Decision On Trump Indictment To Be Annouced 'In The Near Future': Fulton County DA

 Authored by Gary Bai via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A Georgia district attorney wrote in a letter dated April 24 that she intends to announce potential indictments resulting from a probe into former President Donald Trump and his associates for alleged interference in the 2020 election with his calls for investigations.

Former President Donald Trump speaks during an event at the Mar-a-Lago Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., on April 4, 2023. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In the near future, I will announce charging decisions resulting from the investigation my office has been conducting into possible criminal interference in the administration of Georgia’s 2020 General Election,” Fani Willis, District Attorney of Fulton County, Georgia, wrote in a letter addressed to Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat on Monday. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported the letter.

Willis wrote she would announce the charging decisions between July 11 and Sept. 1.

Fulton County Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis in her office on Jan. 4, 2022. (Ben Gray/AP Photo)

Details of Investigation

Willis’s Monday announcement was the latest update in the special-purpose grand jury investigation she launched in 2021 and led thereafter.

While the grand jury proceedings had occurred behind closed doors, the probe is believed to center on a 2020 phone call between Trump, Trump’s legal team, and Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his team.

“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state,” Trump allegedly told Raffensperger during the phone call on Jan. 2, 2021, a transcript of which was released by media organizations.

Willis characterized Trump’s wording (pdf) during the call as evidence of “criminal disruption” of the 2020 election, and has based her case on charges around that allegation. The grand jury heard testimony from Trump’s former associates, including Rudy Giuliani and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Trump has denied all allegations of wrongdoing on his part.

The grand jury was discharged in January. In early February, the Fulton County Superior Court released a portion of the jury panel’s report, which did not include the list of names to whom indictments were recommended. Emily Kohrs, the grand jury’s foreperson, told media outlets in February that the group recommended indictments.

“The long awaited important sections of the Georgia report, which do not even mention President Trump’s name, have nothing to do with the President because President Trump did absolutely nothing wrong,” Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung told CNN in a following statement in February.

“The President participated in two perfect phone calls regarding election integrity in Georgia, which he is entitled to do—in fact, as President, it was President Trump’s Constitutional duty to ensure election safety, security, and integrity,” Cheung added.

A Feb. 10, 2021, letter that Willis sent to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp gave hints of potential charges she may pursue, including soliciting election fraud, lying to state officials, and conspiring to interfere with the 2020 election.

Willis told the local sheriff to prepare for violence that may occur in response to her pending announcement.

“Please accept this correspondence as notice to allow you sufficient time to prepare the Sheriff’s Office and coordinate with local, state and federal agencies to ensure that our law enforcement community is ready to protect the public,” Willis wrote to Fulton Sheriff Patrick Labat in her Monday letter.

Open source intelligence has indicated the announcement of decisions in this case may provoke a significant public reaction,” Willis added. “We have seen in recent years that some may go outside of public expressions of opinion that are protected by the First Amendment to engage in acts of violence that will endanger the safety of our community.”

Legal Experts Weigh In

According to Alan Dershowitz, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Law School, Willis’s charges would not hold up considering the face value of Trump’s wording during the call with Raffensperger.

“Because what he said is, ‘We have to find’—not invent, not concoct—‘find.’ Find means that it’s there—just a question of finding them—so that’s not a crime,” Dershowitz told The Epoch Times in an interview in March.

Attorney Alan Dershowitz, a member of President Donald Trump’s legal team, speaks to the press in the Senate Reception Room during the Senate impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2020. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Trial attorney John O’Connor agreed with Dershowitz’s view, adding that the case is undercut by a demonstrable belief on Trump’s part that there was significant fraud in the 2020 election.

“That charge will never make it,” O’Connor told The Epoch Times in an interview in March. “It was very clear that Trump felt that there were voters who had wrongfully voted, and he was asking the Secretary of State to find which voters had been wrongfully voting, that’s all. So I don’t think there’s anything to that.”

Trump’s Motion to Quash

In March, Trump’s attorney Drew Findling filed a motion in the Superior Court of Fulton County to quash the grand jury’s final report, preclude the use of evidence from Willis’s investigation in further proceedings, and disqualify Willis in the case.

A key objection that Findling raised in his motion to quash (pdf) is regarding media tours taken by Kohrs, Willis, as well as the judge overseeing the case, Robert C. McBurney of the Superior Court of Fulton County. Findling alleges that these interviews compromised the case legally and judicially.

“It is not a short list,” Kohrs told The New York Times in February, referring to the currently sealed list of indictment recommendations. Kohrs told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in another interview on Feb. 21 that she also spoke to her boyfriend regarding her experience in the panel’s proceedings.

According to Findling, the foreperson’s media tour showed that the procedures set forth for the jury panel “failed to protect the most basic procedural and substantive constitutional rights of all individuals discussed by this investigative body.”

The harm brought by Kohrs’s publicity was compounded by additional exposure by DA Willis herself, Findling said in the filing.

[Willis’s] media interviews violate prosecutorial standards and constitute forensic misconduct, and her social media activity creates the appearance of impropriety compounding the necessity for disqualification,” he said.

But even exasperating the situation are interviews conducted by the judge himself, Findling argued.

“Compounding the harm inflicted by the foreperson’s public comments, the Supervising Judge then gave numerous media interviews despite still presiding over this pending matter,” the filing said of McBurney, who gave media interviews after the jury’s foreperson’s media tour.

“[T]he foreperson’s and grand jurors’ comments illuminate the lack of proper instruction and supervision over the grand jury relating to clear evidentiary matters which violates the notions of fundamental fairness and due process,” the filing reads. “The results of the investigation cannot be relied upon and, therefore, must be suppressed given the constitutional violations.”

McBurney ordered that Willis respond to Trump’s motion before May 1.

Conflict of Interest

In his March filing, Findling said that DA Willis’s Office must be disqualified from pursuing the case further, citing concerns related to prosecutorial misconduct and conflict of interest.

The prosecutorial misconduct aspect of Findling’s argument rests on DA Willis’s comments to the press (the motion notes she spoke to the press nearly 40 times) and her social media posts, which Findling said bolstered her profile as a political candidate.

One such social media post, the filing said, included a cartoon posted on Willis’s campaign Twitter account, which showed the DA fishing a subpoenaed witness, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), out of a swamp, with Trump saying, “I know you’ll do the right thing, Lindsey.”

The Fanni Willis campaign’s Twitter account posts a cartoon picture showing a subpoenaed witness being fished out of a swamp on July 18, 2022 (Screenshot by The Epoch Times via court filing)

Findling noted that the cartoon was part of a political campaign threaded throughout Willis’s Georgia investigation, one in which Willis had “personal involvement and interest,” creating a “disqualifying conflict.”

“[T]he FCDA promoted her own campaign on the shoulders of partisan support for this SPGJ investigation. Within a couple of days, the [Fulton County DA’s] Twitter account increased by approximately 100,000 followers, and requests for campaign donations were retweeted thousands of times,” the filing reads, referring to the alleged effect of Willis’s publicity campaign.

On at least three occasions, the FCDA personally inserted herself into this Twitter campaign for ‘followers, tweets and donations’ which specifically referenced this investigation.”

Findling alleged that Willis’s political interest, in this case, constituted a conflict of interest and thus should bar her from being further involved in the investigation.

The second reason Willis should be disqualified, according to Findling, is that Willis was ordered to be disqualified from investigating a Georgia senator because of perceived conflict of interest considerations. He argued that this disqualification should extend to the entire case.

On July 25, 2022, the supervising judge disqualified the District Attorney’s Office from calling then-state Sen. Burt Jones to testify as a witness in the Georgia jury because DA Willis was involved in a political campaign for Charlie Bailey, a then-candidate for Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, who would run against Jones, the then-Republican nomination.

“She has bestowed her office’s imprimatur upon Senator Jones’s opponent. And since then, she has publicly (in her pleadings) labeled Senator Jones a ‘target’ of the grand jury’s investigation,” the judge wrote in his order, noting that Willis’s singling out of Jones constituted a perceived conflict of interest.

Findling capitalized on the judge’s disqualification order in the Monday filing, citing a 1987 decision by the United States Supreme Court (Young v. United States), which recognized “the existence of an actual conflict cannot be limited to the investigation or prosecution of one individual but is a conflict that permeates the entire proceeding.”

In other words, Findling was saying that if the judge finds that the conduct of the prosecutor ought to be disqualified from prosecuting or investigating one witness due to a conflict of interest consideration, that prosecutor must be disqualified from the case altogether.

“The rights of President Trump, as well as all others impacted by this investigation, are now subject to the prosecutorial discretion and decision-making of a prosecuting body that even the Supervising Judge acknowledged has an actual, disqualifying conflict,” the filing reads.

This is simply untenable. For this reason alone, the FCDA’s Office must be removed from any further investigation or prosecution of this matter.”

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