After nearly a year of promising to investigate former President Donald Trump for meddling in Georgia’s election, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is finally ready to convene a grand jury to force witnesses to testify.
On Thursday, the local prosecutor wrote a letter to her district’s chief judge asking for permission to impanel a “special purpose grand jury” solely dedicated to investigating how Trump tried to pressure the state’s top elections official to change the 2020 results and make Trump the winner.
In her letter, Willis said her office found “possible criminal disruptions… to unlawfully alter the outcome of the 2020 elections in this state.”
The Daily Beast obtained a copy of the letter from the clerk’s office. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was the first to report the news Thursday morning.
This move is a long time coming. Back in March 2021, Willis told The Daily Beast that her office already had two regular grand juries underway and was planning to ask jurors “in the very near future” to issue subpoenas demanding documents and recordings related to the Trump investigation. However, key witnesses repeatedly told The Daily Beast they did not receive subpoenas in the months that followed.
In fact, the key witness at the center of it all, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, called out the district attorney for taking so long.
“She's just looking for excuses, because she's slow-walking this investigation,” he told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview on Thursday.
In her letter, Willis accused Raffensperger of hindering her investigation, claiming that “a significant number of witnesses and prospective witnesses have refused to cooperate with the investigation.” She pointed to how Raffensperger “will not participate in an interview or otherwise offer evidence” until he gets a formal subpoena. In an interview, Raffensperger conceded the first point: that he did indeed request a subpoena to speak to Fulton County DA investigators. (By comparison, he spoke to the Jan. 6 Committee without a subpoena, we’ve now learned.)
But on the second point, Raffensperger stressed that his office had actually sent Willis all the information the DA’s investigators have requested—and even waived any fees for gathering the paperwork. He also allowed all the staffers who witnessed Trump’s intimidating tactics to speak to the DA’s office, including government attorney Ryan Germany, chief operating officer Gabriel Sterling, communications director Ari Schaffer, and others.
“We've sent her all the information their office has requested, everything that she's requested,” he said.
The more likely explanation might be the monumental task of prosecuting rising crime in Atlanta. Willis has publicly indicated that her office was inundated with street crime cases and needed additional funding to handle the workload. The first-term district attorney has described her tenure as cleaning up a mess left behind by her predecessor, who was mired in allegations of corruption.
Her letter hints at that ongoing strain. Willis said she didn’t want to burden a regular grand jury with this long-term investigation, citing “the complexity of the facts and circumstances involved.” After all, this is a rare event in history in which a local prosecutor is going after the former president of the United States.
Instead, Willis hopes this special grand jury would authorize subpoenas and “make recommendations concerning criminal prosecutions”—but oddly would not have the ability to issue indictments.
Of all the open investigations into Trump—possible tax fraud in New York, misuse of nonprofit presidential inauguration funds in Washington—the Georgia matter seemed to be the most clear-cut example of wrongdoing.
Willis is investigating whether state laws were broken during a Jan. 2, 2021 call between the White House and Raffensperger’s office. Trump pressured the Georgia secretary of state to “find 11,780 votes” that didn’t exist in a clumsy attempt to eliminate Joe Biden’s lead and flip the election results.
Willis' office did not return calls requesting comment.