The district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., is weighing racketeering charges connected to G.O.P. attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
Send any friend a story
As a subscriber, you have 10 gift articles to give each month. Anyone can read what you share.
Richard Fausset and
ATLANTA — As many as 50 witnesses are expected to be subpoenaed by a special grand jury that will begin hearing testimony next week in the criminal investigation into whether former President Donald J. Trump and his allies violated Georgia laws in their efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state.
The process, which is set to begin on Wednesday, is likely to last weeks, bringing dozens of subpoenaed witnesses, both well-known and obscure, into a downtown Atlanta courthouse bustling with extra security because of threats directed at the staff of the Fulton County district attorney, Fani T. Willis.
Ms. Willis, a Democrat, has said in the past that Mr. Trump created a threatening atmosphere with his open criticism of the investigation. At a rally in January, he described the Georgia investigation and others focusing on him as “prosecutorial misconduct at the highest level” that was being conducted by “vicious, horrible people.” Ms. Willis has had staffers on the case outfitted with bulletproof vests.
But in an interview on Thursday, she insisted the investigation was not personal.
“I’m not taking on a former president,” Ms. Willis said. “We’re not adversaries. I don’t know him personally. He does not know me personally. We should have no personal feelings about him.”
She added that she was treating Mr. Trump as she would anyone else. “I have a duty to investigate,” she said. “And in my mind, it’s not of much consequence what title they wore.”
Ms. Willis emphasized the breadth of the case. As many as 50 witnesses have declined to talk to her voluntarily and are likely to be subpoenaed, she said. The potential crimes to be reviewed go well beyond the phone call that Mr. Trump made to Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, on Jan. 2, 2021, during which he asked him to find enough votes to reverse the election results.
Ms. Willis is weighing racketeering among other potential charges and said that such cases have the potential to sweep in people who have never set foot in Fulton or made a single phone call to the county.
Her investigators are also reviewing the slate of fake electors that Republicans created in a desperate attempt to circumvent the state’s voters. She said the scheme to submit fake Electoral College delegates could lead to fraud charges, among others — and cited her approach to a 2014 racketeering case she helped lead as an assistant district attorney, against a group of educators involved in a cheating scandal in the Atlanta public schools.
“There are so many issues that could have come about if somebody participates in submitting a document that they know is false,” she said. “You can’t do that. If you go back and look at Atlanta Public Schools, that’s one of the things that happened, is they certified these test results that they knew were false. You cannot do that.”
Mr. Raffensperger, a Republican, is likely to be one of the better-known figures to testify before the grand jury. His office confirmed on Friday that he and Gabriel Sterling, the chief operating officer for the secretary of state’s office, had received subpoenas and planned to appear soon before the panel.
In the Republican primary on Tuesday, Mr. Raffensperger defeated a Trump-endorsed candidate, Representative Jody Hice, who supported the former president’s false claims of election fraud.
Mr. Raffensperger will now vie for a second term in the general election in November, in which he is hoping to benefit from the national name recognition, and bipartisan kudos, he received after standing up to Mr. Trump.
Ms. Willis declined to divulge the names of witnesses who will be called before the grand jury. But two Democratic state senators, Jen Jordan and Elena Parent, said on Thursday that they had received subpoenas to appear. Both senators serve on a judiciary subcommittee that heard Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s lawyer at the time, give a presentation in December 2020 in which he laid out a number of baseless allegations of electoral fraud.
Numerous inquiries. Since Donald J. Trump left office, the former president has been facing civil and criminal investigations across the country into his business dealings and political activities. Here is a look at the notable inquiries:
White House documents investigation. The Justice Department has begun a grand jury investigation into the handling of classified materials that ended up at Mr. Trump’s Florida home. The investigation is focused on the discovery by the National Archives that Mr. Trump had taken 15 boxes of documents from the White House to Mar-a-Lago when he left office.
Manhattan criminal case. The Manhattan district attorney’s office has been investigating whether Mr. Trump or his family business, the Trump Organization, intentionally submitted false property values to potential lenders. But new signs have emerged that the inquiry may be losing steam.
New York State civil inquiry. The New York attorney general’s office has been assisting with the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation while conducting its own civil inquiry into some of the same conduct. The civil inquiry is focused on whether Mr. Trump’s statements about the value of his assets were part of a pattern of fraud or were simply Trumpian showmanship.
Georgia criminal inquiry. Mr. Trump himself is under scrutiny in Georgia, where the district attorney of Fulton County has been investigating whether he and others criminally interfered with the 2020 election results in the state. A special investigative grand jury has been seated in the case, and as many as 50 witnesses are expected to be subpoenaed.
Jan. 6 inquiries. A House select committee and federal prosecutors are investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol and examining the possible culpability of a broad range of figures — including Mr. Trump and his allies — involved in efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Westchester County criminal investigation. The district attorney’s office in Westchester County, N.Y., appears to be focused at least in part on whether the Trump Organization misled local officials about the value of a golf course, Trump National Golf Club Westchester, to reduce its taxes.
Washington, D.C., lawsuit. The attorney general for the District of Columbia sued Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee, saying it vastly overpaid the Trump Organization for space at the Trump International Hotel during the January 2017 inaugural celebration. The committee and Mr. Trump’s family business later agreed to pay $750,000 to settle the lawsuit.
Both Ms. Jordan and Ms. Parent said that they had already had conversations pertaining to the investigation with Fulton County prosecutors.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Friday that prosecutors planned to subpoena one of its journalists, Greg Bluestein, who has written about the efforts to overturn the election. The paper plans to seek to have the subpoena dismissed to prevent Mr. Bluestein from testifying.
The Georgia investigation is one of a number of inquiries concerning Mr. Trump’s political and business affairs that he has faced since leaving office. They include one run by a select committee in the House of Representatives that is looking into the role the former president and others may have played in the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.
Ms. Willis said that there had been “no formal coordination” between her office and the Jan. 6 committee. “But, I mean, obviously, we’re looking at everything that relates to Georgia that that committee is overturning,” she said.
Ms. Willis’s inquiry is a criminal probe, and it has risen in prominence since prosecutors in Manhattan stopped presenting evidence to a grand jury earlier this year in an ongoing investigation into Mr. Trump’s business practices, casting doubt on the case. Mr. Trump’s business interests are also the subject of a criminal investigation in Westchester County, N.Y.
Ms. Willis said her investigation was unrelated to what was happening in New York.
“They were investigating apples and we were investigating oranges,” she said of the Manhattan inquiry, adding, “I don’t know the district attorney or the attorney general or, quite frankly, if I’m honest, any elected officials in New York or any of the prosecutors in New York.”
The Fulton County special grand jury, made up of 23 people, was impaneled in early May and has up to one year to do its work. After completing its investigation, it will issue a report advising Ms. Willis on whether to pursue criminal charges.
But Ms. Willis said that beyond that limitation, it was difficult to talk about timelines. “I don’t know how many games folks are going to play,” she said. “I don’t know how many times we’re going to have to fight someone just to get them to come speak to a grand jury and tell the truth. And there could be delays for those reasons. In a perfect world, I’d be done in the next 60 to 90 days. But I live in an imperfect world.”