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Special grand jury selected in Atlanta for Trump election probe

A Georgia grand jury meets to consider Donald Trump's actions in the 2020 elections. (Source: CNN, POOL, GETTY, WSB)
Published: May. 2, 2022 at 12:32 PM EDT
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ATLANTA (AP) - A special grand jury has been selected for the investigation into whether former President Donald Trump and others tried illegally to influence the 2020 election in Georgia.

The investigation has been underway since early last year, and to help it along, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to obtain testimony from people who have refused to cooperate otherwise.

The chief judge ordered the special grand jury to be seated for a period of up to a year, beginning Monday. Of the pool of about 200 people called from the county master jury list, 26 were chosen to serve — 23 grand jurors and three alternates. Special grand juries focus on investigating a single topic and making recommendations to the district attorney, who then decides whether to seek an indictment from a regular grand jury.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who’s been tasked with overseeing the special grand jury, told the people summoned to the jury pool that they would not be hearing a trial, but would instead be serving on an investigative special grand jury looking into actions surrounding the 2020 general election.

“Now it’s time for 26 members of our community to participate in that investigation,” McBurney said.

McBurney said the grand jurors won’t begin meeting until June and won’t meet every week. They will be notified in advance of when they need to be there, and there’s some wiggle room if they can’t make it to every session as only 16 are needed for a quorum, he said.

McBurney then led the 200 potential grand jurors in swearing an oath to give truthful answers about their qualifications.

In asking for the grand jury, Willis wrote that her office had information indicating a “reasonable probability” of “possible criminal disruptions” to the administration of the election.

Willis has confirmed that her team is looking into a January 2021 phone call in which Trump pushed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the votes needed for him to win the state. She has also said they’re looking at a November 2020 phone call between U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Raffensperger, the abrupt resignation of the U.S. attorney in Atlanta on Jan. 4, 2021, and comments made during December 2020 Georgia legislative committee hearings on the election.

A Trump spokesman has previously dismissed the investigation as a politically motivated “witch hunt.” Graham has also denied wrongdoing.

While the district attorney’s office will generally be steering 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 from or documents they would like to see, they have the power to issue subpoenas.

Unlike a regular grand jury, which hears many different cases and can issue indictments, a special grand jury focuses on investigating a single topic and produces a report on its findings. The district attorney then decides whether to seek an indictment from a regular grand jury.

Former Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter, who convened a special grand jury roughly 15 years ago, said the process for seating a special grand jury is pretty much the same as seating a regular grand jury. It’s made up of between 16 and 23 people who are summoned from the county master jury list.

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