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Special grand jury considering Trump election interference in Georgia convenes

Special grand jury for Georgia election probe
Special grand jury chosen for Georgia's Trump election inquiry 05:47

Prosecutors whittled down a group of 200 Fulton County residents to the 23 they need to serve on a special grand jury that will investigate whether former President Donald Trump should be charged for his attempts to pressure Georgia officials to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost. Three additional people were selected as alternates.

As the selection process began, Judge Robert McBurney encouraged prospective grand jurors to identify themselves as having a "conflict" if they have already reached a conclusion about whether Trump committed a crime in the aftermath of his defeat.

"Because this grand jury will be investigating a specific situation, the 2020 election here in Georgia, it's important that the grand jury be comprised of individuals who bring an open mind to the process," McBurney said.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis asked a panel of judges in January for the special grand jury because of "information indicating a reasonable probability" that the election "was subject to possible criminal disruptions."

Willis spoke very briefly Monday, thanking those in attendance for their potential service.

Willis has said in interviews that the investigation includes a January 2, 2021 phone call in which Trump told Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, "I just want to find 11,780 votes." Trump lost the state to Joe Biden by that margin — an outcome that was affirmed by several recounts. 

Special grand juries are unusual. They focus on just one investigation, and can be impaneled for far longer than typical grand juries, which often consider charging recommendations for a variety of investigations.  

This grand jury will have "an investigatory focus appropriate to the complexity of the facts and circumstances involved," Willis said in her January request.

Willis wrote in the request that "a significant number of witnesses and prospective witnesses have refused to cooperate with the investigation absent a subpoena requiring their testimony." 

McBurney told jurors that they can expect their service to be lengthy, potentially even more than a year — sometimes meeting frequently, and sometimes less so. He said they may not have their first hearing until June.

Willis said in an April 19 interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she will wait until after the state's May 24 primaries to issue subpoenas to public officials.

"I don't want anyone to say 'oh, she's doing this because she wants to influence the outcome of this upcoming election,'" Willis told the newspaper.

Willis notified at least four state officials of her investigation in February 2021, sending document preservation notices to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Attorney General Chris Carr.

Trump said in a January 20 statement that "My phone call to the Secretary of State of Georgia was perfect."

A spokesperson for Trump claimed Friday in a text to CBS News that an "illegal ballot trafficking ring" had influenced the outcome of Georgia's election, referring to unproven claims often made by Trump and his supporters.

"A grand jury should be opened for the massive voter fraud in Georgia in 2020," said Liz Harrington, the Trump spokesperson.

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