Georgia prosecutor seeks grand jury to investigate possible Trump 'criminal disruptions' on 2020 election

WASHINGTON – A Georgia prosecutor announced Thursday she requested a special grand jury to investigate possible "criminal disruptions" from former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis made the request in a letter to Christopher Brasher, chief judge of Fulton County Superior Court. She said she needed a grand jury because a significant number of witnesses refused to testify without a subpoena.

"Please be advised that the District Attorney’s 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," Willis said in her letter. "As a result, our office has opened an investigation into any coordinated attempts to unlawfully alter the outcome of the 2020 elections in this state."

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis poses for a photo at her office, Feb. 24, 2021 in Atlanta.  The Georgia prosecutor who’s investigating possible attempts to interfere in the 2020 general election by former President Donald Trump and others has asked for a special grand jury to aid the investigation.  Willis, on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, sent a letter to Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Christopher Brasher asking him to impanel a special grand jury.

The case is one of several pending against Trump. New York authorities are investigating his real estate business, a U.S. House committee is investigating his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and federal authorities are investigating possible links to rioters in that attack.

The Georgia investigation focuses on a call Trump made Jan. 2, 2021, to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, urging him to "find 11,780 votes" for him to win the state. President Joe Biden was certified the winner of Georgia.

“And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated," Trump told the officials, according to a recording of the conversation obtained by The Washington Post.

But Raffensperger told NBC News in October 2021 that if Willis “wants to interview me, there’s a process for that.”

FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2020 file photo, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference in Atlanta. Georgia's most populous county, a Democratic stronghold that includes most of Atlanta, faces a high-stakes test in Tuesday’s Nov. 2, 2021 municipal elections, with some Republicans itching for a state takeover using a sweeping new law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File) ORG XMIT: NYMV302

Trump issued a statement Thursday defending his call as "perfect" and repeated baseless, false claims for widespread voter fraud in Georgia.

"I didn’t say anything wrong in the call, made while I was President on behalf of the United States of America, to look into the massive voter fraud which took place in Georgia," Trump said. "What this Civil Special Grand Jury should be looking into is not my perfect phone call, but the large scale voter fraud that took place in Georgia."

Fact check:Joe Biden legally won presidential election, despite persistent contrary claims

Progress in the investigation

Willis launched her investigation in February 2021. A grand jury could subpoena witnesses and demand documents for the investigation. The grand jury wouldn't have authority to issue an indictment but could make recommendations about criminal prosecution. The special panel could be seated for any period of time and longer than a standard grand jury.

Willis said her office was the only one empowered to investigate because individuals associated with the case contacted agencies involved in it, including Raffensperger's office, the Georgia attorney general and the U.S. Attorney's Office for northern Georgia.

Earlier this month, Willis told The Associated Press that the investigation was progressing and a decision on whether to bring criminal charges could come as soon as the first part of this year.

“I believe in 2022 a decision will be made in that case,” Willis said in an interview with the Associated Press. “I certainly think that in the first half of the year that decisions will be made.”

She said a team of lawyers, investigators and a legal assistant, fewer than 10 in all, have been focused on the case.

 “We’re going to just get the facts, get the law, be very methodical, very patient and, in some extent, unemotional about this quest for justice,” she said.

As in New York, Trump's team has dismissed the Fulton County inquiry as political warfare.

"This is simply the Democrats’ latest attempt to score political points by continuing their witch hunt against President Trump, and everybody sees through it," a Trump spokesperson said at the time the investigation was disclosed.