A judge in Georgia on Monday approved the creation of a special grand jury to help collect testimony as part of a criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to alter the outcome of the 2020 election in that state.
The approval came at the request of Atlanta District Attorney Fani Willis, who on Thursday said a significant number of witnesses were refusing to cooperate with her investigation of Trump unless they were subject to a grand jury subpoena.
The special grand jury in the Trump investigation will begin May 2 and work for no more than 12 months, according to an order issued by Fulton County Chief Judge Christopher Brasher, who approved the panel after a majority of county judges uphold the request.
Under Georgia law, special grand juries, which are rarely created, cannot indict defendants on criminal charges. However, they can issue subpoenas for testimony, documents, and other evidence, which a prosecutor can then use as the basis for criminal charges. Special grand juries can also make recommendations about the prosecution of individuals.
Trump lost the 2020 presidential election to President Joe Biden in Georgia and other key battleground states, ensuring that Biden won the Electoral College vote nationally.
Four days before Congress certified Biden’s victory, Trump, in a January 2, 2021 phone call, pressed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger to “find” him enough votes to reverse Biden’s victory. Biden in that state.
“All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes,” Trump told Raffensperger that day.
On the same call, Trump also made what the Georgia voting system implementation manager called days later a series of “probably false” claims about alleged election irregularities.
Raffensberger, according to prosecutor Willis, who is “an essential witness in the investigation, has indicated that he will not participate in an interview or offer evidence until served with a subpoena by my office.”
Trump’s efforts with Georgia officials were part of a coordinated campaign to undo Biden’s victory in several swing states through court action, political pressure and other means.
The effort fizzled out hours after a horde of Trump supporters swarmed the US Capitol complex on Jan. 6, 2021, four days after Trump’s call to Raffensberger. Just before the invasion, Trump urged those attending a rally outside the White House to fight against confirmation of Biden’s victory by a joint session of Congress, and called on his own Vice President, Mike Pence, to overturn the victory of the Democrat rejecting the lists. of voters from several undecided states.
Pence refused to carry out Trump’s orders and Biden was confirmed as the winner of the Electoral College vote after the crowd left the Capitol.
The grand jury investigating the Trump case will be overseen by Fulton County Judge Robert McBurney, according to Monday’s order.
A Trump spokeswoman did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the special grand jury decision.
But on Friday, Trump, in a statement about Willis’ request for a special grand jury, repeated his false claims of widespread voter fraud in the state, which he says led to his defeat there and elsewhere.
“Let me clear this up, I am being investigated in Georgia for knowingly asking an attorney general with many lawyers and others over the phone to look for corruption, which definitely took place in the Georgia presidential election, but the people who committed the crime are not in any shape or form under investigation and instead are being protected?” Trump said.
Also on Friday, federal authorities arrested a Texan named Chad Stark for allegedly posting a threat to kill a Georgia election official and other officials just days after Trump’s call to Raffensberger.
Stark is accused in an indictment of posting a message on Craigslist on January 5, 2021 with the subject line: “Georgia Patriots time to kill.” [Official A] the Chinese agent – $10,000.”
That official was identified as a state poll worker, and the message was written on the same day as the runoff election for the two US Senate seats from Georgia won by Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.
– Additional reporting from CNBC Kevin Breuninger