Posts tagged with "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution"

Fulton County, Georgia, DA Fani Willis easily defeats primary challenger

My 22, 2024

Fani Willis, the prosecutor in the Georgia election interference case against Donald Trump, won renomination in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, May 21, reports The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.Repu

Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, easily defeated Democrat Christian Wise Smith. Willis and Smith, whom she also beat in the 2020 primary, both worked in the district attorney’s office under former District Attorney Paul Howard.

Willis is now set to face Republican lawyer Courtney Kramer in November. Kramer, who interned in the Trump White House, ran unopposed on Tuesday. Willis is considered the heavy favorite for the general election in Fulton County, which includes Atlanta.

Willis brought charges against Trump last year for his role in trying to overturn the 2020 election results; as well as against his co-conspirators, who include Georgia GOP state legislators and the former head of the state Republican Party.

But the case has stalled after a public filing in January alleged an affair between Willis and Nathan Wade, an outside attorney whom Willis hired under contract. Willis and Wade admitted that they were romantically involved, but swore under oath that the romance did not begin until after Willis hired Wade in November 2021. Willis later suggested that racism was at the heart of the allegations lodged against her.

An Atlanta judge ordered in March that Willis could stay on the election interference case if Wade were removed from the team—and within hours of the ruling, Wade offered his resignation.

The state Court of Appeals this month agreed to review an appeal from Trump after the judge ruled that Willis could stay on the criminal case. The appeals court is expected to take several months to rule on Trump’s request to review the judge’s decision not to remove Willis—further delaying any criminal trial.

Willis has drawn consistent criticism and scrutiny from Republicans, at all levels of government—not just in Georgia.

Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, subpoenaed her office last year to investigate possible misuse of funds. Willis told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow ahead of her election Monday night that she’s happy to comply with any oversight.

Willis also told Maddow on Monday night that threats against her have elevated to the point where she now needs extra security. Willis said in October she had received 150 personal threats since Trump was indicted in August.

“It’s a very interesting way to live, but it’s well worth it to have the honor of being the first female district attorney in Fulton County,” Willis said Monday night. “It pales in comparison to what my victims are going through.”

Research contact: @ajc

Grand jury heard phone call of Trump pressuring Georgia Speaker to overturn Biden’s victory

March 20, 2023

The Fulton County special grand jury heard a phone call between former President Donald Trump and the late Georgia House Speaker David Ralston as part of its investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia, the jury’s foreperson, Emily Kohrs, told NBC News on Wednesday, March 15.

During the December call, Trump attempted to pressure the then-speaker into calling a special legislative session to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in the battleground state, Kohrs said. 

The call recording, which was first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, lasted about ten minutes, Kohrs said. She recalled that Trump asked Ralston who would stop him from holding a special session. According to Kohrs, Ralston responded, “A federal judge, that’s who.”

Ralston, a Republican who spent more than a decade as Georgia’s House speaker, died in November. Ralston’s former spokesperson and the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.

The grand jury, which conducted a criminal investigation into whether Trump and his allies made any “coordinated attempts to unlawfully alter the outcome of the 2020 elections” in the state, completed its work in January—submitting a report on its findings to District Attorney Fani Willis.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney ruled last month that parts of the grand jury’s report could be made public. McBurney also said in the ruling that the report includes recommendations for “who should (or should not) be indicted, and for what,” but those parts would remain sealed for now.

A group of news organizations had petitioned him to make the report public, and he agreed with some of their reasoning.

“[W]hile publication may not be convenient for the pacing of the district attorney’s investigation, the compelling public interest in these proceedings and the unquestionable value and importance of transparency require their release,” McBurney wrote.

Willis’ office had asked that the entire report remain under wraps for the time being.

In unsealed parts of the report released last month, grand jurors said they believed that some witnesses may have lied under oath.

“A majority of the grand jury believes that perjury may have been committed by one or more witnesses testifying before it,” said a section of the report released last month. “The grand jury recommends that the District Attorney seek appropriate indictments for such crimes where the evidence is compelling.”

In an interview with NBC News’ “Nightly News” last month, Kohrs said the grand jury recommended indicting over a dozen people, which “might” include the former president.

“There are certainly names that you will recognize, yes. There are names also you might not recognize,” Kohrs said in the interview.

She said the list of recommended indictments is “not a short list,” and there were “definitely some names you expect,” declining to name anyone specifically in accordance with the judge’s instructions.

“I don’t think that there are any giant plot twists coming,” Kohrs said. “I don’t think there’s any giant ‘that’s not the way I expected this to go at all’ moments. I would not expect you to be shocked.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Seven Trump allies subpoenaed in Georgia criminal investigation

July 7, 2022

Seven advisers to and allies of former President Donald Trump—including his former personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and GOP Senator Lindsey Graham—were subpoenaed on Tuesday, July 5, in the ongoing criminal investigation in Georgia of election interference by Trump and his associates, reports The New York Times.

The move was the latest sign that the inquiry has entangled a number of prominent members of Trump’s orbit and may cloud the future for the former president.

The subpoenas underscore the breadth of the investigation by Fani T. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, which encompasses most of Atlanta. She is weighing a range of charges, according to legal filings, including racketeering and conspiracy, and her inquiry has encompassed witnesses from beyond the state.

The latest round of subpoenas was reported earlier by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

According to the Times, the Fulton County investigation is one of several inquiries into efforts by Trump and his team to overturn the election, but it is the one that appears to put them in the greatest immediate legal jeopardy.

A House special committee continues to investigate the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. And there is an intensifying investigation by the Justice Department into a scheme to create slates of fake presidential electors in 2020.

Amid the deepening investigations, Trump is weighing an early entrance into the 2024 presidential race; people close to him have said he believes it would bolster his claims that the investigations are politically motivated.

A subpoena is not an indication that someone is a subject of an inquiry, although some of the latest recipients are considered at risk in the case—in particular, Giuliani, who has emerged as a central figure in the grand jury proceedings in the Georgia investigation. Giuliani spent several hours speaking before state legislative panels in December 2020, where he peddled false conspiracy theories about corrupted voting machines and a video that he claimed showed secret suitcases of Democratic ballots. He told members of the State House at the time, “You cannot possibly certify Georgia in good faith.”

Willis’s office, in its subpoena, said Giuliani “possesses unique knowledge concerning communications between himself, former President Trump, the Trump campaign, and other known and unknown individuals involved in the multistate, coordinated efforts to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.”

Though the subpoenas were issued Tuesday, not all had necessarily been received. Robert J. Costello, a lawyer for Mr. Giuliani, said, “We have not been served with any subpoena, therefore we have no current comment.”

Others sent subpoenas included Jenna Ellis, a lawyer who worked closely with Giuliani to overturn the 2020 election results; John Eastman, the legal architect of a plan to keep Trump in power by using fake electors; and Graham, the South Carolina Republican who called Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, days after the election to inquire about the rules for discarding mail-in ballots.

Another prominent lawyer who received a subpoena, Cleta Mitchell, was on a January 2, 2021, call that Trump made to Raffensperger, during which he asked the secretary of state to find enough votes to reverse Georgia’s results. The subpoena to her said, “During the telephone 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 unfounded claims of fraud.”

Two other Trump lawyers also have been subpoenaed: Jacki Pick Deason, who helped make the Trump team’s case before the Georgia legislature, and Kenneth Chesebro, whose role has come into sharper focus during the House January 6 hearings. In an email exchange with Eastman in the run-up to the January 6 attack, Chesebro wrote that the Supreme Court would be more likely to act on a Wisconsin legal challenge “if the justices start to fear that there will be ‘wild’ chaos on January 6 unless they rule by then, either way.”

The special grand jury was impaneled in early May and has up to one year to complete its work before issuing a report advising Willis on whether to pursue criminal charges, although Willis has said she hopes to conclude much sooner. In official letters sent to potential witnesses, her office has said that it is examining potential violations that include “the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election’s administration.”

The new subpoenas offered some further clues about where her investigation is focused.

Research contact: @nytimes