Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder
Fulton County could dominate national headlines this summer if District Attorney Fani Willis files criminal charges against former President Donald Trump and his inner circle over alleged 2020 election interference.
Law enforcement agencies have been informed by Willis that additional security around the downtown Atlanta courthouse could be necessary if charging decisions are announced within the next several weeks in a potentially historic case. State prosecutors have asked Fulton judges to keep their court calendars open for the investigation that could lead to Trump and his allies facing criminal racketeering charges for conspiring to overturn his presidential election loss to President Joe Biden.
A newly sworn-in grand jury could be asked to consider the case and decide whether to issue indictments against a number of Georgians as well as highly influential Republican national political figures who were closely aligned with Trump as he lodged unfounded claims that widespread election fraud was the reason he lost in 2020 by nearly 12,000 votes in Georgia.
A successful prosecution against Trump would depend on whether his request for Georgia election officials to find enough votes in his favor crossed the legal threshold for soliciting and conspiring to commit election fraud in order to toss out legitimate election results, several legal analysts have said.
In the event that multiple defendants are implicated in Fulton under the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the case could become much more complex as it moves through a Fulton court system during a 2024 presidential campaign season.
Trump is campaigning to return to the White House, polling ahead of a field of challengers also hoping to secure the GOP nomination in next year’s primary elections. The former president used his appearance on stage at the Georgia GOP convention in June to slam Willis’ investigation.
Fulton prosecutors would be led by Willis, who helped secure guilty RICO verdicts for 11 educators involved in the Atlanta Public Schools standardized test cheating scandal in 2015. The Fulton D.A. is also pursuing a RICO case against Atlanta rapper Young Thug and a dozen other defendants over claims that the rapper’s YSL Records company was simultaneously operating as a criminal gang enterprise.
Former U.S. Ambassador Norman Eisen, a legal scholar and counsel in the first impeachment trial of Trump, said the Fulton probe appears on track to be treated like an organized crime ring given the allegations that Trump and others coordinated similar election coups across several states.
“It’s more likely than not to be a big sprawling RICO case because it was a big sprawling conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election,” Eisen said on the June 14 podcast Talking Feds with Harry Litman. “The charges must fit the crime.”
The investigation was spearheaded by Willis after a recorded phone call was released in January 2021 in which Trump urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough ballots to defeat Biden.
Trump’s attorneys in March filed a motion seeking to remove Wills from the investigation based on the claims that the prosecutor, who is a Democrat, is unfairly targeting him because of political bias.
Willis said it’s understandable why the investigation has piqued the interest of so many across the country,
“Everyone is entitled to being treated fairly,” Willis told Atlanta’s WABE in May. “So we want to make sure that we don’t do anything differently in this case than we would in others.”
In an extensive investigation that began last summer and took place over a period of several months, a special grand jury heard testimony from 75 witnesses and reviewed other evidence before issuing a report recommending the district attorney pursue criminal charges against several unnamed individuals.
One of the most prominent witnesses was Trump’s former personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. In the aftermath of the 2020 election, Giuliani promoted conspiracy theories about widespread election fraud while urging Georgia lawmakers to intervene on Trump’s behalf.
Other Trump allies subpoenaed in the case include his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, and a slate of fake Republican Georgia electors who cast votes in support of Trump.
The Republican presidential nominee frontrunner has not been deterred by multiple legal entanglements in his bid to win a rematch against Biden and secure a second term in the White House.
The U.S. Department of Justice is also investigating Trump’s role in instigating the storming of the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, 2021, as Congress was counting the electoral ballots that certified Biden’s victory.
In June, Trump was indicted on several dozen felony counts related to mishandling of classified documents.
Trump was found civilly liable for $5 million in a sexual abuse and defamation case, and in January the Trump Organization was fined $1.6 million for tax fraud and other crimes committed as part of a multi-year scheme to pay hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
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