Georgia prosecutors are gearing up for the Trump election interference case
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Today, a grand jury meets to consider a case of election interference in Georgia.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is said to be considering charges against more than a dozen people, one of whom is Donald Trump, who tried to stay in office after his election defeat in 2020. Some of his most blatant efforts centered on Georgia, where Trump urged officials to, quote, "find" enough extra votes for him to win the state by exactly one vote. If the grand jury indicts him, it would be the fourth criminal case against the ex-president.
FADEL: Joining us now is Georgia Public Broadcasting's Stephen Fowler, who has been following the grand jury process. Good morning.
STEPHEN FOWLER, BYLINE: Good morning.
FADEL: So Stephen, what do we know about the likely timing of a grand jury decision in Georgia?
FOWLER: Well, people have been anticipating this decision for a while. This is the end of a two-week period the district attorney flagged as times where staff would work remotely, judges wouldn't schedule trials. And the courthouse is under extra security - even removing chairs in some public waiting areas - along with barricades, street closures and a crush of TV cameras camped outside waiting for action.
FADEL: So how do we know it's in the next 48 hours?
FOWLER: Well, there are two separate grand juries that meet - one on Mondays and Tuesdays, one on Thursdays and Fridays. Some witnesses, like Georgia's former lieutenant governor, Geoff Duncan, said they're testifying behind closed doors on Tuesday, meaning prosecutors should start presenting their case today. Plus, Willis has presented complicated racketeering cases like this before, and it's taken about two days to get through because of the sheer number of people and alleged crimes that are included.
FADEL: So when you say racketeering - for me, that evokes images of the Mafia and other large criminal enterprises. How would this apply to the failed effort to overturn Georgia's elections?
FOWLER: Good question. Georgia's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act is similar to the federal act that was designed to go after organized crime. There's a narrow list of these things called predicate acts that show a pattern of racketeering activity - that's things like theft, homicide and kidnapping, but also actions like witness intimidation, false statements and forgery that can lead to a RICO violation - that could apply here. And Georgia law is more expansive than federal law, meaning attempting, asking or intimidating someone to do one of those activities can also get you charged. So instead of multiple charges against multiple people and multiple trials independently, RICO allows the DA to paint this broad narrative and show how things are connected and create this criminal enterprise narrative - in this case, that hinges around Donald Trump pressuring officials to fraudulently subvert election results.
FADEL: So remind us - what are some of the plot points in the aftermath of 2020 that prosecutors could argue broke the law?
FOWLER: Well, there are a few main buckets based on public court documents and the work of a previous special investigative jury, Leila. We've got hearings where Trump allies falsely told lawmakers they could pick their own presidential electors - a plan that saw 16 Republicans falsely claim to be the state's official electors - the effort to unlawfully copy election data from a rural Georgia county, and a pressure campaign against sitting officials to change the outcome, including the infamous call between Trump and Georgia's Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, where the then-president said this.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
DONALD TRUMP: So look, 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.
FOWLER: There are a lot of things that happened in the months after 2020, and we should know more later this week.
FADEL: Georgia Public Broadcasting's Stephen Fowler. Thank you, Stephen.
FOWLER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.