A special grand jury has been chosen to investigate Trump’s actions in Georgia’s 2020 election: NPR

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, right, speaks with a member of his team during proceedings to seat a special purpose grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia on Monday

Ben Gray/AP

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Ben Gray/AP

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, right, speaks with a member of his team during proceedings to seat a special purpose grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia on Monday

Ben Gray/AP

ATLANTA — A special grand jury was selected Monday to investigate whether former President Donald Trump and others unlawfully attempted to influence Georgia’s 2020 election.

The investigation has been ongoing since early last year, and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis took the unusual step of asking the special grand jury to assist him. She noted in a letter to the chief justice that the special grand jury would be able to issue subpoenas to people who otherwise refused to cooperate.

The chief judge ordered the special grand jury to sit for up to a year, beginning Monday. Of the group of about 200 people called from the county’s master juror roll, 26 were chosen to serve – 23 grand jurors and three alternates. Special grand juries focus on investigating a single subject and make recommendations to the district attorney, who then decides whether to seek an indictment from a regular grand jury.

Due to intense public interest in the case, the court has arranged for parts of Monday’s selection process to be broadcast live. Now that the special grand jury has been selected, everything they do will happen in secret.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who was assigned to oversee the special grand jury, told those summoned to the jury panel that they would not hear a trial, but instead would part of a special grand jury investigating actions surrounding the 2020 general election.

“Now is the time for 26 members of our community to take part in this survey,” McBurney said.

Willis confirmed his team was reviewing a January 2021 phone call in which Trump pushed Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the votes needed for him to win the state. She also said they were considering a November 2020 phone call between U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and Raffensperger, the U.S. attorney’s abrupt resignation in Atlanta on Jan. 4, 2021, and comments made during Georgia Legislative Committee hearings from December 2020 on the election.

It’s unclear what charges prosecutors will pursue

It’s unclear exactly what charges Willis might choose to pursue against Trump or anyone else. In a letter she sent to senior state officials last year, she said she was investigating “potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting solicitation of voter fraud, making false statements to state and local governments, conspiracy, racketeering, breach of oath and any involvement in violence or threats related to the administration of the election.”

McBurney said the grand jurors won’t start meeting until June and won’t meet weekly. They will be told in advance when they need to be there, and there is wiggle room if they cannot make it to each session, as only 16 are needed for a quorum, he said .

McBurney then led the 200 potential grand jurors into swearing in truthful answers about their qualifications.

He explained that grand jurors must be at least 18 years old, must be U.S. citizens, and must have lived in Fulton County for the past six months. Anyone who is or has been elected within the past two years, anyone who has been convicted of a crime, or anyone who has served on a jury or grand jury in Fulton County within the past year is not qualified to serve, McBurney said.

The inquest involves actions surrounding the 2020 general election, and it is important that grand jurors “bring an open mind to the process”, the judge said. Anyone who is already convinced a crime happened or not should say they have a conflict when asked, McBurney said.

After identifying other potential conflicts — for example, plans to be out of the country for an extended period, having to care for someone after major surgery — McBurney reviewed the top 100 potential jurors and their asked individually – addressing them only by number – to say if they have a conflict. A quarter of the grand jurors said they had a dispute, and the judge and prosecutors began interviewing them privately to determine whether they could be excused. Then he closed the courtroom so that he and the prosecutors could speak privately with those selected.

While the district attorney’s office will typically lead the investigation, grand jurors will be able to question witnesses who appear before them. If they believe there are other witnesses they would like to hear or documents they would like to see, they have the power to issue subpoenas.

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