Tensions Rise in Georgia as Trump Case Decision Is Promised During August
Tensions Rise in Georgia as Trump Case Decision Is Promised During August

By Janice Hisle

For months, a Georgia prosecutor has been signaling that indictments could be on the horizon for former President Donald Trump and his allies who disputed the state’s 2020 election results.

Leaked reports have indicated that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat, could be assembling a racketeering case against Mr. Trump and multiple supporters who championed his fight to overturn an election that they asserted was “rigged.”

Court challenges, however, have failed so far.

The investigation has focused on actions that Mr. Trump and Republican allies took to allegedly pressure various Georgia officials, electors, and some federal authorities, including some fellow Republicans, to oppose or block Joe Biden from being declared the election winner.

Within the past few days, Ms. Willis dropped some additional clues about the timing—and rising tensions related to the case—to a Georgia TV station.

“Ms. Willis said she’s holding true to her commitment to giving the American people an answer by Sept. 1,” 11 Alive, WXIA reported July 29.

Ms. Willis also said she was increasing security around the courthouse, anticipating that “some people may not be happy with the decisions I’m making” and could lash out, according to the TV station.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis poses for a portrait in Atlanta on Wednesday, April 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Further, the TV station said it also obtained an email that Ms. Willis sent to county leaders, “warning them to ‘stay alert over the month of August’ and to ‘stay safe.'” That message also included a forwarded copy of a “hateful” email that Ms. Willis received on July 28, the TV station reported on July 31. The sender called Ms. Willis “corrupt” and peppered her with expletives and racial epithets, according to the TV station.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump, who has already been indicted on dozens of charges in two separate cases involving documents in Florida and New York, remains under investigation in Washington for his actions before violence erupted at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. A group of his supporters came to protest the election results, at his urging, and to oppose Congress’ planned certification of Mr. Biden’s win.

Two weeks ago, Special Counsel Jack Smith sent Mr. Trump a “target letter,” an action normally taken when an indictment is expected. Mr. Trump maintains his innocence in all of the cases and says he is a victim of political persecution.

‘Perfect’ Call

Ms. Willis’ office began investigating Mr. Trump two and a half years ago, sparked largely by a January 2021 recorded phone call. Mr. Trump asked the state’s top election official to “find” him enough votes to overcome Mr. Biden’s slim margin of victory in the state.

“All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Mr. Trump said, “because we won the state.”

Mr. Trump has defended that call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as “perfect.”

The former president says multiple lawyers participated in the call, and no one objected to anything he said at the time. Mr. Trump also asserted that he has a First Amendment right to challenge the election results.

However, his detractors accuse him of election interference and improperly pressuring officials, or even “scheming” to change the election results.

Mr. Trump, in a July 29 Truth Social post, alleged that Ms. Willis is “racist” and “has been waiting for the perfect time” to take action amid his 2024 presidential election campaign.

Opinion polls consistently show Mr. Trump is the runaway front-runner for the GOP’s nomination to run against the Democrats’ nominee, presumably Mr. Biden. According to the RealClear Politics average of polls posted on July 31, Mr. Trump led his nearest rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, by nearly 36 percentage points.

Speculation about a possible indictment of Mr. Trump in Georgia ramped up on July 11 after a pair of grand juries were seated in Fulton County.

At least eight electors, alleged to have schemed with Mr. Trump’s allies, have reached immunity deals with Ms. Willis’ team, reports have indicated.

A month after the election, Mr. Trump’s associates, including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, made claims of widespread election fraud during hearings that Republican lawmakers held.

They asserted that election workers told outside observers to leave and continued counting absentee ballots in secret at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Video footage shows them pulling out “suitcases” of ballots and scanning them. But state and federal investigations were unable to substantiate allegations that actions involved fraudulent ballots.

Election workers shown in the video have stated that they were harassed.

In another aspect of the case that could lead to charges, a computer forensic team, acting on behalf of Mr. Trump, copied election data in Coffee County, south of Atlanta. This could constitute “unauthorized access” of election equipment, officials have said.

Additionally, U.S. Attorney Byung Jin ‘BJay’ Pak, a top federal prosecutor in Atlanta, resigned on Jan. 4, 2021, two days after Mr. Trump called Mr. Pak a “never-Trumper” during the phone call to Mr. Raffensperger.

Mr. Pak, whom Mr. Trump had appointed in 2017, investigated the allegations of widespread election fraud at the behest of then-Attorney General Bill Barr.

Mr. Pak later said his resignation came after he learned that Mr. Trump didn’t think he was doing enough to investigate election fraud.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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