The criminal investigation into former President Trump and his allies in Georgia took a notable turn this week when several high-profile figures were subpoenaed.
Senator Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and conservative attorneys John Eastman, Jenna Ellis and Cleta Mitchell are among those summoned.
The headline-grabbing move puts new focus on a criminal investigation that has received less attention than the work of the House Select Committee on Jan. 6.
However, some experts believe it may end up being just as important.
Here are some of the salient points from the Georgia investigation.
The core of the investigation is whether Trump and his team broke any laws in their efforts to overturn the state’s 2020 election results.
Georgia was among the most contentious states in the election, with President Biden claiming a victory by about two-tenths of a percentage point.
Team Trump’s post-election efforts to change that outcome have been particularly vigorous — thanks largely to a Jan. 2, 2021, phone conversation the then-president had with Georgia’s Foreign Minister Brad Raffensperger.
In the call, which was recorded, Trump urged Raffensperger to “find” the number of votes needed to topple Biden’s lead.
Raffensperger has opposed Trump’s efforts and refuted his false claims of voter fraud.
At a Jan. 6 committee public hearing on June 21, Raffensperger insisted, “The numbers are the numbers, and numbers don’t lie.”
There have also been other efforts by Trump’s team in Georgia, including a state senate hearing where Giuliani made allegations of fraud that were debunked; and a letter that a Trump ally at the Justice Department wanted to send to Georgia lawmakers.
The proposed letter was so outlandish that even then-White House Counsel Pat Cipollone reportedly called it a “murder-suicide pact.”
Authorities in Georgia, led by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, have been investigating these actions, among others.
As noted by the New York Times, Willis’ office has previously said it is investigating whether any of these acts escalate to the level of “inciting voter fraud, making false statements to state and local government agencies, conspiracy, extortion, violation of the oath of office.” and any involvement in violence or threats related to electoral administration.”
A grand jury began meeting in May.
Those trials continue, hence this week’s subpoenas.
Some experts believe the Georgia probe poses the greatest threat to Trump
The Georgia probe could end up being the most dangerous legal arrow aimed at Trump.
One reason is the recorded phone call with Raffensperger.
In addition to the ominous request to “find” votes, the then Federal President vaguely indicated that Raffensperger had been involved in electoral fraud or had deliberately ignored it. This, Trump Raffensperger warned, was “a criminal offence”.
Raffensperger said he viewed Trump’s words as a threat.
Last month, former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman told MSNBC’s Katie Phang, “Donald Trump has no defense in Georgia. If I had to put my money on a prosecution that’s going to move forward here and that’s going to put Donald Trump in jail — it’s Georgia.”
Of course, Trump and his supporters see things very differently.
“I did NOTHING wrong in Georgia, but others did,” the former president wrote on Truth Social Thursday, apparently responding to news of the subpoenas. “They FRAUD in the 2020 election and these are the ones who should be investigated (and prosecuted).”
The prosecutor seems to value their chances
Willis, the district attorney leading the investigation, exudes confidence so far.
In an interview with Yahoo News last month, she spoke about her willingness to enforce subpoenas even against recalcitrant, high-profile witnesses.
“I had a witness arrested before because they ignored my subpoena. And you don’t expect to have to. But I will,” she said.
In the same interview, Willis said she felt “great” about the composition of the grand jury and stressed the importance of preserving the integrity of the election – something she attributed to the lessons she learned from her father, a former Black Panther who became a lawyer.
Recalling being “pulled to the polls” as a young girl, she added, “So you understand very, very early on that voting is such an essential right … And so I understand the importance of violating the.” someone’s right to vote. So I understand the meaning.”
In a separate interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Willis vowed she would be guided only by whether the facts supported a prosecution.
“If we can do that, I will press charges — I don’t care who it is,” she said.
But if it’s Trump, any trial will be a sensation.
Some key figures have already testified
The Georgia grand jury has already heard testimony from other key witnesses.
Raffensperger appeared before him privately in early June – before testifying publicly before the House Select Committee.
According to The Associated Press, Raffensperger told a reporter on his way into the Georgia trial that his testimony would be “hopefully brief” – but he ended up staying for more than five hours.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) has been subpoenaed and is expected to testify before the grand jury later this month.
Like Raffensperger, Kemp resisted Trump’s pressure to overturn the elections. Trump then endorsed both men’s challengers in the Republican primary that year. In the end, Raffensperger and Kemp both survived, inflicting Trump’s most notable defeat of this year’s election season.
CNN reported in May that “several people” willing to serve as pro-Trump voters in Georgia for flimsy reasons were also interviewed. According to the CNN report, these individuals were told that they “will be viewed as witnesses and not subjects or targets” — suggesting that Willis may be more interested in what they can reveal than to accuse them.
A prosecution decision could be made soon – or not
Despite her confident statements, Willis has changed tack when it comes to predicting a timeline for the grand jury’s conclusion.
In January, she told The Associated Press she expected a decision on whether to press charges “in the first half of the year.”
But in an interview with NBC News this week, Willis said she was “in no rush” to get it done. She also said that if no decision was made before early voting began in the midterm elections, she would suspend activities until after the elections.
The Grand Jury, which was newly composed in May, can meet for up to one year. But a decision on whether to charge or not can come at any time.