Two grand juries have been convened in Georgia to investigate if Donald Trump tried to manipulate the general election.
Jurors in the secret proceedings are to be asked to subpoena documents and recordings for the investigation ‘in the very near future,’ Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis told The Daily Beast.
Three cases have been referred to Fani Willis’ office by the Secretary of State – including to probe the infamous phone call in which Trump told the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to ‘find’ 11,780 votes.
Willis has assembled a crack team of investigators that includes a former deputy sheriff with nearly 30 years experience as a cop and a lawyer who wrote the handbook on prosecuting RICO charges against the mafia.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, left, while prosecuting during a hearing in Atlanta in 2013
Former police officer Sonya Allen (left) is serving as Willis’ right-hand woman, while former defense layer, Brian Watkins is the deputy head of anti-corruption
Leading RICO expert John E. Floyd will serve as a consultant to the team, while assistant chief Raymond Baez is helping with the investigation
The DA, who was elected in January, is well aware that she is up against the highest-profile potential defendant in Trump – whose team of lawyers will attack any indictment down to the letter.
‘My philosophy is just: We’re going to call balls and strikes. And it is what it is,’ Willis told The Daily Beast.
‘We’re just going to use the law and the facts. I’m not going to worry about the politics of that. And I do understand what I’m saying. If that means I’m only the DA for one term… that’ll be what God has me do for these four years.’
The prosecutor has overhauled the county’s ‘public integrity unit’ – which traditionally looked into police misconduct – with a new anti-corruption team.
She retained only one member of the former group, investigator Raymond Baez, who interviewed to keep his job.
Baez convinced Willis he had grown furious at corrupt police while growing up in Puerto Rico and she even ended up promoting him to assistant chief.
Former police officer Sonya Allen is serving as Willis’ right-hand woman.
Allen worked at Cobb County Sheriff’s Office for nearly three decades, working on the narcotics and fugitives units and rising up the ranks to become a Lieutenant Colonel.
Willis decided she was right for the job over her investigation of how a man who had been on trial for rape, Brian Nichols, escaped custody and killed the judge presiding over his case.
She’s also hiring a lawyer who made his career by defending public officials accused of corruption, Brian Watkins, who is named as the deputy of anti-corruption.
‘We researched him greatly. He didn’t have any blemishes,’ Willis said.
She also tapped a young lawyer from the complex trial division on the shoulder, Sau Chun Chan, who only qualified to practice law in Georgia two years ago.
‘I’m having to broaden the unit… it never looked at election fraud before now,’ Willis said.
She’s also brought in John E. Floyd, an expert on state RICO charges, who wrote a national guide on prosecuting state racketeering cases.
Three cases have been referred to Willis’ office by the Secretary of State – including to probe the infamous phone call in which Trump told the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to ‘find’ 11,780 votes (pictured, Trump in the Oval Office in August, 2018)
He will consult the team on how they might wish to prove a pattern of corruption – in the same way that mafia bosses are connected to the dealings of their goons.
In letters sent to state officials last month asking them to preserve evidence for her investigation into potential attempts to influence last year’s election, Willis mentioned racketeering as one of the possible violations of Georgia law that she was examining.
Floyd previously helped Willis when she used the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, law to prosecute nearly three dozen Atlanta public school educators accused in a cheating scandal.
In April 2015, after a trial that spanned months, a jury convicted 11 former educators of racketeering for their role in a scheme to inflate students´ scores on standardized exams.
Willis was a lead prosecutor in the case while working for her predecessor, former Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.
Floyd will remain employed by Atlanta law firm Bondurant Mixson & Elmore and will be available to help Willis as needed.
Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis talks with Rachel Maddow about her investigation earlier this year
Willis’s office has confirmed that the investigation into potential efforts to influence the election includes a January 2 phone call in which Trump urged Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger to ‘find’ enough votes to overturn Biden’s win in the state.
Willis has also said she has questions about a call U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham made to Raffensperger, the sudden departure of a top federal prosecutor and statements made before Georgia legislative committees.
She wrote in the letters to state officials February 10 that her office had opened a criminal investigation into ‘potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local government bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election´s administration.’
She wrote that her team has ‘no reason to believe that any Georgia official is a target of this investigation.’
Earlier this month, Common Cause, a government-accountability watchdog group, called on the DoJ to investigate whether Trump and others broke federal laws by communicating with officials in Georgia ‘in an effort to fraudulently and corruptly overturn 2020 presidential election results in Georgia,’ according to a letter sent to Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine in Atlanta and Merrick Garland, who was confirmed Wednesday by the Senate to serve as U.S. Attorney General.