Trump election probe grand jury hears from Raffensperger

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s top election official appeared Thursday before a special grand jury investigating whether former President Donald Trump and others illegally attempted to interfere in the state’s 2020 election.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was summoned to the Fulton County Courthouse where the special grand jury met, according to a subpoena obtained by The Associated Press via an open records request. Other subpoenas seek documents and testimony from five other people in his office.

Raffensperger arrived at the downtown Atlanta courthouse Thursday morning. When a reporter asked how the day would go, Raffensperger replied “hopefully short” as he walked up the steps. This was not the case, however. Raffensperger left after more than five hours through another exit, avoiding reporters. It is unclear if Raffensperger’s testimony ended Thursday or if he will be recalled.

Trump directed his anger at his fellow Republican after Raffensperger refused to bow to pressure to nullify votes that gave Democrat Joe Biden a narrow presidential victory in Georgia. Raffensperger defeated a Trump-endorsed challenger in last month’s Republican primary.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said her investigation includes reviewing a January 2021 phone call in which Trump pushed Raffensperger to “find” the votes needed to win Georgia. Trump said his call with Raffensperger was “perfect” and he did nothing wrong.

Tricia Raffensperger, the secretary’s wife, also testified Thursday, leaving the courthouse after less than an hour. She was present with Raffensperger when he received the phone call from Trump. Tricia Raffensperger received death threats in the period following the 2020 elections.

Raffensperger wrote in his 2021 book “Integrity Counts” that he perceived Trump as repeatedly threatening him during the phone call, a question that could ultimately be key to whether certain criminal charges could be brought. Raffensperger reiterated in an interview aired Wednesday by WAGA-TV that he felt under pressure.

“I heard what the president said. And I understand that he has enormous positioning power,” Raffensperger told the TV station. “But I also know that we followed the law and we followed the Constitution.”

A Trump spokesperson dismissed the Fulton investigation as a politically motivated “witch hunt” when it became public last February. A number of others have been subpoenaed, including five other people associated with Raffensperger’s office. State Attorney General Chris Carr received a subpoena on June 21.

The special grand jury will not issue indictments, but is supposed to advance the investigation and make recommendations to the district attorney, who then decides whether to seek an indictment from a grand jury. ordinary. Willis said the special grand jury would be able to issue subpoenas to people who otherwise refused to cooperate. The jury, made up of 23 grand jurors and three alternates, can sit for up to one year.

Willis also said investigators are considering a November 2020 phone call between Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Raffensperger, the U.S. attorney’s abrupt resignation in Atlanta on Jan. 4, 2021, and comments made during the legislature. of December 2020 in Georgia. election committee hearings.

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.”

While the district attorney’s office conducts 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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