GA Prosecutor Urges Patience in Probe 02/26 06:13
ATLANTA (AP) -- The Georgia prosecutor investigating potential efforts by
Donald Trump and others to influence last year's general election has a message
for people who are eager to see whether the former president will be charged:
"I'm in no rush," Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said this week
in an interview with The Associated Press. "I think people think that I feel
this immense pressure. I don't."
Willis, a Democrat elected in November, sent letters to state officials on
Feb. 10 instructing them to preserve records related to the election,
particularly those that may contain evidence of attempts to influence elections
officials. But she said this week that she's not sure where the investigation
will go or how long it will take.
Her office confirmed that the probe includes a call in which Trump urged
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to
overturn Joe Biden's win in the state. Willis also said she has questions about
a call U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham made to Raffensperger, the sudden departure of
a top federal prosecutor and statements made before Georgia legislative
The investigation is in the very early stages, Willis said. Lawyers are
sifting through data --- including news reports --- to compile a witness list.
Once they start talking to people, it will inevitably lead to other people and
records they want to see. Eventually, Willis said, they'll have enough
information to decide whether laws were actually broken.
Democrats and a few Republicans have condemned Trump's call to
Raffensperger, with some critics saying the recording is proof of criminal
Lawyers from around the country have offered help, Willis said. While she
may eventually seek outside counsel with specific expertise, she said, it will
require careful vetting.
"I don't want anyone that's already got a result in mind," she said.
Willis wrote in the letters to state officials that her office had opened a
criminal investigation into "potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting
the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and
local government bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office
and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election's
She wrote that her team has "no reason to believe that any Georgia official
is a target of this investigation."
After a coronavirus-related pause, two grand juries are to be seated next
week, which will allow prosecutors to seek subpoenas.
Following the November general election, Trump refused to accept his loss by
about 12,000 votes in Georgia, long a Republican stronghold. He and his allies
made unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud and hurled insults at
Raffensperger, Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan --- all fellow
Republicans --- for not acting to overturn his loss.
State and federal officials have repeatedly said the election was secure and
that there was no evidence of systemic fraud.
In a Jan. 2 telephone conversation with Raffensperger, Trump repeatedly
suggested Raffensperger could change the certified results of the presidential
election, an assertion the secretary of state firmly rejected.
"All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one
more than we have," Trump said. "Because we won the state."
When Willis' investigation became public, senior Trump adviser Jason Miller
said it "is simply the Democrats' latest attempt to score political points by
continuing their witch hunt against President Trump, and everybody sees through
During the call with Raffensperger, Trump also appeared to suggest that
Byung J. "BJay" Pak, the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Atlanta, was a
"never-Trumper" --- a term often used for conservative critics of Trump. Pak
abruptly announced his resignation the day after the call became public. He's
never publicly explained his departure.
"I find it particularly peculiar the way that he left and when he left,"
Willis said of Pak. "It's something that, to do my job correctly, I have to ask
questions about. That's just logical."
Prior to his call with Raffensperger, Trump tried unsuccessfully to pressure
others in Georgia. While election officials were verifying signatures on
absentee ballot envelopes in one metro-Atlanta county in December, Trump told a
lead investigator in a phone call to "find the fraud," saying it would make the
investigator a national hero. Trump also demanded that Kemp order a special
session of the state legislature to overturn Biden's victory.
Before those calls, Raffensperger said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South
Carolina Republican, called him to ask whether the secretary of state had the
power to reject certain absentee ballots, which Raffensperger interpreted as a
suggestion to toss legally cast votes.
Graham has called the idea that he would suggest that legally cast ballots
be discarded "ridiculous."
Willis said she hasn't determined whether the Graham call violated the law
but said, "It is of interest."
Asked whether she is looking at debunked claims Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani
made before Georgia legislative committees casting doubt on the legitimacy of
the state's election, Willis said, "We won't overreach, but if those things do
seem to be part of a plan to influence the election, they'll become relevant."