The Atlanta-area district attorney investigating former President Donald Trump and his allies has been lining up witnesses to appear before a grand jury in order to craft a narrative around how Trump and his supporters tried to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election in the Peach State, according to people familiar with the matter.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is expected to spend two days presenting her case before a grand jury next week.
Willis could seek several indictments as she eyes a sweeping racketeering case that could cast Trump and several of his associates as operating as a criminal enterprise in their endeavors to upend Georgia’s election results.
If Willis proceeds with racketeering charges, “I think she is going to tell a story,” said Georgia State law professor Clark D. Cunningham. “The story of how one person at the top – the former president – really marshaled an army of people to accomplish his goal which was to stay in power through any means.”
The witnesses Willis has subpoenaed include former Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, former Georgia Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan and independent journalist George Chidi. All of them previously testified before a special purpose grand jury that was tasked with investigating the Trump case and heard from more than 75 witnesses.
But Georgia law is unusual in that special purpose grand juries – which have broad investigative powers – are not permitted to issue indictments. When the subpoenaed witnesses appear before the regular grand jury, those grand jurors will hear the witnesses’ testimony for the first time with a narrower purpose at hand: to approve or reject indictments.
The witnesses that have been summoned to testify speak to various prongs of Willis’ investigation, from conspiracy-laden presentations that Trump’s associates – including former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani – made before Georgia lawmakers in 2020, to the convening of fake electors to try to thwart President Joe Biden’s victory in the state. She can also rely on her internal investigators to present evidence that was previously collected by the special purpose grand jury.
In a case of this magnitude, “probably the indictment has been drafted and reviewed for months,” Michael J. Moore, former US attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, told CNN.
If there’s anything left to be done, Moore said it was likely final tweaks and finishing touches.
“The indictment, word-for-word, is going to be flyspecked. You’re making sure there are no errors in it,” Moore said. “And you’re making sure you have enough pieces to prove each count.”
Willis’ office declined to comment.
A sweeping RICO case
Willis launched her investigation into Trump in early 2021, soon after he called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and pressured the Republican to “find” the votes necessary for Trump to win the state of Georgia. At a campaign event Tuesday, Trump continued to insist it was a “perfect phone call.”
Her investigation has steadily expanded, and Willis has been weighing racketeering charges in the Trump case. RICO – the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – is a statute the district attorney has spoken fondly of and used in unorthodox ways to bring charges against teachers as well as musicians in the Atlanta area.
In 2015, Willis was thrust into the national spotlight as a Fulton County prosecutor when she used Georgia’s racketeering statute to charge teachers, principals and other education officials in an Atlanta Public School cheating scandal.
After a 7-month trial, Willis secured convictions for 11 of the 12 defendants charged with racketeering and other crimes related to cheating that was believed to date to early 2001, when scores on statewide skills tests began to rise in the 50,000-student school district.
“The reason that I am a fan of RICO is, I think jurors are very, very intelligent,” Willis told reporters in 2022 at a press conference about a gang-related indictment. “They want to know what happened. They want to make an accurate decision about someone’s life. And so, RICO is a tool that allows a prosecutor’s office and law enforcement to tell the whole story.”
Soon after Willis embarked on her Trump investigation, she retained attorney John Floyd – known for his depth of knowledge in racketeering cases – to assist her office.
In addition to allowing prosecutors to weave a narrative, Georgia’s racketeering statute allows investigators to pull a broader array of conduct into their indictments, including activities that took place outside of the state of Georgia but may have been part of a broader conspiracy.
Those convicted of racketeering charges also face steeper penalties, a point of leverage for prosecutors if they are hoping to flip potential co-conspirators or encourage defendants to take plea deals.
Undaunted by federal indictment
Willis’ team has forged ahead with plans to make charging announcements in the coming weeks, even as special counsel Jack Smith charged Trump with four federal counts related to his efforts to stay in power after losing the 2020 presidential election.
A hefty chunk of the conduct in the indictment was related to efforts to flip the election results in Georgia. Trump has pleaded not guilty in that case.
The former president’s legal team believes he is likely to face his fourth indictment in the coming days, people familiar with the matter told CNN.
At a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Trump complained about the cases stacking up against him, adding, “I probably have another one.”
He also railed against the Fulton County district attorney’s case.
“I challenge the election in Georgia – which I have every right to do, which I was right about frankly – and they want to indict me because I challenge the election,” Trump told the crowd, even though his efforts to challenge the election results in court failed and no evidence of widespread voter fraud has ever emerged.
Still, the biggest risk Willis runs at the moment may be in public perception if she moves ahead with a Trump indictment, said Moore, the former US attorney.
“It starts to look like she’s just piling on because the same things that are in her indictment are also in the federal indictment,” Moore predicted, though he has not been privy to drafts of Willis’ potential indictments. “I’m not sure she’s got anything new to talk about.”
At an event last week at Atlanta Technical College, Willis told reporters she had reviewed the special counsel’s federal indictment against Trump for election interference but said it would not affect her plans in Georgia.
Asked what she would say to critics who question the purpose of her case in the wake of the federal indictment, Willis said, “That I took an oath. And that oath requires that I follow the law. And if someone broke the law in Fulton County, Georgia, that I have a duty to prosecute and that’s exactly what I plan to do.”
CNN’s Jason Morris and Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.