politics

Trump election interference grand jury in Georgia to hear from Raffensperger

Georgia’s top elections official is expected to appear next week before a special grand jury in an investigation into whether former President Donald Trump and others illegally tried to meddle in the 2020 election in the state.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has been summoned to appear before the special grand jury Thursday, according to a subpoena obtained through an open records request by the Associated Press and separately by CBS News. Five other people in his office have received subpoenas to appear in early June and the office has received a subpoena for documents. State Attorney General Chris Carr has received a subpoena to appear June 21.

After Trump lost Georgia in the 2020 presidential election, he directed his ire at Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, after the secretary of state refused to bend to pressure to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s narrow victory. Despite the fact that Trump endorsed a challenger to unseat Raffensperger in the primary earlier this week, Rep. Jody Hice, Raffensperger won the primary decisively and will go on to compete in the general election in the fall.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis opened the investigation soon after she took office in January 2021. She asked a panel of judges that month for the special grand jury because of “information indicating a reasonable probability” that the election “was subject to possible criminal disruptions.” She also said in her request that the grand jury would be needed because “a significant number of witnesses and prospective witnesses have refused to cooperate with the investigation absent a subpoena requiring their testimony.” 

The 23 members of the special grand jury and three alternates were selected May 2, but Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who’s overseeing the panel, said the grand jurors wouldn’t begin meeting until June.

Willis has confirmed that her investigation includes looking into a January 2, 2021, phone call Trump made to Raffensperger. According to the audio of the call, the president told him, “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.”

Among the documents the grand jury has asked for is anything that “memorializes the events” surrounding that call, anything that “explains the conduct” of the president during that call, and any logs of telephone calls between anyone in Raffensperger’s office and Trump or his representatives.

They also asked for anything showing the results of the audit and hand recount of the results of the 2020 presidential election and a forensic audit of the state’s voting equipment, among other documents.

The other people from the secretary of state’s office summoned to appear are Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer; Ryan Germany, general counsel; Chris Harvey, former head of the elections divisions; Frances Watson, former chief investigator; and Victoria Thompson, a former executive assistant who is now a legislative liaison.

Willis has also said her team is looking at a November 2020 phone call between Sen. Lindsey Graham and Raffensperger, the abrupt resignation of the U.S. attorney in Atlanta on Jan. 4, 2021, and comments made during December 2020 Georgia legislative committee hearings on the election.

Trump has said his call with Raffensperger was “perfect” and stated he did nothing wrong. Graham has also denied any wrongdoing.

It’s not clear exactly what charges Willis could choose to pursue against Trump or anyone else. In a letter she sent to top-ranking state officials last year, she said she was looking into “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.”

Graham Kates contributed to this report.

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